20 January 2014

Fraud could be messing with your digital advertising results

So you've done your due diligence and purchased your online advertisements on a portal which produces really good results, perhaps better results than average. You sit back and watch the clickthroughs rise by the week, paying for 'leads' as users are attracted enough to visit the store locator pages of your website; but sales aren't increasing. What gives?

What might be happening is fraud, and not necessarily from the portal itself.

According to the US-based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), there needs to be more awareness about non-intentional traffic which is affecting the accuracy of measurement for Traffic of Good Intent.

"The companies that participate in the digital advertising supply chain have been struggling with how to handle criminal enterprises intent on gaming the system,” said Steve Sullivan, Vice President, Advertising Technology, IAB. 
“These fraudsters are diluting the value of all legitimate inventory while simultaneously diminishing the integrity of the entire digital marketing industry. The introduction of these best practices is a first step in reducing the marketplace repercussions of these illegal activities.”

The IAB and its Traffic of Good Intent Task Force have released the “Best Practices – Traffic Fraud: Reducing Risk to Exposure” guide to meet this challenge. The document explains how robotic traffic or 'bots' can infiltrate legitimate publisher platforms, and advises premium publishers and networks as well as buyers how to reduce risk.

According to the IAB Traffic of Good Intent Task Force, 'non-intentional traffic' can even occur without the knowledge of a user. In one method, users are automatically redirected to other websites after closing a website. In another, content such as ads or even full websites load invisibly in the background, at a  minute 1x1 pixel size for example, while a user is intentionally viewing content from other sites. 

What do perpetrators of non-intentional traffic get out of it? Huge volumes of pageviews leads to advertising inventory that can be sold on advertising exchanges. Alternatively, driving up traffic can increase the perceived value of infected browsers to both marketers and targeters. 

For example, bots can simulate 'clicks' on the invisible ads or through hijacking the browser software to record a 'visit' to the sites of marketers whose ads have been invisibly run. They may even produce a 'lead' by visiting the store locator page. 
 “When only a handful of companies act to reduce fraud, the criminals win. We need to band together to effectively put a stop to the destruction of our industry at the hands of racketeers,” said John Battelle, Founder and Chairman, Federated Media, and co-Chair of the IAB Traffic of Good Intent Task Force. 

“Even the most scrupulous publishers and networks can be hit with non-intentional traffic propagated by criminals. If we want to truly address the problem, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to embrace uniform levels of vigilance.”

The document on best practices for reducing the risk of online traffic fraud can be viewed here.