Display marketing: How to avoid impression fraud

We all know that some instances of display marketing can be linked to impression fraud, but I bet you didn’t know the full extent of the problem. Some studies estimate that over 25% of display ads can be linked to fraud.

These worrying findings have stirred up a lot of debate and discussion within the advertising industry, with a more or less even split between people who say the fault is with consumers, and those claiming that people on the seller side should be doing more to prevent impression fraud.

impression fraudAlthough the majority are aware of the issue, and steps are (supposedly) being taken to remedy it, there are certain things buyers can do to make sure they’re not one of the victims.

Develop a white list

When on the buyer’s side, you should take a long, hard look at your media plan in order to determine how much transparency you have to the URL level. Purchases from established and well-reputed media outlets may have some fraud here and there, but the frequency tends to be much lower than with long-tail exchange inventory. Make a note of those sites which give you control over where your ads will run, and start building a white list of those you feel comfortable with.

There are a number of external companies and programs that can help you compose white lists. If you’re choosing to assess URLs manually, there are a few tell-tale signs that a site is teeming with bots. These include; no ‘about us’ or contact pages, a general lack of information about the site’s management, missing dates and bylines on articles, plagiarised content, and five or more ad slots. By carefully utilising this white list approach, those using programmatic buying can make a huge improvement in avoiding obscure URLs that may have bad traffic. This has proven to be far more effective than a black list method, which requires constant updating to stay one step ahead of the feverish methods of fraudsters.

Test a detection company

As mentioned above, using third-party software can save you a lot of time and worry, and most offer a free trial which can be very insightful. Before you get tied down to a long-term agreement with one of these companies, it’s advisable to work with a few media vendors, updating proof of performance conditions and set a few clear targets for your campaigns. If you have a significant RTB budget, you should consider a solution that actively prevents fraud as well as detecting it.

Optimise away from impression fraud

While bots love to click on ads and visit the advertiser’s landing page, they do not buy products. Simply put, by establishing a reliable feed into sales data, you can avoid optimising in favour of fraudsters. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will get, so take active steps to reduce purchases from a dodgy inventory today, or you’ll only see more and more of your impressions served up to bots.