Did Facebook find a way to deal with fake news?


There’s been extensive discussion during the past weeks about Facebook’s fake stories and whether they have contributed to the results of the US elections. Mark Zuckerberg has decided to address this issue and announce Facebook’s future plans.

There is a great controversy regarding fake stories on social media and how they may affect users’ opinions over a subject, and Facebook received a significant amount of criticism on its lack of measures to avoid turning misinformation viral.

Mark Zuckerberg has decided to speak about this issue, in attempt to defend the popular social platform and most importantly, to announce the network’s future plans on handling similar cases.

In fact, he mentioned seven key points about Facebook’s future plans.

Stronger detection

Facebook is determined to improve its ability to classify misinformation. This will be achieved by enhanced technical systems that will spot the stories will flag as false, even before they actually do it.

Easy reporting

Facebook insists that the focus is on its community and that’s why it plans to facilitate the reporting of fake stories.

Third party verification

Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that Facebook is planning to consult fast checking organisations to learn more from them on how to deal with misinformation.


Facebook is examining the display of warnings to stories that users have already flagged as false. This will maintain all the stories to the platform, but it will also help users discern their level of accuracy.

Related articles quality

Another attempt to improve Facebook’s quality of content is the idea of raising the bar for the stories that appear as related articles in the news feed. This may reduce the chances of turning a false story viral.

Disrupting fake news economics

According to Mark Zuckerberg, most false stories derive from financially motivated spam and that’s why they are planning to improve ad farm detection in an attempt to disrupt the economics with ads policies.


This may be obvious, but it’s always useful to keep listening from experts (journalists, publishers, etc) in order to understand the best ways that fast checking and editorial control work. This is benefiting both Facebook’s reputation, but also the users’

Are these enough to deal with a growing filter bubble?

Although the suggested ideas are encouraging, we can’t help but wonder whether they are enough for such a large (and powerful) platform to deal with the way fake news are spread through the platform.

Facebook may not be keen on accepting its responsibility as a curated media publisher (and it doesn’t see the platform as such), but it certainly needs to admit how its ambitious plan to reach more people and attract more publishers have their consequences.

How do you protect both the audience and the publishers by the so-called false stories of financially motivated spam? Is there a way to be stricter towards fake news and fast checking? How about investing in more people who will handle the way information is spread and react accordingly when needed?

However, the problem is complicated and it’s not just Facebook’s fault about the way fake news stories are spread.

The age of social media and the way publishing speed became more competitive is certainly the main reason fact checking became a luxury for many publishers, while users got addicted to an increasing content consumption (and a filter bubble that serves the relevancy they like).

Moreover, we are also experiencing a changing nature of media, with the integration of digital technology being demanding and challenging.

How does a traditional publication head towards social media? What’s the best way to apply the traditional editorial guidelines to digital platforms? On the other hand, how does a thriving online media publisher gain editorial judgement when click-baiting becomes appealing?

Last but not least, it may be a good time for all of us to acknowledge our own responsibility to become critical towards everything we read through Facebook or any other social platform.

There’s no need to believe every story we come across and even more, there’s no need to rule out any other opinion except ours. It’s not always easy, but it may be worth the effort.

A 10-minute account audit to prevent SEM fires during the holidays

Vector timer icon

We’ve talked about it for weeks, and it’s truly upon us now: holiday crunch time.

Your eyes are probably crossing with all the prep and must-dos, but if you’re short on hours and would like to make sure to avert any ROI disasters before they happen, make sure to check these five items off your SEM list.

1) Pull a search query report over the last 60-90 days and optimize against it

We’re looking for two specific buckets here:

  • Terms that have spent a significant amount of budget and racked up no (or few) conversions and high CPAs. These are terms you would not want your ad to appear on. You will want to create a shared negative list in your shared library and apply it to all of your campaigns. Then add in any negative terms based on poor performance that you find in the search query report.
  • Terms that are converting and have great CPAs. You will want to ensure you are using exact match to bid on these terms; this will allow you to maximize your control over top performers and push more volume and scale.

2) Check your ad group setup and limit the number of keywords

Ad groups should be limited to 1-10 keywords with close-knit themes; this allows you to tailor your ad copy as much as possible to keep the ad relevant to what the user is searching for.

If there are too many keywords with varying tokens, look into breaking these out into additional ad groups. It should go without saying that if you get more granular with the keywords in your ad groups, you should also be able to tailor your bidding to good effect.

3) Run a placement report over the last 60-90 days and add negatives

If you’re running Google Display Network campaigns, the Placement Report is the GDN version of a search query report. Look for poor-performing placements that have a high number of clicks and plenty of cost – but no conversions.

Equally as important: look for placements that have high CPAs with low conversions. Add all of the placements that match those criteria to a negative placement shared list and apply that list to all of your GDN campaigns. You want to ensure your ads do not appear on these websites.

4) Do device analysis for search and display

If you’re running search and GDN campaigns, you’ll want to run device analyses for them both – and watch for different things.

For search, pull a device analysis on all campaigns to understand how mobile, tablet, and desktop perform. Develop bid modifiers at the campaign level to adjust bids according to performance (for example, if mobile CPAs tend to be 20% higher than desktop CPAs, you will want to apply a negative bid modifier to mobile devices to pay less for mobile CPCs).

For the GDN, keep in mind that 99% of the time, mobile on GDN doesn’t work. Take a quick peek at performance, and if this is borne out, make sure to add in a -100% mobile modifier to turn it off.

5) Check for basic campaign-level best practices

Just to be sure there’s nothing in your account that could cause a four-alarm fire, let’s cover some campaign-level basics. (If you need to fix any one of these, do it now!)

