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4 Ways Agencies and Brand Advertisers Can Fight Mobile Click Fraud

Programmatic media buying gives media buyers the ability to target specific audience segments while buying at massive scale. This innovative technology, also known as real-time bidding (RTB), unfortunately comes with one major challenge: click fraud.

As RTB makes its way into the mobile space, click fraud has too. RTB provides mobile buyers with the ability to easily target hard-to-reach demographics, buy at scale, and manage all of their buys from a single interface. But to harness its full potential buyers must recognize the existence of mobile click fraud perpetuated and combat it.

Studies have shown that up to 40% of mobile clicks are fraudulent, and the types of such fraud vary in complexity. They can be as simple as ads that are structured to induce accidental clicks, or as elaborate as a network of bots programmed to click random links within an ad network to generate profit for a publisher.  

While there’s no foolproof solution to fighting mobile click fraud, consistently testing for it is the most effective way to identify and counter fraud in its various forms. Here are four strategies to allow you to more effectively identify and fight mobile click fraud:

1. Track both your median click-through rates and median conversion ratios:  

If you’re buying media from a specific mobile traffic source and see a 50% CTR on some ads, your first instinct may be to congratulate yourself on being a terrific marketer. While this may be the case, it’s also likely that your ads have been subject to click fraud.

To determine whether this is the case, calculate the median CTR on your best performing ad across multiple traffic sources. This number can then be used as a benchmark for comparison. You may even go one step further and set up specific alerts in your system to notify you when ads are either over- or underperforming. If you see an unusually high amount of clicks coming in with zero conversions, there’s a strong likelihood of click fraud.

2. Use retargeting and other user attribution techniques

If you buy sizeable blocks of impressions and implement retargeting, you’ll be able to observe the quantity of impressions being attributed to your retargeting campaign. If the number for a particular traffic source is disproportionately low, there’s a strong possibility of fraud being present.

3.  Leverage the click URL

The goal of the click URL is to present an additional barrier between your landing page and mobile traffic. This barrier provides you with a scalable way to assess traffic quality and account for fraud, by distinguishing the real people from the bots.

The click URL is a basic landing page that prompts the user to click on a button and proceed to your mobile website—straight from the ad.

Creating one is a straightforward process—the campaign manager simply needs to set up a separate destination page URL on your campaign, and corner off a very small segment of your traffic. These users will then be directed to the click URL.

When a user clicks the button on the click URL, they’ll reach your real destination page—if a large percentage of users hit the click URL and click again to proceed to your page, you can safely conclude that the traffic you’re buying is authentic and engaged.

4. Daypart your traffic

Another useful tactic is to daypart your traffic by turning sources on and off at various times of the day. This method allows you to compare the quantity and quality of the impressions you receive over the course of a 24-hour period.

For example, if you’ve measured the same amount of clicks around 3 a.m. PST as you have at 6 p.m. PST, it’s likely that your campaign has been affected by click fraud. Simple logic indicates that the number of people awake and on their mobile devices should be significantly reduced in the middle of the night.

Another way to use dayparting is to run a campaign and observe its median hourly impressions from a specific traffic source. Using this number as a yardstick will allow you to observe inconsistencies that could signal fraud; for example, large and unexpected spikes in impressions at odd hours.

The above techniques are simple but integral components of any strategy to identify and reduce mobile click fraud; the importance of formulating such a strategy cannot be emphasized enough. Without a clear plan in place to assess traffic quality, you run the risk of wasting valuable ad spend on inauthentic traffic sources. So, mobile media buyers, take note: Testing is essential, and to derive its benefits you must implement it frequently and consistently.

Steve Weiss is CMO of PaeDae. He blogs at Internet Marketing + Travel + Life Balance

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