Friends, I’ve found my calling. I am gonna eradicate the disgusting ad fraud that’s robbing small businesses left and right. Or possibly join the fake click cartel because you can make up to $3 million dollars a day. More on that coming up.
This problem gets no coverage. Even organizations that are possibly throwing online ad money away don’t seem bothered by it. But Inbox Hacking subscribers have more sense and attachment to ad dollars than average marketers, right?
Good… we’re gonna infiltrate the seedy underbelly of click fraud so you’ll have a clear idea of what’s really happening to your online advertising budget. This can affect lead generation, time wasted retargeting, and make your analytics hard to trust.
Ad Fraud Stats
Up to 88% of online ad clicks could be fraudulent. I first heard this number – and yes, I staggered – from Professor Scott Galloway.
Folks, I ran the numbers twice… 88% is real close to 100%. Sure, that stat is hard to believe. And since the online advertising world is so complex, no one knows the exact number. Think about it.
When you pay to run an ad through Google, do you ever verify the ad results? Any idea where it runs? Any idea IF it ran?
There is no way you could track such an ad run. It’s all behind the scenes. It would be the equivalent of running a New York Times ad in 1984 and the ad salesperson telling you they use invisible ink for all ads. But they’ll send you a shiny analytic report after it runs.
Bots Getting Worse
Yep, the following fraud stats are designed to scare the shekels out of ya. A wake-up call may save your organization tens of thousands of dollars in clicks that don’t mean ^%$#.
- Imperva estimates 27.7% of all online traffic is fraudulent
- Barracuda disagrees → they think bad bots make up nearly 40% of web traffic
- Forbes predicts marketers will spend $1 trillion for online ads in 2026 (crooks notice big numbers)
- E-commerce applications and login portals are the most common targets of advanced persistent bots
Another fact shows bad bots follow a standard workday. Run ads while bots are taking their lunch break I guess?
Quick Crook How-To
Wonder how crooks profit off creating bots to click on ads? Two common ways. Don’t get any ideas, Gina in Indiana.
#1) Bots fake click in background while real and unaware users interact with an app / website.
#2) Micro-sized ads are placed on a page. Visitors likely can’t see the ads, but your brand will get charged for those impressions.
There are 5 more ways the fraudsters do it – read them here.
One reason this crime is so rampant? Easy entry, giant profits. How big?
Pablo Escobar & El Chapo FOMO
Kingpins love big profit margins. Believe this or not, fraudulent ad clicks are predicted to be the #2 most profitable crime by 2025. Only behind the illegal drug trade.
Seems much safer of a “career” also:
- Government officials don’t know what “a Google” is, much less a pixel
- Many regions have no laws against such fraud
- Agencies aren’t blowing the whistle
- Again, many advertisers wasting $$$ have blinders on and / or don’t care
“A group of scammers called Methbot was making more than $3 million a day.” ~Lunio
The ringleader of that catchy “brand” did get caught. A rarity.
*Send better abandoned cart emails (that work🤐)
Fake Bot Clicks Lead Generation
For email marketers, this rampant fraud may hit you hardest in the lead generation department.
Say you run an ad to bring awareness to your nonprofit and get 24,000 impressions. That data may cause you to run similar ads, adding a sign-up form to “learn more.” You run the ad again but few leads sign up.
Why? Maybe large chunks of the initial impressions were bots.
Another scenario → on the second ad run you do get sign-ups but how many of those are real?
With human-run bot farms, those Olympian mouse-clickers can fill out a ton of forms all day every day. Downloading your lead magnets for the hell of it. Oh, and some bots can fill out forms too. (This is conversion fraud)
The result of these criminal hijinks?
- Leads that waste your company’s time managing them
- Deceptive analytics which jack up future ad planning
- Bad actors gain free accounts and trials
- Affiliate crooks can earn via cost-per-lead performance marketing
- Some fraud’s simply malicious → competitors / frustrated users
- Damage to your email sender score due to fake email addresses sliding on your list + real addresses that scammers copy & paste, leading to spam complaints from the real inbox owner! 🤪
How to Stop Bots’ Fake Clicks
I suggest reading ADSCAM. An easy read that covers all this with a deep bitterness I envy and admire in Bob the Author.
He gives an example of one way to fight click fraud before it puts your brand in the poor house.