  • Search and the GDN should be separate campaigns. If you are running both within one campaign, build out another and make sure you have your settings for “Search Network Only” or “Display Network”. You want to have the most control over these targeting types as they perform VERY differently from one another.
  • Don’t settle for standard delivery for your best campaigns. Top performing campaigns should be set to “accelerated ad delivery” so you capitalize on as much high-converting traffic as you can.
  • Be smart about budget allocation. If you are budget capping, make sure you are allocating more budget to your top-performing campaigns so that they never run dry.

Now, will taking all of these steps make sure the 2016 holiday season is your best ever? Nope; they’re just scratching the tip of the optimization iceberg. But if you found yourself saying “Oh, I should do that,” to any of the above, make sure those items take top priority, otherwise you’re leaving yourself open to a big ROI leak when the traffic starts flooding in.

Good luck!

How marketing will change when 5G and VR collide

abstract antenna wireless electric digital telecoms sign symbol

5G networks are expected to start rolling out this coming year and will likely be standard in 2018.

Given the profound impact that 4G had on mobile advertising, and the fact that by 2020, there will be an estimated 20.8 billion connected devices in the world (up from the current figure of 6.4 billion), the advent of 5G represents an enormous opportunity within the world of mobile.

Indeed, we are looking at a seismic event that will dramatically change mobile marketing for publishers, advertisers and end users.

Here’s what you should know now:

It’s not just about speed

Looking back on it now, we can see how 4G ushered in the era of mobile video advertising, a format that has come to dominate mobile marketing.

While the limits of 4G are still being pushed, as with Finnish telecoms firm Elisa, which recently claimed the new world record for fastest mobile internet at an astonishing 1.9 Gbs per second, 5G will theoretically make download speeds of 10,000 Mbps the norm.

But it’s the enormous speed and high capacity that’s going to open new frontiers. 5G will empower media companies to deliver 4K video and high quality AR and VR content to mobile devices.

It will become the backbone of a digital society enraptured with new technologies that deliver more realistic, immersive and interactive experiences.

With 5G just around the corner, the marketing world should be poised for still more innovation, and with that a subsequent vast array of new mobile marketing opportunities.

VR, AR and mixed reality will be the new norm

As noted above, the increased power of 5G will make the expansion of augmented/mixed reality more feasible, with mobile VR (virtual reality headsets not connected to a computer) driving that adoption.

Consider for a moment where that could take marketing, for example in a travel app – it could use VR to build photorealistic representations of candidate vacation spots or hotels for customers to help them choose.

From your living room or office, you could have a mini-experience with the Taj Mahal, Amazon River, and Aurora Borealis over Reykjavik; you could move effortlessly from one location to the next simply with a wave of your hand.

Done right, applications like this could enthral users and drive conversions in ways which could make “traditional” clicking and swiping anachronisms.

In the classic sci-fi movie Total Recall its lead character purchased a memory implant for a holiday adventure. Given where things appear to be going it is entirely plausible that VR holiday content will fuel a new, viable ecommerce market.


Rather than selling actual physical holidays brands and publishers could also offer ‘VR vacations’ as in-app purchases.

In this scenario, the traditional levers to pull for mobile commerce (targeted UA, engagement and retention tactics) would be just as important or more important than ever, as more and more “content” for purchase becomes mobile and digital.

Growth in AR and VR is increasing at an exponential rate, TechCrunch reported that revenues for AR and VR could reach $150 billion by 2020, with augmented reality taking the lion’s share at around $120 billion and VR at $30 billion.


Some companies are ahead of the game, like Magic Leap, which has demoed what it calls ‘Mixed Reality’, has been deemed “the world’s most secretive startup”, and has already garnered $1.4 billion in investment.

Its engineers are working on a headset that uses actual surroundings blended with digital light and graphic elements to create a version of the world that seems just as believable as the real thing. Their goal is to use human sight patterns to create an algorithm to make things look as realistic as humanly possible.

With the planned deployment of 5G expected in 2018, the proliferation of affordable VR and AR, for example Sony’s mass-market PlayStation VR rolling out in October 2016, a record $2 billion USD invested in VR this year alone, it’s safe to assume that VR will become the a widespread platform for mobile in the very near future.

New platforms will usher in even more data about consumers

Smart 5G wearables, 5G powered IoT devices, and AR/VR/mixed reality will empower mobile advertisers with unprecedented access to consumers, their personal interests, and their activities (done right, this will be on an anonymous level, with no data tied to a personal identity).

All this data combined will take advertising to a new level of tailoring and relevance; given that mobile already offers a terrific degree of targeting and the ability to continually iterate based on data, additional insights garnered from 5G will take it even further.

Think of the possibilities with augmented reality ads on 3D Google maps, ultra-intelligent refrigerators that link to markets in your area, context-aware ads on IoT home devices that find deals on items you need for dinner, or VR goggles that track eye movements for controlling on-screen graphic interfaces – the only limit is one’s imagination.


Who will succeed?

So what will it take to successfully leverage 5G? A willingness to grab the bull by the horns and leverage virtual and augmented marketing, of course. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, industries that will benefit the most from 5G will be those that connect something in the physical world to the internet, and vice versa.

It’s going to be all about customisable connectivity. For advertisers, the sky really is the limit. There’s much to anticipate in the shiny 5G world of possibilities.

Once this game changer for mobile marketing and advertising enters the ring, 5G will push augmented and virtual reality and IoT into the mainstream, and marketing and advertising will be right there with it.

