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Search Ad Fraud 101 by Augustine Fou Technical Forensics


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Search ad fraud is harder to commit because it involves several steps. But bad guys now have sophisticated bots that can execute all those steps, while pretending to be a human user and passing fake tracking parameters back to the advertiser.

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Search Ad Fraud 101 by Augustine Fou Technical Forensics

  1. 1. Search Ad Fraud 101 Dr. Augustine Fou acfou [at] February 2014 -1- Augustine Fou
  2. 2. Types of Ad Fraud Impressions Clicks Leads Sales (CPM fraud) (CPC fraud) (CPL fraud) (CPA fraud) Bots type search queries to bring up search ads and then click on the ads to earn share of CPC. Bot or low wage workers fill in lead forms with real addresses and get paid bounty per lead. Fake sites set up to do cookie stuffing or trick users to click on affiliate links to earn rev share. (CPV for video) Botnets generate fake pageviews which produce ad impression “inventory” that is sold into ad exchanges. -2- Augustine Fou
  3. 3. Definition of Click Fraud Click Fraud and Invalid Traffic You may have heard the terms “click fraud” and “invalid clicks” and wondered how or if they are different. Here is a definition of each: Click fraud refers to clicks generated with malicious or fraudulent intent. Invalid traffic includes both clicks and impressions on AdWords ads that Google suspects to not be the result of genuine user interest. This covers intentionally fraudulent traffic as well as accidental clicks and other mechanically generated traffic. Although advertisers are not charged for these clicks or impressions, this traffic may still result in valuable site visits and conversions. Source: Google Ad Traffic Quality -3- Augustine Fou
  4. 4. Motive for Click Fraud There are two primary incentives for committing click fraud: • AdWords advertisers may try to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their budget early in the day. • AdSense publishers may click ads appearing on their own websites in order to inflate revenue. Source: Google Ad Traffic Quality -4- Augustine Fou
  5. 5. How Click Fraud Occurs The most common methods for carrying out click fraud attacks are: • Manual clicking • Click farms (hiring individuals to manually click ads) • Pay-to-click sites (pyramid schemes created by publishers) • Click bots (software to automate clicking) • Botnets (hijacked computers utilized by click bots) Source: Google Ad Traffic Quality -5- Augustine Fou
  6. 6. How Search (CPC) Click Fraud Works -6- Augustine Fou
  7. 7. Choose High CPC Keywords > 100,000 monthly searches avg position 1 – 10 sort by highest avg CPC “cosmetic face lift” “residential home cleaning” $10.84 CPC $9.95 CPC Source: iSpionage Nov 2013 -7- Augustine Fou
  8. 8. Biggest PPC Spenders Insurance est. Spending: - - $46M /yr - $44M - $34M - $28M - $25M - $21M Many CPCs from $60 - $78 Retailers est. Spending: -8- - $48M /yr - $18M annually - $11M per year - $9.6M CPCs range from $15 - $63 Augustine Fou
  9. 9. Bots Type Search Term healthsiteproduc buy eye cream online -9- Augustine Fou
  10. 10. Bots Click Search Ad ad in #1 position - 10 - Augustine Fou
  11. 11. Redirect Link(s) Known blackhat technique to hide real referrer and replace with faked referrer. SIX (6) redirects before ending on the landing page See how-to: blackhat-seo/cloaking-contentgenerators/36830-cloakingredirect-referer.html - 11 - Augustine Fou
  12. 12. Pass Fake URL Trackers _medium=cpc&utm_camp aign=Olay_Search_Deskto p_Category+Interest+Prod uct.Phrase&utm_term=eye %20cream&utm_content= TZsrSzFz_eye%20cream_ p_2990456911 Click thru URL passing fake source - 12 - Augustine Fou
  13. 13. Search (CPC) Click Fraud Sizing - 13 - Augustine Fou
  14. 14. Search Ad Clicks 20 - 40% fraudulent, accidental, wasted Source: Adometry Click Fraud Report 1H 2013 IAB: FY 2012 Search Ad Spend = $16.8B • Search ad fraud is a bit more involved to commit and usually occurs on “search partner” sites (not the main search sites) • Bad guys set up sites with no content, execute searches with lucrative keywords, and click the ads with bots - 14 - Augustine Fou
  15. 15. Click Fraud by Qtr 20% of $16.8B in search ad spending could be due to fraudulent clicks. Equivalent to: $3.4B in search ad CPC waste per year Source: ClickForensics 2011 - 15 - Augustine Fou
  16. 16. Bot Clicks vs Humans Humans actually click on buttons and menu items (mouse moves and clicks) Bots don’t bother disguising their click locations and don’t show mouse traces. Source: Feb 2013 - 16 - Augustine Fou
  17. 17. Before and After BEFORE AFTER Top 2 “good guys” = 76% Top 5 “good guys” = 94% 18% of spend shifted from fraudulent websites to “top 5” good guys - 17 - Augustine Fou
  18. 18. What Advertisers Can/Should Do - 18 - Augustine Fou
  19. 19. Areas of Optimization 30% 40% 30% - 19 - targeting improving optimization delivery viewability bots /not seen by humans waste reduction Augustine Fou
  20. 20. Low Hanging Fruit The most immediate, direct impact on ROI comes from reducing waste 25% On-Target Delivery (Nielsen) 54% Not In View (comScore) 82% Ignored (Harris Interactive) 23% Ad Blocked (PageFair) 24 – 29% confirmed bot (Solve Media) - 20 - Augustine Fou
  21. 21. Digital Ad Forensics Process Preliminary Scan Sizing of ad fraud Forensic Analysis Maintenance • Technology Tools • Statistical analysis • Budget shifts • Further optimization Implementation FREE $$$ $ Preliminary analysis of paid campaigns and analytics to determine magnitude of the ad fraud impacting client. Creating recommended list of changes, including list of sites to exclude in each ad channel. Subscribe to triangulated, cross-industry database of “ad fraud offenders” to continuously update blacklists and whitelists. Augustine Fou - 21 -
  22. 22. Dr. Augustine Fou – Technical Forensics “I advise clients on optimizing advertising across all channels. One main area of focus is reducing ad waste due to fraud – fake impressions, clicks, leads, and sales – which produces immediate ROI.” FORMER CHIEF DIGITAL OFFICER, HCG (OMNICOM) MCKINSEY CONSULTANT CLIENT SIDE / AGENCY SIDE EXPERIENCE PROFESSOR AND COLUMNIST ENTREPRENEUR / SMALL BUSINESS OWNER PHD MATERIALS SCIENCE (MIT '95) AT AGE 23 ClickZ Articles: Slideshares: LinkedIn: - 22 - @acfou Augustine Fou
  23. 23. Related Articles Digital Ad Fraud Briefing By: Augustine Fou December 2013 Fake YouTube Videos By: Augustine Fou, December 2013 Ad Fraud Fighting Techniques By: Augustine Fou October 2013 Fake Linkedin Profiles By: Augustine Fou, December 2013 How Display Fraud Works By: Augustine Fou, May 2013 Fake Facebook Profiles By: Augustine Fou, Dec 2013 How Click Fraud Works By: Augustine Fou, November 2013 Fake Twitter Accounts By: Augustine Fou, August 2013 The Magnitude of Digital Ad Fraud By: Augustine Fou, November 2013 An Ecosystem of Digital Ad Fraud By: Augustine Fou, October 2013 - 23 - Augustine Fou