Most marketers will experience at one point the gut-wrenching feeling of falling victim to click fraud.
Last year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that bots make up about 36% of Internet traffic, so a strong likelihood exists that portions of your ad spend are being wasted on invalid clicks.
Ad fraud threats are predicted to poach over $6 billion from marketers in 2015, according to a study done by the Association of National Advertisers and White Ops.
As marketers, we must educate ourselves on the sneaky tricks that infest the Internet. Sure, knowing the person or group responsible for invading your campaigns with bots would be helpful, but it's currently an impossibility.
For now, we need to focus on why we're losing money so we can learn from mistakes and strengthen security. If we don't, our defenses will have more holes in it than the Queens Park Rangers' defense.
If you've suffered (or are suffering) losses caused by click fraud, here's why.
1. You're not looking closely at data
Closer tracking of campaign data in real time is extremely beneficial, especially when sniffing out fraudulent traffic. By frequently checking metrics, spotting any unusual activity as it occurs.
For example, say your PPC campaign consistently receives a 1% conversion rate, and you notice it drops in half for no apparent reason. That drop could be either be from a new source of traffic not suited for your campaign or click-bots having found their way into your campaign. Regardless, you might want to take a deeper look into it to eliminate the new, non-performing traffic. Doing so won't completely secure your budget from fraudsters, but it will significantly reduce the amount of money you lose.
2. You're not targeting effectively
Targeted advertising has proven beneficial in the sense that it allows advertisers to hit consumers with relevant messages. In fact, targeted advertisements are twice as effective as those that are not, according to telecommunications software provider Amdocs.
Other than being used to deliver pertinent messages to consumers, accurate targeting can also be effective in helping to minimize click fraud. Purchasing inventory based on location, behavior, and interests makes your messages visible to more people and fewer bots.
3. You're stubbornly trying to solve the problem on your own
Even if you have great in-house technology, facing click fraud on your own is never a great idea. Bringing in a company that has devoted time to researching and developing its own click fraud solutions is always more beneficial than trying to lone-wolf it.
Those businesses can work closely with you to establish what type of traffic is visiting the sites you advertise on. With their help, you'll easily be able to find the snakes in the grass, and avoid wasting your budget on placements being inflated by bots.
Just think of it this way: The money you spend on their help pales in comparison to the amount of time and money you'll lose trying to handle it yourself.
4. The law isn't helping much
Although billions of dollars are stolen yearly through click fraud, no justice is served, allowing the perpetrators to continue thieving without the worry of facing consequences. Unfortunately, marketers aren't lawmakers, so we can't pass laws condemning those despicable enough to steal using botnets.
On the bright side, marketing lobbyists are seeking to have click fraud laws passed. As a result, the Obama Administration has proposed giving courts more power to issue botnet injunctions. However, until we know exactly who is committing the act, these laws will be worth less than the paper they're written on.
* * *
Until the day comes where fraudsters can be easily identified and punished for committing click fraud, we must rely on the practices and resources at our fingertips to, at the very least, stop the bleeding before it worsens.
By taking initiative and not allowing click fraud to sneak its way into our campaigns, we can save a huge amount of our budgets from the clutches of fraudulent hackers.
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