Simon Spaull is the managing director EMEA of AppLovin and a contributor to SEW.

Five most important search marketing news stories of the week

A screenshot of Facebook analytics for Messenger chatbots. The top image shows a line graph reflecting the number of messages sent to a bot by unique users, while the bottom image shows a column graph with age and gender demographics.

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, both LinkedIn and Facebook are beefing up their paid social offerings in different ways, while Google seeks to cut off Adwords revenues for fake news sites. And might Google be favouring desktop over its own AMP in its upcoming mobile-first index?

Facebook launches analytics for Messenger chatbots

On Monday, Facebook announced that it will be extending its Facebook Analytics for Apps tool to Messenger, so that early adopters of chatbots will be able to track the response to them via analytics.

Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch’s sister site, ClickZ, that brands who have built chatbots using Facebook’s Messenger Platform will have access to a variety of metrics without needing to add additional code. These will include messages sent, messages received, user blocks and unblocks.

Roberts considered whether analytics could be the key to the success of chatbots by allowing brands to see exactly where their interactions with users are falling short.

LinkedIn Sponsored InMail goes self-serve

LinkedIn Sponsored InMail, which allows marketers to send promotional messages to the InMail inboxes of LinkedIn users, has been opened up to self-service advertising campaigns.

Brands who wanted to use Sponsored InMail to advertise were previously required to go through a LinkedIn Account Representative. But as of last week, they can do it all themselves through the LinkedIn Campaign manager.

Al Roberts reported on ClickZ that,

“Marketers can target their Sponsored InMail messages by filters such as location, company, industry, title, skills and education, and to set a call-to-action that is displayed prominently in the message.

LinkedIn handles all of the formatting to ensure that Sponsored InMail messages look good on desktop and mobile, and provides marketers with a variety of analytics data, such as opens and clicks. The popular professional social network also offers marketers the ability to A/B test variations of their content.”

Mobile advertising accounts for nearly half of digital ad spend—but what does that mean for fraud?

Search Engine Watch’s resident mobile expert Andy Favell reported this week that mobile advertising now accounts for nearly half of digital ad spend—but it comes at a price. Favell takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon of mobile ad fraud, including how it works, how widespread it really is, and why it’s currently on the rise.

Google prevents fake news sites from serving ads through AdSense

In the wake of the US presidential election, a lot of attention has been drawn to the issue of fake news on websites like Facebook and Google, and the role that they might have played in spreading misinformation prior to the vote. Search Engine Journal reported on Tuesday that Google has taken concrete action around the problem by preventing fake news sites from serving ads through AdSense.

Google’s official documentation now states:

“Users don’t want to be misled by the content they engage with online. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about you, your content or the primary purpose of your web property.”

While the changes won’t prevent fake news sites from showing up in search results, it does cut off a source of the ad revenue that the websites rely on to make money. Facebook took similar steps this week by updating its advertising guidelines to exclude fake news sites from generating revenue from Facebook Audience Network, after it was revealed that “fakebait” sites were bringing in tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue through Facebook.

Google’s mobile-first index opts for desktop over AMP… we think

One of the biggest upcoming changes to search in the next few months will undoubtedly be Google splitting its index between mobile and desktop. SEOs have been gearing up for the change ever since Google announced it in October, but there has been some confusion over how Google will treat sites which have an Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, version versus a regular mobile site.

This week, The SEM Post covered a surprising revelation: when a site has a desktop version and an AMP version with no other mobile version of the site, Google will index the desktop version.

For its mobile-first index.

So @maileohye confirmed that in a situation where there is desktop and AMP, Google will index desktop for mobile first. #StateofSearch

— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) November 14, 2016

This information appeared to contradict a previous tweet by Google’s Gary Illyes, who had said that AMP would be evaluated for organic in the new index model:

@AlanBleiweiss AMP is mobile friendly, so amp

— Gary Illyes (@methode) November 13, 2016

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable went back to Illyes to confirm the new information, and Illyes clarified:

@rustybrick @maileohye @AlanBleiweiss yeah. I should’ve said that if you make the amps your pages’ mobile version, then amps would be picked

— Gary Illyes (@methode) November 16, 2016

@rustybrick @maileohye @AlanBleiweiss but with the default amp setup desktop is picked. I dunno of any site that has only desktop+amp tho

— Gary Illyes (@methode) November 16, 2016

So yes, that clears things up 100% with no ambiguity whatsoever. If you have an AMP version of your site (but no other mobile version) and make it the mobile version of your site, mobile-first will index AMP, but with the default setup, mobile-first will index desktop.

But if you have only AMP with no other version of your site (including desktop), per Slegg’s original article, then the mobile-first index will index AMP. And presumably so will the desktop index, as there isn’t any other version of the site to index.

Got it.

What’s the best way to use hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?


Hashtags certainly aren’t new on social platforms, but do you really know how to maximise their effectiveness?

It’s not easy to apply a hashtag strategy for all social networks, as each one has its own rules. However, you can still analyse what works for each platform and adapt your habits for the future posts.

Trackmaven analysed more than 65,000 posts on social media, offering useful insights on how the use of hashtags changes on each platform.

Let’s see their impact on the biggest social networks.

Facebook: one hashtag can increase the engagement

Facebook may not be the most popular platform to use hashtags, but they still seem to increase the audience’s engagement. It has been observed that the use of one hashtag can lead to an engagement of 1,771 interactions per post, while their increased use can cause a decline of engagement.

It’s interesting to note that a post with six hashtags leads to an increased engagement, comparing to a post with five hashtags, and this could serve as an indication that there is no restriction in the number of hashtags a post should have.

