Businesses and brands pour millions of dollars into their marketing campaigns yearly. This investment is critical in gaining recognition and expanding a customer base to generate more revenue and profits for the company. As such, modern advancements and technology have enabled the advertising industry to grow exponentially to meet this increasing demand.
However, this growth has also given birth to ad frauds that are getting more threatening daily.
Ad fraud or advertising fraud is the immoral practice of providing deceptive site traffic, impressions, clicks, or other engagement activities to generate greater revenue. Although its occurrence is barely new, the rate at which ad fraud gets perpetrated has significantly grown. Statistics show that in 2020, a total loss of $35 billion got inflicted due to ad fraud.
The first step toward preventing advertising fraud is to recognize it. To help you identify ad fraud, here are the seven most common tactics and ways to safeguard yourself from them.
1. Domain spoofing
Fraudulent publishers use this approach to mask unsafe or malicious websites by hiding in plain sight. They do this by mismatching or tampering with the domain from which traffic originates. While these counterfeit domains may look legitimate and reputable, they keep the actual URL hidden from users and disguise themselves as premium advertisers. To prevent yourself from this malware, measure its frequency across all your campaigns and gain a better understanding. Enrolling in courses like those offered by Wiley Efficient Learning can provide insights on monitoring performance and identifying potential red flags in your approach.
2. Ad injection
Ad injection is the technique in which an advertisement gets displayed on publishers’ websites without their permission. Existing ad spaces can get replaced by fraudulent ones, diverting the traffic towards a different domain. If empty spaces have no ads, they can also be taken up to display deceptive content. Imposters do this by using previously compromised browser extensions, plugins, or other forms of malware. When the fake ads get monetized, they pocket the revenue generated despite not having any legitimate stock.
To mitigate ad injection attacks, implement permissions for incoming and outgoing requests. This acts as a shield and prevents the website from displaying content from unauthorized networks.
3. Pixel stuffing
Pixel stuffing compresses advertisements into tiny dimensions, as small as 1×1 pixels. These ads become invisible to the eye at such minute sizes, making it possible to stuff multiple ads on a single webpage. A user’s view gets reported as an engagement even though they never see them. Publishers use this strategy to trigger impressions from multiple advertisements, making considerable money simultaneously.
Consider investing in applications or software that detect these fraud tactics or any suspicious activity on your website. Routinely monitor any sudden increases in engagement and keep checking for possible viruses.
4. Ad stacking
Ad stacking mainly infects pay-per-click and cost-per-mile campaigns. This method involves stacking multiple ads on top of one another to trick the user into clicking only the ad on top. However, clicking on just one of these ads means clicking all the others in the stack. Therefore, advertisers must pay for all the false impressions generated from these. As a result, marketing budgets get exhausted quickly, with no discernible benefit to come out of it. Some publishers may even use bad bots to enhance views or clicks on advertisements, depleting an already exhausted budget even more.
Employing legitimate anti-fraud tools is the most effective solution to prevent all ad stacking frauds. It also helps significantly to monitor your campaign’s conversion rates. If your website’s receiving high engagement numbers but conversion rates remain poor, you’re likely a victim of ad stacking.
5. Geo masking
When you run an ad campaign, specific geographic regions have greater ad spending and more lucrative conversions than others. Due to this, geo maskers hide or manipulate their actual location and pretend to be a genuine traffic source to the advertiser. So, for example, suppose your ad campaign targets college students in the United States. Someone in Brazil may pose as an organic user from the US and skew your data by providing false webpage impressions. Since these engagements won’t result in conversion, you’ll lose significant advertising money and gain little to nothing in return.
Geo-blocking filters block emails or messages from regions where phishing campaigns or malicious IP addresses often get reported. While this isn’t a fail-proof tool, it can still reduce the frequency of geo masking attacks a company may face.
6. Click spamming
Click spamming is commonly experienced through mobile applications but can also occur through web pages. When an unsuspecting user installs an infected app or visits an infected website, they permit a built-in code to create ad clicks in the background, unbeknownst to you. While the app continues to function normally, the tiny code wreaks havoc. When a high number of clicks get reported, these fraudsters attempt to get paid by advertisers and take credit before conversion rates come up.
The easiest way to stay safe from click spamming is to install apps only from the Play Store or the App Store. You can also install apps that detect and prevent malware, ensuring they’re legit and secure.
7. Cookie stuffing
Cookie stuffing is an ad fraud technique in which users receive a third-party cookie when they visit a website without being aware of it. And if later the user makes a sale from the target website, the cookie stuffer can claim a commission out of every purchase made. Despite being in no way helpful, this third-party will take a cut, because of which legitimate publishers end up getting affected.
Preventing cookie stuffing from occurring can be pretty challenging but not impossible. Careful vigilance and screening go a long way in decreasing these instances and preventing third-party apps from accommodating themselves.
Ad frauds can easily cost you and your organization millions within a year. While your marketing budget will get exhausted before the fiscal year is up, you won’t have any profitable outcomes to show for it. Fortunately, however, all hope is not lost. Through proper education, training, and monitoring, you can study your campaign patterns and identify potential frauds before they can cause any real damage.
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