What is Ad Fraud?
Ad Fraud is a collective term for various activities that are targeted against the advertiser’s goals. The economic damage arises in two areas in particular: On the one hand, targeted revenues are prevented, on the other hand, the advertiser incurs expenses through the commissioned advertising measures, which do not generate any counter value through the fraudulent activities. The damage also affects publishers and platforms that lose advertising customers due to the fraudulent activities.
What happens with Ad Fraud?
From a legal point of view, an advertising service commissioned by Ad Fraud is either faked or performed incorrectly. In many cases, ad fraud takes advantage of the fact that it is difficult to distinguish on the Internet whether certain activities are carried out by a person or a program. A well-programmed bot program can perform both clicks and more demanding tasks on an ad page. This so-called non-human traffic interrupts the value chain that digital advertising is supposed to build. The aim of advertisements and banners is to appeal to prospective customers and draw the attention of potential buyers to the advertiser’s services and products. The damage can also occur if advertising media are deliberately presented unfavorably on the website or if the advertiser rates the quality of an advertising page too high due to incorrect information.
Common forms of advertising fraud on the Internet
Click fraud is one of the oldest and most widespread ad fraud variants. It aims to simulate as high data traffic as possible. The required clicks are often generated by hitbots, programs that automatically perform the desired activities. These malicious programs can also be smuggled in on other computers without the owner noticing. An alternative is so-called click farms, in which employees generate the clicks, but without any intention of using advertising offers in the interests of the advertiser.
Forms of fraudulent placement of advertisements are pixel stuffing and ad stacking. In the first variant, the ordered ads are only displayed in minimum size. This is sufficient to generate a call with conventional counting systems, but potential customers cannot perceive the advertising medium. In the second variant, the stacked ads, ad space on the website is sold and occupied several times. The corresponding advertising media then lie on top of each other and are not all visible. Both variants can be combined.
Other forms of advertising fraud pretend to operate pages that are interesting for the advertiser’s customers. This can be done by manipulating the domain name (DomainSpoofing) or by pages that are artificially optimized for search engine hits using keyword focus, for example. In both cases, the advertiser books ads that have hardly any effect on his target audience. The same applies to so-called ghost sites or fake sites. They are cheaply invested with copied contents and free pictures. Hitbots provide the traffic.
Countermeasures and protection against Ad Fraud
A careful and well-considered selection of the page on which a web means should appear is an important precaution against Ad Fraud. Cooperation between platforms, publishers and players in e-commerce or networks that offer more security is still under development. More complex approaches are needed for effective counter-strategies. There are a number of software solutions and tools that use big data and intelligent algorithms to identify conspicuous patterns in data traffic that indicate ad fraud. Reliable control also requires an administrator to verify the results of a powerful algorithm.
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