After all, there wasn’t even a general agreement on whether Facebook hashtags are effective, so maybe we can use this report as the starting point for our new posts.

Instagram: feel free to add more hashtags

Instagram is probably the most effective social network to use hashtags and this report confirms what we already knew.

As there’s no limit in characters and you can add up to 30 hashtags in a post, Instagram can be ideal for increased reach and engagement, through the use of the right hashtags.

According to Trackmaven, Instagram posts with nine hashtags bring the best engagement, counting 28,548 interactions per post. Although this can be considered the peak of the engagement, it is still at high levels even with the use of 15 hashtags.

This doesn’t mean that you should add as many hashtags as possible, but it still gives you the freedom to expand your audience, provided that you discover the best hashtags for each post and its target audience.


If you’re curious about the ideal length of an Instagram hashtag, then it seems that longer hashtags have higher engagement. Hashtags of 21 characters seem to lead to the best engagement rate, being followed by hashtags of 24 and 26 characters accordingly.

This means that it’s better to add more context with your hashtag and be specific, rather than picking the most general (and predictable) ones.


Twitter: don’t add too many hashtags

Tweets don’t have to contain multiple hashtags, as the most effective ones seem to contain one to hashtags. After all, it’s the limit of 140 characters on its own that does not allow the use of many hashtags. However, it is still possible to use even 10 hashtags and still gain a partial engagement.screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-08-15-56


Every social network may have its own rules, but we can agree that hashtags can enhance the engagement to all platforms.

Keep in mind:

  • use hashtags in context
  • don’t forget to add a caption
  • think of your audience
  • be relevant
  • research on the best hashtags for your brand

All these tips can improve the chances of actually seeing your engagement increase with the right use of hashtags.

Mobile ad fraud: how agencies and advertisers can spot, combat and kill it


Ten steps to help advertisers, agencies, ad platforms and publishers get on top of mobile ad fraud, with tips from the experts and guidelines to follow.

With mobile rapidly approaching half of digital advertising, the fraudsters that have plagued web advertising are now targeting mobile ads – particularly the “download or app” ads, which have become a cash cow for the ad industry.

In this column, we ask: what do advertisers, agencies, ad exchanges, ad networks, demand-side platforms DSPs and other adtech providers need to do to stop mobile getting to the same state as web ad fraud?

What is mobile ad fraud?

Mobile ad fraud occurs where mobile ads impressions or click-throughs are triggered by a robot.

This might be a piece of malicious code that is operating on a legitimate user device, maybe downloaded with a dodgy native app. Each time the ad is served/clicked the fraudulent ad network or fraudulent publisher makes money, even though no human has seen the ad.

Ten steps to spotting and combatting ad fraud.

Step 1. Get your head out of the sand

The industry is still divided between those that have a position on ad fraud and those that don’t. The nothing-to-say camp is still by far the biggest. In the interest of diplomacy, we will avoid naming and shaming the leading global media agencies, ad networks, et al that were contacted for comments, but delivered none.

Instead, here is a list of the companies that do have a position on mobile ad fraud, and helped with this column:

Yodel Mobile; M&C Saatchi Mobile; GroupM; Conversant Media; Voluum; JICWEBS/IAB UK; Integral Ad Science; Forensiq; MRC; WFA; Dhar Method / Botlab.io.

Step 2. Ad fraud is everyone’s responsibility – advertisers, agencies/intermediaries and publishers

With ad fraud, it’s too easy to point the finger of blame at someone else, but it is everyone’s responsibility to put measures in place in house to ensure fraud is kept to a minimum and to encourage, coax and force all partners to do the same.

Advertisers appear to be the least prepared to accept responsibility. This is crazy considering ad fraud is costing them money, business and, if they are collecting and pursuing fake leads, potentially harms reputation and causes privacy issues also.

A survey of US advertisers conducted by Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and White Ops for the Bot baseline report, published January, found that only 17% felt it was the advertiser’s responsibility to combat fraud; while 26% of respondents felt that combatting ad fraud was the joint responsibility of the publisher, agency and advertiser.

Only 40% of advertisers had an anti-fraud policy in place. 55% used an anti-fraud detection vendor and 43% used a fraud prevention vendor.

Step 3. Put an anti-fraud policy in place, put someone in charge

All parties in the digital ad ecosystem should appoint an anti-fraud manager – or an ad quality manager, if you want to extend this role to encompass viewability and content adjacency/brand safety. This person will be responsible for:

  • Preparing the ad fraud policy.
  • Setting the rules of engagement with partners; building an accredited list of partners.
  • Keeping up to date with the various guidelines and initiatives.
  • Education – internal/external – of ad fraud issues/prevention.
  • Re-evaluating how ads are purchased and ROI (return on investment) is calculated – i.e. examining KPIs (key performance indicators).
  • Evaluate measures, tools to detect and prevent fraud.
  • Enforcement – refusing to pay for ads/leads that are suspect.
  • Industry liaison – join the various cross-industry initiatives to reduce fraud.

Many of these points are explained in the steps below.

A great example of this is GroupM UK (which is the umbrella group for the WPP media agencies) where the anti-fraud / media quality strategy has been built and run by Digital Risk Director Bethan Crockett. She is also an active participant in industry anti-fraud initiatives.

GroupM now plans to duplicate the strategy devised in the UK in operations worldwide, across it various media agencies Mindshare, MEC, MediaCom, and Maxus.

Bethan Crockett, Digital Risk Director at GroupM UK, told ClickZ:

“At GroupM we are working towards a zero tolerance approach to online advertising fraud across the industry. We have invested in a comprehensive and proprietary approach to reducing ad fraud. We’re already seeing the fruits of these labours on our clients’ campaigns and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect our clients and our business.

