The rise of digital ad fraud has been a nightmare for businesses and marketers alike. Sophisticated bots can easily imitate human behavior and generate fake clicks, views, and impressions, costing companies millions of dollars in wasted ad spending. Is your digital ad campaign safe from these malicious bots?
How Sophisticated Bots Kill Your Digital Ad Campaigns?
Makes Brands Susceptible to Ad Fraud
Attackers often make attempts to defraud digital advertising networks by using malicious bots. This is usually done for financial gain. The idea is to make advertising networks think the fake activity is real user behavior.
Advertisers pay for ads so that their products reach wider audiences. But advertising fraud only causes brands to waste precious monetary resources.
The cost of digital ad fraud has grown exponentially in the past 4 years (2018 to 2022). Globally, it has grown from USD 35 billion in 2018 to USD 100 billion towards the end of 2022. Global losses from advertising fraud in 2020 alone were USD 35 billion.
Here are some ways in which scammers perform ad fraud.
- Illicit traffic sourcing: Traffic sourcing isn’t seen as a malicious activity per se. Brands use it to improve their visibility. However, it does leave them open to the risk of fraud. They cannot be sure if they are sourcing real or bot impressions.
- Ad scams: Attackers may orchestrate ad scams instead of clicking on your ads and manipulating your metrics. They may use your ads to lead users to spoofed domains or perform phishing using your ads. In either case, it hurts your brand reputation.
Companies spend millions of precious dollars every month on digital ads. However, their digital marketing efforts often don’t lead to the intended results. And they waste at least a portion of their investments on ads. Why?
This is because the metrics mislead them. They cannot confidently say if their clicks are coming from legitimate users, good bots, or malicious bots. Data suggests that 20% of ad impressions in 2019 came from fraudulent sources.
Sophisticated bots today can mimic human behavior and clicks. So, these bots end up manipulating data disguised as legitimate traffic. Companies use these manipulated metrics for decision-making, impacting their entire sales funnel.
For instance, you run an ad campaign for your Christmas clothing line. You want to know more about customer preferences this season and personalize their shopping experiences, discounts, etc. 70% of your clicks come from bots, and only 30% come from actual target audiences. Plus, bots don’t have preferences and randomly click on things.
As a result, your lead attribution reports and user analytics are misleading. You will also not have a proper baseline to understand the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) when your clicks come from bots.
Click Frauds That Drive Up PPC Costs
Competitors often use click fraud bots to drive up PPC costs for your company. These bots click on ads multiple times to drive up what your company pays for search terms. In some cases, website owners/operators may leverage click fraud to increase revenues for their own websites too.
Ad publishers also use click fraud to charge you more for ad space. They deploy bad bots to click on your ads and show these inflated traffic numbers, charging you more. So, you pay higher ad charges for poor-quality traffic. Only 12% of brands’ 267 million ad impressions paid to publishers could be matched/attributed!
These bots can even mess with A/B testing by clicking on everything they are programmed to. So, you will not only waste money on A/B testing but also be unable to optimize your campaigns.
Whether used by competitors, ad publishers, or website operators, click fraud:
• Renders the digital ad campaign useless
• Makes the leads unusable
• Lowers conversion rates
• Skews the performance metrics
• Drives up PPC costs and advertising budgets
The more sophisticated click fraud bots can pace the time spent on the website and even fill out basic forms to mimic human behavior. As a result, it becomes harder to detect this bot traffic.
Hard to Detect Sophisticated Bot Activity
Sophisticated bots used in digital advertising frauds and scams leverage advanced techniques. And they are hard to detect using regular security defenses. Here are some techniques used by attackers:
Pixel Stuffing: Attackers stuff the entire ad into a 1-pixel space but charge the brand for the full ad. They place these crammed ads into other ads. The viewer may not know they see multiple ads, but the brands are shown falsified brand impressions.
Ad Stacking: Like pixel stuffing, scammers place multiple unviewable ads on each other. Only the top ad is visible, but the publisher charges the brand for the impressions.
Geo Masking: Scammers spoof location data to trick advertisers into paying more for low-quality traffic.
Event Spoofing: Attackers use advanced bots to fire fake clicks to capture booking, signup, or registration events. The advertiser believes it to be a legitimate install without any real event occurring.
Click Spamming: Attackers infect user devices with malware when they download an infected app/visit an infected site. The malware will generate clicks for advertisers without the user’s knowledge.
How to Detect Bot Traffic and Secure Your Digital Advertising Campaigns?
Detecting bot traffic, especially sophisticated bots, is challenging but not impossible. Here are some tell-tale signs that bad bots are ruining your ad campaigns:
- High click rates but low conversions
- High bounce rates
- High cart abandonment
- Unfamiliar traffic sources
- Form filled with fake information
- Same cookie returns in regular intervals despite IP rotation
- Geo mismatches
- Inconsistent browser sessions
A bot management solution can help prevent digital ad fraud by identifying and blocking suspicious traffic. It can also provide real-time analytics and insights to help advertisers optimize their campaigns and reduce the risk of fraud.
When selecting a bot management solution, it is important to choose one that offers advanced features, such as:
- Self-learning AI
- Deep analytics
- Behavioral analysis
- Reputation Monitoring
- Workflow validation
- Intelligent automation
- Managed by certified security experts
Such intelligent, fully managed bot mitigation solutions will detect and stop bot traffic from wreaking havoc on your digital ads. Even the most complex bots cannot evade such advanced solutions. These solutions only increase the friction for bad bots, not legitimate users, and good bots.
These features can help improve fraud detection accuracy and reduce false positives, saving money and improving your return on investment.
Such a solution will be able to analyze and evaluate traffic and clicks to detect anomalous behaviors. Since such solutions are automated, they can find anomalies in real-time at a much faster pace. Security experts can write custom rules to thwart fraud attempts by sophisticated bots.
With the actionable report, you can transparently classify invalid traffic and receive comprehensive insights about bot traffic on your web applications.
You can monitor automated activities based on user agents, geographies, referrers, and attacked pages. Advanced analytics provide a deep comprehension of the malicious traffic’s specific characteristics.
In addition to using a bot management solution, advertisers should take other steps to prevent digital ad fraud, such as
- Monitoring your campaigns regularly
- Using secure ad networks
- Staying up to date on the latest fraud prevention techniques.
Sophisticated bots are ruining digital ad campaigns across the globe. You must act today to ensure your advertising investments aren’t wasted. Stop the stealthy bots of today with a next-gen bot management solution.
Leverage intelligent, fully managed bot management solutions, like AppTrana, to protect your brand and digital advertising campaigns.