Click fraud, a type of pay-per-click Internet fraud, is not only an issue for advertisers but their agencies, too.
Ripe throughout the digital marketing landscape, click fraud happens when users, or bots, intentionally click on a link for the purpose of charging someone for the click.
These fraudulent clicks usually have no interest in converting and couldn’t care less about the end results.
That’s a big problem for advertisers who are paying for converting clicks, and a bigger issue for agencies charged with their clients’ budgets. Not only can it harm client performance, it also hurts the agency’s reputation. So what is an agency to do?
Here are three ways agencies can get to the bottom of click fraud to protect themselves and others.
1. Really Get to Know Your Publishers
Here’s a gut check: have you asked your publishers where their traffic is coming from? Do they know?
It’s a sad but scary reality. It's common for publishers not to tell their advertisers if they are purchasing traffic and if so, where the traffic is coming from. The price for traffic can run the gamut from sub-penny to several dollars for a premium publisher, specialty content.
Of course, the publishers need profit from their purchased traffic. And some are willing to purchase cheaper, low-quality traffic for the sake of fatter margins.
Not only do you need to verify how their traffic is obtained, but also that you’re dealing with a real publisher. In the digital advertising space, Skype and online transactions are normal, but how do you know for sure you’re dealing with who you think you’re dealing with?
A simple phone call might alert you to inconsistencies like language and tone, which might otherwise be hidden through text.
Sneaky tactics are often used to gain your trust because their reputation won’t hold water in the competitive ad tech space. Publishers may be blacklisted from several sites for providing bad traffic, but it's easy to hide behind a screen and seek another unsuspecting victim.
To keep from falling victim to publisher tactics, talk to your publishers and ask questions. Their traffic becomes your traffic, and you have every right to know what it is you’ll be sending along to your clients.
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2. Funnel Away Bad Traffic With a Traffic Filter
Click fraud continues to permeate advertisers’ budgets because there are no rules or legal ramifications for this kind of theft. Think about a game of whack-a-mole; every time you pound one of those suckers down, two more pop up.
With one hand, you’ll have a hard time knocking down all the of the moles, but with two hands, you’re in business. Think of a third-party traffic filter as your right-hand man.
Bad traffic can be filtered away from an advertiser before ever being passed along. By using a variety of blacklisting techniques, both general and sophisticated, these traffic filters are the most adequate line of defense against fraudulent traffic.
By collecting and analyzing the data consistently, agencies can ensure that the only traffic being passed to clients is the traffic they desire. And advertisers can rest assured they’re mitigating the damages of bad traffic buys.
It’s important to note however that no campaign will be 100 percent fraud-free, but traffic filters will absolutely lessen the degree of fraud an advertiser is exposed to.
And, until a technology is developed that can 100 percent effectively make the correct decision on every click, you can rest assured you’re doing all that you can to protect your clients and your agency.
3. Test, Test, and Then Test Again
Agencies must consistently be on the lookout for new traffic sources, even if the ones they currently rely upon are working just fine. That’s where testing comes into play.
Testing traffic allows you to dedicate a small budget to a new traffic source to vet out the legitimacy of the traffic you’d be receiving with a full-fledged campaign. These tests will give you a small snapshot into the performance on a new network.
But don’t let "too good to be true" results sway you. Fraud can be masked as high-performing, converting traffic, which looks appealing. Since each advertiser views a conversion differently than one another, without feedback from the client confirming the legitimacy, there’s a chance it’s nothing but fraud.
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Speak to your clients about what they’re seeing with the newly tested sources and get their feedback. Also, both clients and agencies should review analytics to spot inconsistencies or anomalies.
This will help to solidify the agency’s integrity and commitment to the advertiser. And the client can make a better, more informed decision about the quality of the traffic they’re receiving.
Lastly, don’t forget that traffic quality changes all the time. While you might have tested a source months prior and had a bad experience, platforms and exchanges are consistently making changes, making them worthy of testing again.
In the 2015 Bot Baseline report, White Ops and ANA noted that even the highest-volume platforms reduced their bot rates by nine percent in the last year. This is exactly why it’s important to always keep all options open.
Click fraud isn’t going way anytime soon and scammers will always be looking to make an extra buck or two. Do everything possible to avoid falling victim to their fraudulent behavior.
Protect yourself, and your clients, by being proactive. Introduce click fraud prevention tactics into your media buying strategy and your clients will be thanking you all the way to the bank.