We feel there is an industry-wide responsibility for inventory integrity and online ad fraud.

By working with industry partners and staying away from rogue inventory – we believe that we are succeeding to minimize the challenges of fraud and viewability. Our goal is to standardise this approach around the world.”

Step 4. Read and adhere to the ad fraud guidelines

There are no guidelines for preventing mobile ad fraud, but there are several for web fraud. There are some differences between online and mobile ad fraud, particularly mobile ad app fraud, but many of the principles are the same:

  • Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines – Media Ratings Council (MRC), October 2015 (PDF)
  • Good Practice Principles for Reducing Risk to Exposure to Ad Fraud – JICWEBS, May 2016 (PDF)
  • UK Traffic Taxonomy for Digital Display Advertising – JICWEBS, October 2015 (PDF)
  • Compendium of Ad Fraud Knowledge for Media Investors – WFA, June 2016, subscription required)
  • Understand ad fraud like a pro in eight short videos – Botlab.io, Jan 2016. Not industry guidelines, per se, but a useful resource.

Step 5. Ensure that partners adhere to industry guidelines and have sound policies in place

When you ask experts for tips on preventing ad fraud, they don’t tend to focus on the ad verification tools/services available. Instead they focus on company policy and ensuring that partners have the right policies in place.

Shailin Dhar, ad-fraud consultant, Dhar Method:

Advertisers: Ask your agencies for a detailed plan of how they are preventing your budgets from being compromised by fraud. Also remember, cheap media is not conducive to good, effective media.

Agencies: Audit the supply partners of your trading desks and DSPs (demand side platforms). Ask where they get their traffic.

Publishers: Don’t buy cheap traffic from random networks.

As industry certification programs (Step 10 below) become more established, these could also help with the approval of partners.

Step 6. Insist on transparency and traffic being verified.

The problem is that advertisers rarely buy direct from a publisher anymore. Buying ads – particularly programmatic buying of ads in real time via ad exchanges – today taps into a complex web of intermediaries, where advertisers have little visibility of where their ads run, or which ad networks are fulfilling the placement.

Alex Hewson, head of media EMEA, M&C Saatchi Mobile:

“Programmatic, when run in house, does allow for greater control and therefore greater protection from fraudulent activity – network buys are riskier for advertisers especially where the inventory is not owned and operated by the network themselves, as they may be relying on exchange or affiliate traffic over which thy don’t exert the same control.

Paramount to this is their processes by which this external traffic is vetted and analyzed on an ongoing basis to minimize any issues. It’s worth noting that no solution or process is perfect and that we as the agency must work in partnership with our suppliers to tackle this together through an open and consistent dialogue.

We have a thorough approach at M&C Saatchi Mobile which is anchored in a rigorous data analysis process to look for suspicious patterns in the data – very low eCPC’s or high click to install rates, for example. This is powered by the reporting solutions offered by the mobile measurement partners (e.g. Tune) where the findings are then shared as part of our partnership with suppliers. Simply put, it is key to have a robust process in place underpinned by technology.”

As advertisers and agencies become more alert to the risk of ad fraud and better at detecting it, they have started to refuse payment and blacklist business when there is evidence of fraud.

Some ad platforms are now offering money-back guarantees but this is met with some skepticism by peers.

Gavin Stirrat Managing Director at Voluum, a performance tracking solution:

“There are many companies that offer post-impression analytics or cash back guarantees. We believe this is an unacceptable compromise that continues to line the pockets of fraudsters and further damages mistrust in the medium.

Our recommendation to agencies and brands is to demand high standards of their buying platform partners such as the pre-bid filtering of inventory for fraud, as we do at Voluum.”

Step 7. Rethink how you purchase mobile media and measure ROI

As mobile ad fraud has become increasingly clever, advertisers have moved away from pay per click/cost per click CPC to more sophisticated cost-per-acquisition (CPA) (e.g. pay-per-subscription) or cost-per-app-installation (CPI). But ad malware is increasingly capable of filling out forms or downloading applications to compromised devices or to a mobile emulator.

This means advertisers have to be more intelligent about how they reward agencies and how they set KPIs for their campaigns.

Jason Cooper, general manager, mobile at Integral Ad Science.

“Globally we have seen that mobile ad fraud has become increasingly sophisticated, for example, methods that go beyond the click and now include location and app install fraud which may have a greater impact on campaign reporting.

Performance advertisers rarely now pay out on a CPC basis with CPI and CPGP (cost-per-game-play) becoming the norm. Uber will only reward a user once they have installed the app and taken their first ride which requires a valid credit card, while Candy Crush only pays media owners once a new user reaches a pre-determined game play point.

For brand advertisers that pay on a CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) basis, a higher CTR might lead to incorrect campaign measurement but there will no impact on spend.”

Step 8. Tell tail signs that ad fraud is present

The most obvious tell tail is price. If the costs of ads is cheaper than the going rate, there’s a higher chance that it is fraudulent.

