In 2009, programmatic media buying, also known as real-time bidding (RTB), took the web advertising world by storm. This groundbreaking technology gave media buyers the ability to target specific audience segments while simultaneously buying at massive scale. Furthermore, it allowed them to manage their entire inventory from a centralized location.
From a publisher's perspective, RTB made it possible to auction off impressions to the highest bidder, without the additional expense of maintaining an ad sales team. This innovation was a tremendous win-win for both sides of the web advertising spectrum.
Most recently, RTB has made a splash with its entry into the mobile space. While its benefits are apparent, it's important to realize that they come with a specific set of responsibilities -- namely, recognizing and combating fraud within your campaigns to effectively achieve KPIs.
The word "fraud" has a way of inspiring fear amongst members of the mobile community, because it represents an abstract and largely misunderstood element of the space. However, with the advent of RTB networks and the automation of media trading, fraud has become increasingly rampant. Consequently, it is crucial that as a community we adopt methods to expose fraud and mitigate its effects.
A fundamental step to combating mobile fraud is testing for it -- this is necessary regardless of whether you are buying media through mobile RTB, rewards, or video.
Here are the three main strategies we employ to assess fraud and minimize it.
This can be as simple as setting up retargeting on one of your mobile campaigns. If you are buying large blocks of impressions and have implemented retargeting, you will be able to observe the quantity of impressions being attributed to your retargeting campaign. If the number is disproportionately low, there is a strong possibility of fraud on a particular campaign.
Adding a "click URL"
The click URL is a basic landing page that prompts a user to click on a button and proceed to your mobile website -- right from the ad. It's a simple and effective tactic, albeit heavily underutilized.
The process requires you 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 will 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 are buying is authentic and engaged. Essentially, the click URL is a mechanism to prove that you are buying real users rather than bots.
Email capture and connection to social
A third way to prove the authenticity of your mobile traffic is to capture a user's email address from an ad and use it to perform a reverse lookup. Some companies will even allow you to harness this data by building custom ad units that require email input from users.
If your ad unit does not capture user emails, an alternative is to capture this data on the landing page side. Then, you can attribute each email capture back to the campaign ID, and use this information to analyze a specific campaign.
By capturing an email address, you gain the ability to either connect it to a social media profile, or use it to gather more complex demographic information through the use of a service such as Rapleaf. Generally speaking, if you cannot get demographic data on a large batch of emails from a single source, the users or the clicks are most likely fraudulent.
In short, mobile click fraud is a significant but not an insurmountable challenge. By consistently leveraging the above strategies, you can protect yourself from wasting valuable ad spend on fraudulent traffic sources. Furthermore, these techniques may provide you with unique campaign insights that will help you fine-tune future media buying decisions.
Stephen Weiss is chief marketing officer at Paedae.
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