Video: Low-Cost, No-Tech Ways That Marketers Can Fight Ad Fraud

Everyone knows there’s digital ad fraud. Some may even understand it is pervasive. But do you need advanced technology to detect it in campaigns and stop it? Even though some would like you to believe that; the answer is NO. Dr. Augustine Fou, an independent ad fraud researcher, will provide unbiased background and context around digital ad fraud, and show how it impacts advertisers using real-life case examples. He will then discuss hands-on approaches using your own technologies and analytics to detect and reduce the impact of ad fraud on your marketing campaigns.

By David Sullivan

Last week, Dr. Augustine Fou gave MIMA an eye opening presentation on the current state of digital ad fraud. Luckily, he also told us exactly what we can do to stop it.

If you’re late to the boat, you might be wondering- what even IS ad fraud? Essentially, digital ad fraud occurs when a client pays a publisher for human traffic- and bots are sent instead!

Bots are lines of computer code that run automated programs. They’re capable of doing a variety of nefarious things, including viewing and clicking on advertisements. Obviously bots don’t buy products, so it’s a huge waste of money.

But just how BIG of problem is digital ad fraud? Let’s put it in perspective in relation to other crimes committed.

Money Lost Per Year

  • Bank Robberies:  38 Million
  • ATM Malware:  1 Billion
  • Somali Pirates: 18 Billion
  • Counterfeit Goods (U.S): 20 Billion
  • Payment Card Fraud:  22 Billion
  • Ad Fraud (U.S Only): 31 Billion

That’s 44% of the entire U.S. amount spent on digital advertising in 2016. Currently, it’s the LARGEST form of crime in existence.


  1. There’s no ACTUAL federal law against it. Therefore, law enforcement does nothing to stop it.  If you’ve been peddling meth, it’s high time you switched businesses.
  1. As you might have guessed, It’s extremely lucrative. Profit margins range from 80- 99%.
  1. It’s also very scalable. Once a fake website is created, fraudsters can slap as many ads on them as their evil hearts desire.

Currently, the lion’s share of Ad Fraud is occurring in two places.

  • Impression (CPM) Fraud:  This involves creating fake websites and putting tons of display ads on the pages. Scammers simply just copy and paste the layout and content from legitimate successful websites, and BINGO- they’re in business.

The scammers then send bots to their fake websites to repeatedly load pages and generate fake ad impressions.

  • Search Click (CPC) Fraud: Here, fake websites are built for the sole purpose of participating in search networks. Scammers use bots to type in the keywords that the client has paid for. The bots then click on the client’s ads, generating CPC (cost per click) revenue.

Now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s move on to the good news.

Ways To Recognize Ad Fraud And Stop It

The URL is a dead giveaway when it comes to determining if a site is fraudulent or not. Sometimes it will be obvious, as the URL will just be keywords thrown together from the niche.    

Example:  “” vs. “”

Other times it will be less obvious, and the URL will be a slight variation of the real deal.

Example:  “” vs. “”

Often, the devil hides in the details. Simply looking at the metrics for your advertising can reveal problems.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

A typical click through rate when you have 100% real human traffic is going to be under 1%.   

If you hear your advertising agency tells you that you have an  8% CTR, you might  have bots. 

100% Viewability:

Fraudsters stack all their ads above the fold to ensure 100% viewability. When dealing with humans, due to variations in site responsiveness and how long visitors stay on the site…. this is impossible to guarantee.  If a publisher offers this, stay far away.

Time Spent On Website

Bots don’t waste time hanging around on your website. Their job is to click on your ad and get paid. If you’re noticing that the vast majority of visitors are spending mere seconds on your website, something is up.

An Extremely High Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your website without clicking on any of its other pages. Humans click around and explore your website. Usually bots don’t, because there’s no monetary incentive for them to do so. 

Scrolling/ Mouse Movement

These metrics can be faked, but the majority of fraudsters don’t bother. Humans have high scrolling and mouse movement rates.  Bots don’t.

Traffic Patterns

When viewing graphs of traffic, ones with lots of extreme highs and lows can be a tip-off that you’ve got a bot problem.

The reason for this is the publisher is simply turning their fire hose of bots on and off.  One day there are tons of visitors, and the next day there’s almost none.

When a site is gaining REAL traction, it looks like a steadily increasing upwards curve.


For all the details on how to stop an evil army of BOTS, check out Dr. Fou’s slide-share.