5 Signs That You Might Be The Victim of Mobile Ad Fraud

If you thought you wouldn’t have to deal with the whole ad fraud thing once you started investing in mobile advertising, you were wrong. As the mobile ad industry heats up — advertisers are now devoting up to half of their entire digital ad budgets to mobile ads — mobile ad fraud is becoming a serious issue as publishers and fraudsters find new way to skim money off of our advertising budgets.

What It Is

While mobile ads are designed to be viewed and clicked by humans, fraudulent practices use non-human traffic — bots and spiders — to simulate clicks on ads. They do this by placing hidden code in browser extensions, apps, and on websites. The ad software registers a click, and the advertiser is charged for it. The problem is: no human actually saw or interacted with the ad.

There are other mobile ad fraud practices, like ad stacking or attribution fraud, but they all come down to one thing: bad karma and more work for you.

Some involved with mobile ad fraud are publishers looking to beef up their revenues. Others may be trying to thwart the competition from successfully using mobile ads to reach their audience, and instead simply cause them to waste money.

Why It’s Bad

Naturally, your first instinct is to think, “It’s bad because it’s costing us our money!”

But the problems are bigger than that. When you look at ad metrics, you’re given a certain picture indicating how well your ad campaign is doing. When a high percentage of that activity is false, it skews results. As you know, marketers are evaluated on results. Mobile ad fraud may inflate one area (clicks) while having a disproportionately low conversion rate, causing your execs to scratch their heads and question your strategy.

What to Watch Out For

It may be virtually impossible to detect all potential mobile ad fraud, but these are a few of the red flags that may tell you something’s not quite right.

  1. You’ve Never Heard of This Publisher

This fact, in and of itself, certainly doesn’t mean there’s fraud at play, but proceed with caution. Certainly you should be open to new publishing venues and ad opportunities, but do a mini background check before investing. Ask for references, and ask to see ad metrics. Talk to other customers about the publisher and inquire whether they’ve had a positive ROI.

Also ask what their fraud prevention policy is. Even if they’re not guilty of inducing fraud, they are still susceptible to it, and you need the confidence that your budget will be protected.

  1. Ad Rates are Ridiculously Cheap

The whole “if it seems too good to be true” mantra is applicable. Don’t get starry eyes when you find a publisher whose ad rates are crazy low. There may be a reason for it, like that they’re trying to attract as much business as possible so they can make as much profit as possible…without delivering actual results.

If you’re not seeing the performance you want, it can be tempting to go with a cheaper ad network, but here’s another adage: “quality over quantity.”

  1. You See an Odd Spike in Clicks

If you’ve invested in mobile advertising long-term, you’ve probably seen a pretty steady level of clicks and conversions. Anything outside of the norm may indicate foul play. Pay close attention to activity and conversions around that spike to see if you have corresponding results. If not, back off of that ad channel or ask the publisher to look into it.

  1. You Have a High Rate of Abandoned Shopping Carts

Mobile ad fraud bots are sophisticated enough to fake being actual customers right up until the point of purchase. So dig into your cart abandonment rate to see if there is any unusual activity there.

  1. Unusual Demographic Data

You know your audience, and you know who’s most likely to click on your ads. If you see unusual demographics, such as a high incidence of people in a particular country on the other side of the globe, question it.

Prevention is the Best Cure

The key to minimizing your risk with mobile ad fraud is to be diligent about it. You should have a dedicated person on staff who will pay close attention to insights and analytics, and be able to spot any unusual behavior. Acting fast to stop the bleeding will help prevent you from losing quite so much money from your mobile ad budget.

Also, develop an anti-fraud policy that will outline how you will identify potentially fraudulent activity, how you’ll handle publishers who practice it, and what steps you will take to avoid it.

There’s always risk in marketing and advertising. As long as digital ads exist, there will be those who try to take advantage of businesses who invest in them. Factor in the presence of mobile ad fraud to your efforts, and be on top of trends in the industry so you can spot them before they have potentially larger consequences.