How Fraudulent Ad Traffic Is Spinning Campaigns Out Of Control

By 2023 ad spending lost due to ad fraud via in-app advertising, mobile and online worldwide will reach $100 million and will double the pre-pandemic levels in 2019. During peak coronavirus months, mobile click fraud increased 62% according to a study run across 5,000 plus online ad accounts in 78 countries. With an increasing role of mobile as a major source of revenue to businesses, the threat of mobile click fraud remains a significant problem that is costing advertisers around the world billions of dollars in wasted ad spend. 


Daria Kekkonen & Josh Little

It is common to see the high levels of fraud from programmatic and video ads, however an increasing part of the fraud traffic comes from paid search, accounting for 14% of invalid clicks. Across some of our retail clients, approximately 5-7% of the traffic was fraudulent, which fluctuated in the last year depending on the covid restrictions, increasing advertising spend and other significant events.

What do we do to fight Fraudulent Traffic?

At Incubeta we tested the impact of the fraud activity in PPC via A/B experiments across text and shopping campaigns. We looked at the combination of the generic and brand generic campaigns across various categories. 

Results of the test showed 2-5% uplift in conversion rate for the campaigns where we excluded fraudulent traffic compared to the control campaigns, where we did not apply any fraud exclusion. Moreover, the highest levels of invalid traffic came from brand terms and less from generics, assuming that bots, click farms, website scrawlers target brands with big advertising budgets and search terms that are more frequently searched by people. We made sure to run one of the tests over Black Friday and Cyber Monday – times of the year with the highest advertising spend – as invalid activity is proportional to the ad spend across the industry. Across this time frame (Black Friday – Cyber Monday) we reported a 16% uplift in CR for the campaigns where we excluded fraudulent activity; allowing better efficiency of the ad spend for those campaigns.

What could you do to battle Click Fraud?

Most platforms will have some sort of measures in place to reduce fraud, Meta are frequently removing accounts that it detects as fraudulent – deleting 1.8 billion fake accounts in Q3 2021 – and they do not charge clicks they manually review as invalid. Google also uses a mixture of automated and manual reviews to remove any fraudulent activity they see. 

While there is a base layer of protection for everyone running across major platforms, it’s worth considering all options available to your business. Last week Incubeta sat down with a number of fraud specialists who focus on combing through data, finding ad fraud and removing bots from targeting pools. Our Senior Social Specialist, Josh Little spoke to Pete Rawlinson and Amar Chana from PPC Protect – a click fraud detection partner – to discuss fraudulent ad traffic experiences, how they can impact campaigns and how brands can regain control. 

Watch On Demand Here


The current reach of fraudulent activity in the market is alarmingly high and as we move more towards automation, we’d only see this problem increasing. Unless we research, prepare and act.

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