But you may want to try an anti-fraud service out. Ones I stumbled across are:
I bet you’re hoping I dissected hundreds of reviews on such services. I was about to, then, I discovered… there are fake reviews on the internet too!
Seriously, a cybersecurity team might protect your ad budget. But like all fraud, this type will be an infinite back and forth battle between good guys and bad guys.
More fraud knowledge to defend your organization’s ad dollars:
- 9 ways to stop bots from filling your forms out
- Free basic bot detection IP test
- How to prevent conversion fraud
- How 79% of UK advertisers reduced ad impressions on shady sites
Three More Ways to Fight Fraud Kingpins
- Put one custom question on your form a bot can’t answer (ie. What did you think of Ozark’s finale)
- Use your email validation tool to constantly check for sketchy email addresses (You’re already doing that? Awesome ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐)
3. Our sponsor, Inbox Mailers, knows when real-life flesh-n-blood humans are checking their inbox → Verified human activity. Demo Inbox Mailers for perfectly timed emails to subscribers in the perfect mood to read emails.
Ad Fraud Test
Back to ADSCAM. The author highlights a glitch in a USA Today ad campaign for major brands like Nike and Starbucks. USA Today discovered the brand ads were running on smaller news outlets they owned, not the main USA Today site. Oops…
If you think the brands were irate when they found out… they never noticed. Not a single one knew they were getting fewer clicks, lower quality clicks, or a smaller audience.
However, testing can catch bots’ fake clicks. Unless you’re running a crypto scam with a bottomless ad budget and don’t care. Example. You’re running 50 ads. Change it up and reduce it to 30 ads. What happens to your views and clicks? Not much? Might wanna have a chat with your ad team.
Bots’ Fake Clicks Wrap Up
The web is perfect for fraud. The “web” is branded sketchy! Bots are not gonna decrease. Congress isn’t gonna save us (ancient technophobes with 🦶 🦶🍌)
It’s on businesses to fight click fraud together through sharing of information and using constantly updated tools. Because lazy crooks turn into hard workers when they see opportunities to make 💰millions faster than an idiot kid-genius with jacked-up hair running crypto pyramids.
*Bonus tool – Polygraph claims their tracking details can help you get refunds from fake ad clicks.
The Knowledge Base
Knowledge isn’t power without motivation so → Prime in his prime.
Black Friday’s over but don’t forget other major marketing days.
Not much time left to unleash your holiday campaigns – snatch these 25 holiday subject lines.
CaaS, curation as a service → can your brand learn from Curated Commerce examples?
I’ve had a lot of bad ideas.
No, it’s true.
But how many people could’ve turned any one of my bad ideas into a solid plan, then a nice business?
We’ll never know because I didn’t share my ideas with many people.
What ideas are you holding back? Ideas that might go somewhere if you shared them.
Might add a bonus slice of revenue for your company.
Or a tiny idea you share could lead to a young person trying your idea. Turning it into a successful little business that makes their life better. Even if it’s “only” a stepping stone to a better idea, a bigger business.
Facts & Stats
- 70% of online ads are programmatic / automated (ADSCAM book)
- 53% of marketers say email has been the most effective channel for early-stage lead generation (Hubspot)
- 67% of companies use lead generation as the sole metric to determine content success
*Pre Inbox Mailers Quote Circa 2009… “The perfect time to ask for a raise is when you save the company money. Or catch your boss at a trap-house. ~ Ron ‘Eyes-Out’ Rockwell
Are subscribers reading or deleting emails when your email arrives? Find out with Inbox Mailers
If you’re a B2B, are you finding it hard to connect with other businesses?
I mean, outside of pitching your wares.
Are you joining clubs or hitting meet-up groups…
Icky I know. Humans might be there… in person.
Plus, it’ll mean abandoning our big screens and memory foam sofas for a couple hours.
But you can learn a whole lot face to face. Share insights other business owners need to know.
Also, how many insights are you missing out on without in-person connections?
Today’s hack is not one you can complete in 24 hours but you can set in motion. 2023 is nearly here. Today’s the day you can set up systems to eliminate at least some of the fraudulent clicks wasting your ad budget.
Ask questions to your ad agency. Test ad runs to see if changes make any difference in clicks and conversions. Investigate ways to run ads you can verify (non-programmatic) → on real websites or newsletters. Perhaps most crucially, schedule regular email list checkups to sniff out and delete fake, suspect, or stolen email addresses.
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