The problem comes when advertisers place pressure on agencies to buy cheaper media. Which makes it very important that agencies educate their clients as to:

  • a) The risk of click fraud, particularly with pay-per-install/cost-per-install ads for mobile applications.
  • b) The real cost of legitimate CPI media.
  • But there are many more tell tail signs that fraud is present, explains

    Ijah Miller, Director, from mobile media specialist Yodel Mobile. He offers the following tips:

    Tips for spotting/preventing mobile fraud:

    • Look for valid/invalid/fraudulent clicks according to analysis of IP address – e.g. detecting web hosting, VPN endpoints and repeated IP addressed, as well as irregular country/city origin.
    • Analyse hourly clicks and install behaviour and distribution: clicks and installs are distributed in a known pattern during the active hours of the day, between the busiest hours and the less busy ones. Deviation from the pattern such as detection of just few very active hours in the day can be a result of incentivised traffic or fraud.
    • Analyse hourly conversion ratios: Conversion through ratio (CTR) should normally be stable in the hours of the day. A sharp increase of hourly CTR can point towards incentivised or fraud traffic.
    • Look for valid/invalid/fraudulent installs in line with targeting parameters and click-install delay: Click to install delay varies from app to app, from one tracking vendor to another, from country to country. Yodel partners measure delay for each campaign and detect deviations between traffic sources.
    • Continuously scan known incentivized apps and web sites to make sure that our campaigns are not presented there: Develop an App and Web site scanning process to run checks. You can then open the apps/sites, click on ads and track the redirect chain.
    • Analyse the post-install events behaviour: It’s vital for app businesses to share the pattern of behaviour of users that install their apps. Then if CPA results are significant lower than the expected/known post-install events behaviour, it will suggest that the traffic is from incentivised or fraud source.

    Step 9. Be vigilant (publishers)

    The same vigilance should also be applied by the publishers that are showing the ads.

    We have already touched on the perils of buying cheap traffic. Some publishers boost their visitor numbers by buying traffic, from intermediaries, who may use incentives to entice visitors. But there is no certainty this traffic is not simply robots.

    Another way for mobile publishers to avoid robots – according to the ANA Bot baseline report – is to block desktop traffic to mobile pages. The report points out that a lot of fraudulent mobile traffic is really desktop traffic.

    mobile desktop

    Step 10. Get certified as compliant with guidelines / only use certified ad partners

    Three of the associations behind the guidelines included in step 4 above, now have certification programs. But some are still at nascent stages. Criteria varies, compliance may be through self-certification or independent verification, and certification costs are also unclear.

    The most established of these is MRC’s US-based program to certify companies that measure, verify and filter out general invalid traffic (GIVT), which includes ad fraud. The MRC recently started accrediting vendors for Sophisticated Invalid Traffic Detection/Filtration (SIVT) – which so far includes comScore, Integral Ad Science and White Ops Fraud Sensor, all three of which cover also cover mobile web traffic (but not apps of yet).

    Companies that are evaluating ad fraud detection companies will find this list of GIVT accredited companies (PDF), very useful. It includes details of areas of expertise, including whether they cover mobile web and mobile app traffic. Also check the compliant versus self-asserted list (PDF) to find who has been independently verified.

    In July 2016, the US-based Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) announced it had registered 100 companies, including advertisers, agencies, adtech companies and publishers, as “verified as legitimate participants in the digital advertising industry through a proprietary background check and review process powered by Dun & Bradstreet and approved by TAG.”

    In November 2016, TAG has also launched a “Certified against malware” seal and malware threat sharing hub to provide intelligence on attacks to industry and law enforcement.

    The UK’s certification initiative – launched August 2016 – is led by The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards in the UK and Ireland (JICWEBS).

    As these certification programs become more established and more stringent, it will hopefully reduce the requirement for advertisers/agencies to independently audit each one.

    This is Part 37 of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series. Here are the most recent chapters:

    • The future of mobile local search part three: tradesmen, home services, verification and guarantees.
    • Where is Google heading with mobile local search?
    • Is Google killing mobile organic search?
    • Accessibility: which Paralympics sites passed the test?

    Read the reports:

    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning
    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

    Andy Favell is a ClickZ columnist on mobile. He’s also a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact Andy via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

    Product reviewing: how to utilise digital influencers

    spaghettios instagram

    Credible and reliable endorsements are now, more so than ever, vital to a brand’s success.

    Identifying and using the appropriate influencers in your marketing strategy is pivotal to ensuring that your brand and product are being seen in the right place, at the right time and most importantly, by the right people.

    It is becoming increasingly apparent that brands are choosing to recruit digital influencers to act as their ambassadors. Previously, brands would try to on-board a celebrity to become the face of their brand or product – so why, in recent years, have we seen a shift to digital influencers?

    Perhaps, it’s because digital influencers are still often seen as ‘regular people’ which makes them more accessible to their followers. Many influencers still work a day job, run a household, have children and engage in everyday social activities that, in the eyes of their audience, make them more relatable.

    A survey of the fashion and beauty industry by Econsultancy at the start of the year showed that almost 60% of fashion and beauty brands already have an implemented influencer marketing strategy, with a further 21% planning to invest in developing a strategy throughout the course of 2016.

    When asked, ‘What role do influencers currently play in your marketing strategies?’ 27% responded that product launch is ‘critical’ when it comes to influencers with another 42% placing high importance on the use of influencers. So, with 69% of brands saying product launch is top priority, should you be incorporating it into your marketing strategy?

    So what are the benefits of product reviews?

    In a report published last year it was estimated that more than half of UK adults use online reviews and that 6% look at a blog or a vlog before committing to a purchase.

    If you get product reviewing right the ROI can be monumental for your brand. Some of the benefits include:

    • Increase in traffic to your site
    • Building brand and product awareness
    • Increase in sales
    • Growth of social media channels
    • Credibility for your brand amongst your desired audience
    • Access to a new market
    • Long standing relationships with influencers

    But product reviewing doesn’t come without risk.

    You should be under no illusion that because an influencer has agreed to produce a review that it is going to be anything but truthful. Inviting an influencer to review is asking them to provide an honest opinion of your product. If they don’t like it, they are probably going to say exactly that.

