January 11, 2018
Fraud prevention should be a top priority for today’s mobile marketers.
It’s the first line of defense against ineffective ad spending and should therefore be the first thing considered when developing your advertising strategies. Downstream optimizations like context, viewability and performance become irrelevant the second your ads aren’t being viewed by a real audience. In spite of this, most marketers aren’t equipped with the basic knowledge necessary to combat fraud, much less prevent it from happening in the first place.
Fraudulent activity comes in different shapes and sizes, many of them abstract and difficult to grasp. Thankfully, learning the basics of fraud prevention doesn’t require a wealth of time or energy. It can be learned in a single sitting and has the potential to save your marketing budget thousands. While there are plenty of resources that offer an exhaustive explanation of the topic, we’ve distilled the fundamentals into a few actionable insights you can take advantage of today to protect your brand, and your bottom-line, from the dangers of fraud.
Pick Your Publishers
The vast majority of ad fraud originates from smaller, long-tail publishers that can slip through cracks in the programmatic ad environment. These fraudulent publishers have ways of profiting off the delivery of low-quality traffic to unsuspecting marketers. Hand-picking your placements either through direct deals or exclusive marketplaces significantly reduce your chances of wasting resources on fake traffic. This comes at the obvious cost of scalability that programmatic environments provide, but marketers need to weigh that against the inherent risk of opening themselves up to a primarily automated marketplace. Stay defensive. Exhaust your one-to-one options before expanding your efforts into environments where you’re more vulnerable.
Prioritize Cost-Per-Action Campaigns
Impression or click-based campaigns are the easiest to spoof and attract the most fraudulent activity. They’re also harder to tie to actual ROI compared to campaigns that define success by the number of users that make it to the bottom of your funnel and beyond. Adopt an aggressively performance-based media buying strategy and your ROI will benefit despite higher upfront costs. Cost-per-install campaigns are a great start, but consider exploring cost-per-action campaigns that allow you to insert checkpoints into your app to serve as the definition of conversion. Custom deal terms like these protect marketers from the most sophisticated fraud schemes that can simulate engagement.
Know The Signs
If you decide to venture out beyond direct deals and explore more scalable options, make sure you’re prepared. The first step in protecting your brand from fraud is knowing what it looks like. Learning how to analyze your reports, flag suspicious activity and maintain a comprehensive blacklist takes time and dedication, but there are a few clear indicators that anyone can watch out for:
- Low Session Durations – It’s reasonable to assume that anyone who downloads your app, whether it’s through paid or organic channels, has at least some interest in your product. Sources producing large numbers of poorly retained users that register sessions of 10 seconds or less are likely compromised.
- Unfamiliar Publishers – Examine your campaign reports with an eye for high-volume publishers that you’ve never personally heard of. While not a definitive sign of fraud, the statistical likelihood of never being exposed to a high-traffic publisher is low.
- High Click-Through Rates – CTRs can vary drastically, ranging anywhere from 0.05% to 0.3%. Advanced targeting capabilities can allow for even better performance, but anything above 1% should be considered suspicious.
If you observe one or more of the above in your campaigns, it might be time to take action.
Don’t be afraid to bring your concerns directly to your ad partners. Any platform worth dealing with should have dedicated resources assigned to handling support requests and investigating potentially fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, the inherent bias of the programmatic environment doesn’t immediately incentivize them to be proactive about keeping your traffic clean. They often require some encouragement. Ratko Vidakovik of Ad Profs reminds us that “Ad tech players and even agencies make just as much revenue from fraudulent impressions as from legitimate ones. As a result, there is no urgency to fight against fraud. It’s only when advertisers and marketers start demanding action that vendors do anything.”
Partner With An Attribution Provider
Attribution partners (like Tenjin) let marketers match in-app engagement and revenue generated by users with their original acquisition sources. As you can imagine, this affords marketers an immense advantage when it comes to sniffing out fraudulent activity. Our comprehensive growth-data infrastructure has everything you need to optimize your UA efforts and thwart fraud as it appears, resulting in higher ROI ad spends and more successful products.
Congratulations! You now know everything you need to start protecting your brand from bad actors in the digital advertising space. Advanced fraud prevention is a deep and sophisticated discipline, but these few strategies are enough to start seeing immediate results. Whether you choose to dive deeper down the ad fraud rabbit hole or stick with what you’ve learned, remember to stay defensive, and your brand will be safer than most.