I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I buy something only to discover that I could have bought the same thing for cheaper. It’s even worse when I get something and it turns out that it is a cheap knock-off of the real thing. It’s usually pretty easy for us to notice with physical products, but it’s not so easy when it comes to advertising. Yet, these two issues encompass the majority of what is commonly called ad fraud, an issue which was estimated to make up 1 in 3 dollars of ad spend online in 2015.
We want to treat our customers right, which is why we have taken some serious steps to tackle ad fraud at Zeropark. So that you, don’t end up opening your box of traffic, only to discover you got some cheap counterfeit traffic.
What is ad fraud?
Ad fraud is often associated with the term invalid traffic. These are umbrella terms that groups a whole heap of different items together that all share a common trait. They are a misrepresentation of advertising data, be that impressions, clicks, conversions or advertising inventory.
If you are an advertiser, this might mean your ads are hidden and not shown, or that you receive traffic which doesn’t match your targeting. Last and not least, it also includes artificially inflated numbers via bots.
For publishers, ad fraud might be adverts placed on your site which don’t fit the brand or content or malicious adverts that harm the users.
In some cases, this misrepresentation can be accidental or out of ignorance. Using a poor quality tracking solution might lead you to believe your traffic is different than it is, alternatively you might have filled in information about your inventory incorrectly, ticking the wrong box.
Unfortunately, this misrepresentation is not always such an innocent mistake and is from individuals seeking to get one over some poor soul.
The story of our anti-ad fraud
Since Zeropark started, we’ve had a three-pronged anti-fraud defense and followed industry best practice to prevent misrepresented advertising inventory and deliberate fraudulent ad reporting. These three different tools are:
- Manual compliance vetting
- Our automatic “Honeypot” tool
- Our third-party anti-fraud solutions
These tools have been constantly updated and improved as we’ve learned and gained new knowledge in fighting ad fraud. Let’s go into a bit more depth on each of these tools before talking about the latest advances.
Obviously, I can’t tell you all the details as some bad actors might try to glean some insights into breaking our system. However, I can provide a general picture of our anti-ad fraud solutions.
How we tackle ad fraud
We have always checked every partner, both advertiser and publisher request we received. As we’ve been growing, we’ve also been implementing new methods and tools to monitor.
We start with a questionnaire to validate new publisher’s claims and pick up any visible warning signs. For example, high traffic on a newly registered domain or a strange domain portfolio.
Then we move on to checking if the site is as the potential advertiser described it. If they are seeking high paying keywords but their content doesn’t match, we can correct it there and then. We can also check for any pre-existing fraudulent behavior.
If a site does pass through all of our preliminary checks, we then visit the site once our ads are being displayed to make sure that there is no nefarious ad stacking or they aren’t implementing an invisible pixel tactic.
We also continually check our current inventory to make sure that a publisher hasn’t changed something on their site.
We also use our automatic Honeypot technology to detect and analyze bot behavior. This solution is only attracting bots and the more they interact with it, the more we can learn about them. This helps us to identify sources of fraudulent traffic and how bots try to dupe systems.
We work with the best third-party solutions on the market to not only fight ad fraud but also to match traffic and advertising inventory together. These tools filter out bot traffic, proxy traffic, identify malicious ad content and bypass clocking. This means that we can properly sort traffic before it even hit our bidding process. That way neither we nor our advertisers, waste cash on invalid traffic.
At the start of 2017, we started a new cross-department collaboration that resulted in a host of new technological advancements that pushed the Zeropark platform even further. We leveraged our knowledge from every part of the ad tech industry including publishing, advertising, and tracking. This lead to our traffic segmentation project resulting in the new premium traffic segment in Zeropark.
We analyzed all our traffic sources to segment the traffic which had a proven record of returning advertisers investment.
This was a win for everyone, advertisers could access the highest quality traffic and publishers saw an increase in revenue and demand for their inventory.
Although, there’s a lot of talk about ad-fraud in the industry at the moment, we at Zeropark are optimistic about the future of digital marketing. The supply of fraudulent traffic has certainly increased over time but our unique solutions are not only tackling fraud but also leading to better advertising and publisher content matching.