    In the recent ‘The Voice of the Influencer Report’ what influencers want and need from brands became very clear:

    • 60% of influencers assess brand reputation before entering a relationship. If your brand has a bad reputation influencers are going to be more wary
    • 47% said that personal development and being their own brand is of utmost importance
    • 93% believe influencers should be controlling the narrative, not the brand
    • 67% said that being authentic is the key to building influence

    Rules for staying on the right side of the law… and Google

    In addition to the above, as outlined in the Blogger Crackdown: The New Commercial Laws Simplified Google issued these rules around how influencers must disclose sponsored promotion and reviews:

    Use the nofollow tag where appropriate. Links that pass PageRank in exchange for goods or services are against Google guidelines on link schemes.

    Companies sometimes urge bloggers to link back to:

    • The company’s site
    • The company’s social media accounts
    • An online merchant’s page that sells the product
    • A review service’s page featuring reviews of the product
    • The company’s mobile app on an app store

    Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide free goods or service in exchange for a link). Companies, or the marketing firms they’re working with, can do their part by reminding bloggers to use nofollow on these links.

    Disclose the relationship –

    Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content. Also, there are laws in some countries that make disclosure of sponsorship mandatory. A disclosure can appear anywhere in the post; however, the most useful placement is at the top in case users don’t read the entire post.

    Create compelling, unique content –

    The most successful blogs offer their visitors a compelling reason to come back. If you’re a blogger you might try to become the go-to source of information in your topic area, cover a useful niche that few others are looking at, or provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources.”

    So how do you choose the best digital influencer to review your product?

    Understanding your own audience is the key component when it comes to selecting the right influencers to align with your product. Not only who they are and what they like, but also where they consume and engage with content.

    Is it social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram or is it long form blog content? Once you know your own audience inside out, it becomes much easier to start selecting the best digital influencers to do a review of your product.

    At this point, research is key. Building up a database of bloggers, vloggers and social influencers is all well and good but finding the most appropriate for your audience is a different matter altogether.


    What may seem like a laborious task in the beginning will prove to be extremely beneficial in the long run. Take time to get to know the influencer you are planning on reaching out to.

    Read their blogs, watch their vlogs and follow their social channels, get to know their writing style and tone of voice. Have they done product reviews before? If so, who were they for and how were they received?

    The three main things to consider when looking for key influencers are:

    • Relevance – How relevant is the influencer to your brand? Will the review they provide be one of authority and affinity in the context of your product?
    • Reach – How many people are consuming their content on a regular basis? How many unique visitors do they get to their blog on a monthly basis? How big are their social media followings? Are there any channels they have particularly strong engagement on? It’s important to remember that those with the biggest following don’t always have the most meaningful.
    • Impact – This is the influencer’s ability to provoke actions from their audience. How will their audience engage with your product? Normally if you get the relevance and reach aspects of your chosen influencer right then this part is easy. The audience of a digital influencer are defined as an ‘opt-in’ network – they chose to consume the content put before them.

    The next step is to make a meaningful connection with the influencer you are hoping to collaborate with.

    Make formal, but personalised contact with those influencers who align best with your brand, and really sell to them why you feel the product you have to offer would be of interest to their audience and of benefit to them to review.

    If they like the sound of your product from the beginning, and can understand why their audience might be interested, they are more likely to work with you in giving a fair and balanced review.

    The highly acclaimed fashion journalist Louise Roe recently detailed in her latest webinar with Fashion & Beauty Monitor that the brand collaborations who offer a phone conversation or coffee to discuss the initial brief are the most successful.

    I can’t stress strongly enough how important your initial brief with the influencer is. You need to consider the collaboration in every last detail.

    For example, if you need the posts to go live at a specific time in order to reach an audience in a different time zone then make sure they know in advance. If there is certain terminology you need including or avoiding, put it in the brief. A pet hate for bloggers and influencers is having to go back into posts and edit.

    Once a digital influencer has taken part in a product review, measurement and evaluation is key. Ask yourself:

    • How did my product come across in the review?
    • How was the review received by the influencer’s audience? How did they engage with the blog/vlog/post?
    • Have I seen growth in my social media channels?
    • Has there been a spike in traffic to my website?
    • Would I work with this influencer again? If not, then why?

    So who is doing it right?

    Florida Marriott

    Florida Marriott wanted to increase their brand reach online and spread the word about their 14 Florida hotels. Working with eight hand selected bloggers, Florida Marriott provided them with a unique authentic experience within their hotels.

    Florida Marriot made sure that they tailored each blogger’s experience to their specific following in order to connect with their audience in a meaningful way.

    A specific hashtag was created – #BloggingFL – which allowed the influencers to openly communicate with each other and share content with their respective audiences.

    One thing that is worth mentioning about this campaign was the effort spent on Marriott’s social media channels of sharing the influencer’s content. If an influencer is taking the time to write for your brand, you should ensure you are sharing their efforts as far and wide as possible. The more eyeballs on their content, the better.

    The outcome:

    • 39 blog posts
    • A reach of 1,043,400 unique monthly visitors
    • The hashtag reached 8 million Twitter timeline deliveries
    • On social the bloggers reached an audience of 30,000 people through their audiences
    • 8 loyal bloggers- Florida Marriot now have a network of bloggers who would be happy to work with them again in the future

    Try The World

    Try The World wanted to raise awareness for their range of food subscription boxes. They decided to collaborate with popular YouTuber Missy Lanning, who has over 500,000 subscribers on her channel. Missy was commissioned to post a Taste Test Challenge Video featuring one of Try The World’s subscription boxes.

