The scale of bot & fraudulent traffic
Are you getting lots of hits to your landing page but too few are converting into actions or purchases? You’ve probably been hit by bot traffic. And you’re not the only one.
Ad fraud and bot traffic are a huge problem in the advertising world. According to data, advertisers waste $51 M to Ad Fraud every single day (Juniper Research). 9% of all total Digital ad spend, $19 billion is wasted on fraudulent traffic per year, and this number will more than double in the next 4 years.
All this means that advertisers spend tens of billions with zero ROI, and legitimate media lose ad money that they could have earned.
How fraudsters can affect your online business?
As bots can generate extremely low click rates, leading to low performance and burning budgets, you need to pay attention.
Fraudsters these days use various techniques to burn budgets and payouts. While some can be quite easy to spot, others require much more effort to be exposed. Some of the most types of ad fraud include:
- ad stacking – this happens when multiple ads are placed on top of each other in a single ad slot. This way, only the “top” impression is actually seen by the user.
- data centers – used to create fake traffic originating from servers in data centers or cloud platform providers.
- ad injection – this happens when fraudsters place ads on a publisher’s website without their permission or knowledge.
- cookie stuffing – which occurs when a website stuffed with cookies (in most cases these are coupon-based sites) open up multiple web pages, pop-ups, and may try to install an unknown software.
- click & bot farms – these are large groups of human workers whose job is to click on ads for fraudsters and thus artificially boost client’s conversion metrics.
- domain spoofing – which occurs when a user unconsciously clicks the wrong download button on a spurious website or downloads an application infected with malware.
- botnets – often used in DDoS attacks. Fraudsters who get control over these machines, employ them in tactics like rotating user agents, using random proxies, mimicking normal CTRs, and in some cases even mimicking real mouse movements.
Still, most ad fraud cases are connected with bots – programmes or scripts that run automated tasks over the Internet. As there are good guys among them like Google spiders, Chatbots, or Monitoring Bots like Pingdom, there is also a bunch of bad guys out there, and these are created to heavily affect your performance and reputation (read more about bot traffic on the Voluum blog).
Luckily, there are tactics that you can use to protect your budget and payouts.
5 Ways to protect your campaigns
1. Run constant check-ups of your traffic
The first thing you need to do to protect your traffic from fraudsters is examining traffic quality regularly. Spooling through a list of domains in which your ads appear can be a monotonous task, however, it is worth it.
There are two types of sites you really want to avoid.
- Sites which have little content but are covered in adverts
- Sites which have poor quality or inappropriate content.
These types of sites are a greater risk of ad fraud and may lead to creating a negative impression of your brand. Reviewing where your ads are being displayed allows you to reduce the amount of fraud you are paying for and get better quality traffic overall. Look for patterns.
2. Create blacklists and block bot traffic
As soon as you start analyzing your traffic, you will find dozens of bot placements. Build up a list of all the bot placements on a traffic source to create bot blacklists. If you block the obvious bot placements, you won’t have to deal with them again.
Record their SiteIDs, and take screenshots of them in Voluum. If you have other placements that are profitable or showing a more normal CTR, you can talk to the traffic source about it and ask them for a refund.
3. Set up bot traps
Another method that you can use is bot traps. In a nutshell, to create them you put “invisible” clickable links on your landing pages. These can be 1×1 pixel images, text using the same or very similar color as the background, links placed very low on the page, in areas that are not visible by a user etc. Then you link these invisible links to a bot test offer. If it gets clicks, you know they are caused by bots as humans wouldn’t be able to notice them. Bots, on the other hand, notice and click on everything.
This is the oldest detection method, so some bots are designed to pass these traps – especially text links in the same color are often ignored, that’s why it’s recommended to use similar color and not the same.
4. Implement an anti-fraud solution
If you feel like you need help with fighting fraud, there are various tools on the market which filter out bot traffic, proxy traffic, identify malicious ad content and bypass clocking. If you are in the situation where you know you need more advanced protection, do your research and choose a legitimate, trustworthy and capable partner.
One of the low-budget options is to use a built-in anti-fraud solution, like the one Voluum offers. This feature enables you to identify invalid traffic in your campaigns. It analyzes in real time millions of ad clicks and looks into statistical patterns that might indicate anomalies. The results of the analysis are delivered in comprehensive reports that are seamlessly combined with performance metrics.
If you decide to invest a bit more in a third-party solution, there are plenty of standalone tools that can aid you in keeping your affiliate campaigns fraud-free.
5. Report fraud & Request Refunds
As great as stopping future fraud is, it’s little comfort when you’ve been tricked into paying for bad traffic. There is something you can do, apply for a refund from the traffic source.
To do so, you need some proof and that means hard data and detailed reports. The more data you can provide, the easier it is to prove the traffic is fraudulent and the faster you can win your case and get your refund. Many agencies and ad buying platforms will be willing to give you a refund If you prove that fraud is occurring with legitimate proof and submit your claim in their accepted format.
Nowadays, bots are unfortunately one of the parts of doing business if you’re in the performance marketing space. But that doesn’t mean they have to eat your ad budget. As ad fraud will continue to be a pain point for both advertisers and publishers, you need to act.
Continually check your current inventory. Look for patterns. Investigate any anomalies that will come through your campaigns. Work with trusted partners, and always examine the websites where your ads will be displayed. If you spot fraud, don’t wait, act out. You can be sure that investing your time and money in protecting your budget now, will pay out in the future.