Navigating the Labyrinth of Click Fraud and Mis-clicks: It’s all About Secondary Engagement


Click Fraud, clickbots, botnets, “Fat Fingers”, these are a few of the terms you will hear when you talk to skeptical brand managers about mobile advertising and the dreaded fraudulent activity and mis-clicks that can occur. Mis-clicks (fraudulent or incidental) are often part of the blame for keeping mobile budgets from exploding to match the growth of mobile usage. Many brands still believe that the traffic they drive from their mobile efforts falls victim to either deceitful click fraud or the innocent mis-click from “fat fingers”.

While there are certainly fraudsters out there taking advantage of marketers, there are several ways to significantly limit the risk of fraud or mis-clicks and it rests on the shoulders of all parties involved: Brands, Agencies, SSPs, DSPs and Publishers. Below is a list of what each party can do and how they aid in minimizing fraudulent or accidental clicks.

  • Brands: Measure beyond the click – Brand managers, why are you still measuring the success of your mobile campaigns by the amount of clicks you receive? Marketers need to move beyond just CTR and clicks. Look at post-click engagement or conversions and set up your KPIs to focus on deeper actions and engagements. If you focus beyond the click and allow your vendors to optimize accordingly, you can weed out inventory that doesn’t deliver the desired engagement, eliminate low quality inventory and help guard against those pesky fraudsters.
  • Publishers: Clean up your inventory – Publishers should be always be evaluating and testing their inventory to ensure that the traffic they see is quality and that ad placements are not misleading or placed such that users cannot navigate the content resulting in accidental clicks via “fat fingers”. Ideally, your mobile publishers will have a mobile site or at the very least, a responsive site design, allowing easy navigation and limiting confusion between content and ad unit. Last, SSPs and brands need make sure they are partnering with trustworthy publishers and keeping strict guidelines will help keep publishers in line.
  • Vendors & Brands: Creative can help – One method that’s often left out of the discussion is strategic creative. Mobile is unique in that creative isn’t limited to the sole function of clicking.  Swiping and tilting, among other functions can be utilized when creating mobile ad units. Why not create ads that require a user to swipe across the screen to engage? Doing so would eliminate “fat fingers” and keep click bots from hijacking your click traffic.

  • Vendors & DSPs: Quality scoring and third party verification – All vendors should be taking steps to ensure the inventory they are utilizing is trustworthy, quality inventory (if SSPs and Publishers are doing their job, this would be of less importance). Note – quality does not always mean it has to be a recognizable, brand name site or app, only that it should be vetted to make sure it’s free of fraudulent activity and most importantly that it’s driving conversions and engagements post-click, which should be the true measure of quality. Below are a couple ways to ensure this:
  • Quality Scoring – Vendors should be applying methods to “score” their inventory. For example, you can collect and analyze data to determine how often a particular site or app sees second or third clicks and engagement/conversions beyond that first click. With inventory that does not see any engagement past that first click, over time you can assume that particular set of inventory holds no value. Also, look for anomalies in the data and look for patterns that suggest fraudulent activity. For example, does a set of inventory deliver massive amount of clicks on one day or at odd times or all from the same IP address.
  • Third Party Brand Safety and Viewability partners – Working with brand safety and viewability vendors to monitor your inventory, can further help sniff out any fraudulent sites or fraudsters and give your clients piece of mind when working with you, by ensuring that the ads you are placing are on quality inventory.

While fraud will never fully disappear, you don’t have to sit back and remain a victim.  As mentioned above, there are several steps you can take to limit fraud and the suggestions above are certainly not the only means available. Whether you’re a brand, publisher or ad network, it’s up to you to stay educated and remain diligent and if we all do our part, we can help clean up some of the quality issues that plague our industry.


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