While there is no consensus on how much money advertisers lose to ad fraud every year, even conservative estimates suggest that this number could be more than $6 billion. By this measure, ad fraud is clearly a costly problem that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, the digital advertising industry and the laws surrounding it have not yet managed to quell this growing problem. However, by making just a few simple changes, you can begin to reduce the impact fraud has on your advertising budget.
Here’s how you can protect your company:
Check the quality of your ad publishers.
There are many reputable ad publishers out there who drive high-quality traffic. There are also sites that are notorious for driving bot traffic, serving stacked ads, or providing other questionable content. Buying ads from these lower quality sites is a complete waste of your advertising budget. Due to programmatic advertising, however, many companies purchase advertising space from them unknowingly.
To avoid this scenario, you should:
- Consider buying ads directly from well-known, high-quality sites that your target audience visit regularly.
- Create programmatic whitelists that include trusted sites you always want to buy from—and blocklists for sites you never want to buy from.
- Ask questions and voice your concerns when your ads appear on low-quality sites. Your ad network or agency should have tools in place to protect your ads. If they don’t, consider working with an additional service to help you weed out campaigns that are wasting your money.
Use your analytics.
Your data may reveal more than you think. Ad fraud often leaves recognizable patterns that can be determined from regular reports. Look for repetitive behaviors, unusual results, and anything else; that seems off.
For example, if you see an influx of traffic at the same time every day with no corresponding rise in sales, you likely have bots invading your site. These bots might be drawing retargeting ads, which can quickly drain your retargeting budget by abusing whatever metric you have in place to determine which users are “high value.”
On the other hand, a sharp spike in conversions from a single campaign may not seem problematic at first glance. But when combined with a sharp rise in suspicious orders, this could be an indication that a campaign is bringing in bad traffic. That may mean the ad is placed on a bad site or targeting the wrong users. Having regular reports on these issues can help you find them faster.
Monitor your brand reputation.
Social media can be your friend when tracking where your ads are showing up. For instance, observant customers will often complain on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or other social networks if they notice brands advertising on sites that include controversial or adult content. This can be an indicator that your ads are not appearing where they are supposed to be.
There are also companies that can track mentions of your company online to ensure that you know where your content is appearing. Having ads show up on sites that could negatively impact your brand may not seem like a big deal, but these days it’s easy for one bad placement to become a viral thread that customers everywhere will see. Keeping track of your mentions allows you to control your company’s narrative if any issues should occur.
Vary your strategy.
In recent years, there have been significant advances in both digital advertising options and ad fraud protection, and further innovations continue to be developed all the time. Your company should be prepared to take advantage of the latest technology. Be sure to put the right tools in place to accurately measure your ongoing ad campaigns, make changes as needed, and stay flexible. By utilizing a variety of prevention techniques and digital advertising methods, you can avoid giving fraud too much control over your budget.
Tips for differing your strategy include:
- Utilize multiple methods of digital advertising, including promoted posts on social media, standard display ads, video ads on trusted websites, and programmatic retargeting ads. By spreading your budget around, you can keep fraud from stealing too much on a single bad campaign.
- Implement a fraud solution that blocks known bots from retargeting lists and future campaigns to prevent bots from infecting your most expensive marketing efforts.
- Create custom reports and test everything. If you start with a smaller budget on a new campaign, you can analyze the initial results to see if it’s even worth investing more time and money in that direction.
- Use multiple ad networks and/or agencies - just make sure to vet them first. Even the most diligent networks can be impacted by fraud, so you want to avoid working with any agency or network that fails to put even basic protections in place.
Though ad fraud may continue to plague digital advertising as a whole, you don’t need to let it eat away at your budget. Stay informed about the latest fraud threats and don’t be afraid to ask questions of your advertising partners to ensure that your money is safe.