What Is Ad Fraud In Digital Marketing?

If you or your business run any type of paid ads online, then you could be the victim of ad fraud without even realising it. Ever year, fraudsters come up with new and ingenious ways to steal your hard earned cash while leaving you entirely oblivious to what just happened.

With ad fraud increasingly on the rise, it’s now more important than ever that businesses understand what it is and how to fight back. So just what is ad fraud? And why should you care?

Ad Fraud Definition

For many, the idea of advertising fraud can be confusing, especially when you don’t understand the incentives. Why would anyway want to fraudulently interact with your ad? And more importantly, how would they do it in the first place?

To explain this growing trend which is affecting advertisers everywhere, ad fraud can be defined as:

A type of online fraud where a fraudster deceptively makes an advertiser pay for low quality and fake traffic.

Although there are actually many different types of online ad fraud, they all tend to revolve around the idea of sending low-quality or fake traffic to the advertiser. To give you a better idea of the various types of ad fraud out there, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types of ad fraud.

The Many Types of Ad Fraud

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Click Fraud

One of the most common types of ad fraud currently out there and continually on the rise is click fraud. This type of fraud primarily targets paid search advertisers who use pay per click networks to drive traffic to their sites. As part of the pay per click model, advertisers are charged for every click that they receive on their ads. This means no matter if they receive a legitimate user or a bot, they’ll still be charged for the click.

Click fraudsters take advantage of the PPC model by continually clicking on advertiser’s ads for financial gain and to waste other advertisers money. Without being able to tell the difference between a real and fraudulent click, millions a year are lost to these fraudulent clicks.

Ad Stacking

Ad stacking is another type of ad fraud which is commonly found on 3rd party publisher’s websites who use pay per view (PPV) networks to monetize their site. The fraud involves a publisher overlapping or stacking ads on top of each other with only the top advert being viewable to the user.

Although users can only see the advert on the top, the other advertisers still get charged for the impression. Since the advertisers are paying on a pay per view basis, they will be getting charged even though nobody is seeing their ad.

Fake Traffic

Continuing with the pay per view model is another popular ad fraud strategy which affects many advertisers even today. Since the PPV model charges every advertiser per viewer they receive, fraudsters can take advantage of this by sending advertisers lots of low-quality traffic. This traffic is often from places such as hacked computers (botnets), expired domain traffic and pop-ups on people’s computers.

Since many networks can’t distinguish between a low-quality and high-quality visitor, advertisers are charged the same for both users. This means that advertisers can end up paying a lot of money for fake and fraudulent users which will never turn into leads.

Ghost Sites

A new type of ad fraud that has been increasing in recent years are websites known as “ghost sites”.

These sites may look like real websites with real content, but when you take a closer look, most of the content on these sites is often stolen from other sites. The entire purpose of these ghost sites are to look as real as possible so they can get approved on ad networks and display ads on their site.

Once they have the ads up and running, they buy fake traffic like we mentioned previously to generate impressions on their website. The impressions generated from this fake traffic get turned into advertising commissions from the oblivious networks which usually pay on a per impression basis.

iFrame Stuffing

Another type of ad fraud that allows publishers to take advantage of advertisers is the dreaded iFrame or pixel stuffing technique. With this technique, 3rd party publishers place an invisible or very small 1×1 pixel on their page which loads out of view from the user.

This means that the advertiser will be charged for the impression even though the user will never see the full advert.

When the advertiser checks their analytics, they will see that people are viewing their ad and getting impressions, but they’ll likely never receive any clicks.

How to Protect Yourself From Ad Fraud

As you can see, ad fraud comes in many different forms that aren’t always obvious. From fake traffic to robots made solely to click your ads, defending yourself against these scams can be incredibly difficult. It is, however, not impossible.

If you suspect a 3rd party publisher is ad stacking or sending your low-quality traffic, then you can always add their domain to your blacklist. That will stop that publisher from displaying your ads and save you a lot of money and frustration.

When it comes to protecting your pay per click ads from fraudulent activities, there is a much easier way. PPC Protect automatically checks the quality of your clicks and determines whether specific users should be blacklisted or not. Not only does this save you a great deal of time, but overall it saves you a great deal of money.

To see how you can keep your Google paid ads protected from fraudsters, sign up to our free trial below for 30 days.