    The video has had almost 700,000 views and a high level of engagement among Missy’s YouTube following.

    This is a prime example of how partnering with mid-level influencers means you can stick within the means of your marketing budget but still receive a good return on investment for the money you’re spending.


    Supermarket chain Iceland are the perfect example of how major brands are shifting from celebrity ambassadors to digital influencers. Iceland exclusively partnered with parenting social network Channel Mum which meant they got three months’ exclusive access to their vlogging network.

    “Pre-TV advertising, word-of-mouth was the most powerful form of marketing and [the rise of influencers] shows the strength of social networking and the fact that customers are more comfortable with taking views from their peer group,” said Nick Canning, joint managing director at Iceland Foods.


    Channel Mum users are asked to try Iceland products before producing a video on the topic of family food. What is interesting about this campaign is that Iceland has absolutely no control over the content that subsequently appears online about their brand. Canning has accepted that the word of an influencer can be quickly lost if their message starts to lose authenticity and identity.

    This is a great example of letting the influencer run the narrative. Although you do run the risk of a few negative comments the trust it creates among your desired audience is priceless.

    To conclude

    In summary, product reviewing is on the up. The way in which it’s happening may be evolving, but ultimately the principle is still the same; get the right people, at the right time, in the right place to review your product and you are on to a winner.

    Loyal followers of digital influencers soak up their content and whole heartedly buy into their recommendations. Embrace digital influencers as part of your marketing strategy and view them as being the mutual friend that will introduce your brand or product to your desired customer base.

    Ellis Carr is a Digital PR executive at Zazzle Media and a contributor to SEW.

    The future of advertising is mobile

    mobile forecast digital advertising revenue us

    The days of desktop dominance are over.

    This sharp and concise statement, which came from a 2014 comScore report, sums up the modern ad environment perfectly.

    The report found that smartphones and tablets accounted for a full 60% of time spent on digital media in the US, with apps driving a lot of this growth.

    While that report came out two years ago, mobile has continued to grow to become a veritable behemoth of an industry, dominating the marketing strategy of businesses around the world.

    BI Intelligence predicts that US mobile ad spend will reach around $42 billion in 2018. For a more traditional marketer, mobile advertising might seem like a risky bet compared to conventional options.

    But if you look a little closer, it’s clear that mobile ads are indeed a powerful way to reach consumers – and arguably more effective than other choices when done correctly.

    Know who you’re trying to reach

    One of the most important steps in developing a mobile ad strategy is to define a target audience.

    Mobile advertising is extremely flexible. It allows for sophisticated and granular targeting options that can narrow in on precisely the type of people who will convert at a higher rate, and bring you a better ROI without wasting ad spend on the wrong audience.

    This means the difficultly is in determining who your ideal audience is.

    Consider age, gender, geography, device type and users’ interests/habits. Once you’ve figured out that aspect, serving ads to them is a relatively painless process.

    A good ad platform can provide extremely precise targeting based on classification tags collected through big data analysis.

    No matter who your target audience is, you’ll almost certainly find them on their smartphone.

    The Pew Research Center found that in 2015 nearly 70% of the US population owned a smartphone. While the data at that time showed smartphone usage was more popular among younger, more affluent and highly educated people, industry trends now point to the majority of the U.S. population switching from feature phones to smartphones.

    Meet the ads

    The next step for brands venturing into the world of mobile advertising – or those who want to take their ad campaigns to the next level – is to understand the different ad options that are out there.

    Currently, in-app and web-based ads are the two most popular formats of mobile ads (more on this later, as these two formats are subdivided into different categories).

    Search Ads   App Store   Apple Developer

    Text messaging (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging (MMS) are more “traditional” mobile ad formats that are still in use today. With MMS, advertisers can send messages with graphics, photos, AV and text. However, MMS is not universally supported by all operators, which can be limiting.

    Looking at the overall trends, in-app ads are now extremely popular due to their ability to deliver a solid ROI – better than that of in-browser ads.

    According to Medialets, in-app click-through rates averaged 0.56% globally, compared to only 0.23% for mobile web ads during the first half of this year.

    Dive in deeper with in-app ads

    It is important to remember that not all in-app ads are created equal – there are a few different formats that dictate how an ad is displayed within an app. Each has its own unique strengths. Here are three of the most commonly used formats:

    • Native ads: As defined by the MMA Mobile Native Advertising Committee, native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience. In other words, when done correctly, native ads will match the design and feel of the app experience in a non-obtrusive way.
    • Interstitial ads: In this case, the name of the ad is trickier than the actual ad format. This type of ad fills up a large portion of the screen – typically the entire screen or half of the screen – and is displayed for a set amount of time before it disappears and the user is able to return to what they were previously doing.
    • Offer walls: This option is particularly popular for mobile games because they can carry the game experience into an advertisement. In some cases, this will take the form of a page within an app that offers incentives for completing a task – typically it’s a simple activity like viewing an ad. In return, the user earns a prize (e.g., extra lives, upgrades) that will help them in the game they’re playing.

    Again and again, the data shows that in-app mobile ads perform better than mobile web ads, most likely due to their flexible formats and ability to connect with users more intimately.

    As smartphone usage continues to skyrocket, it’s expected that mobile ad spending will keep rising at a similar pace.

    Josh Fenn is senior marketing manager of Baidu, Inc.’s Global Business Unit and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

    Ad fraud: mobile advertising accounts for nearly half of digital spend, but it comes at a price


    US Advertisers are spending US $2.6 billion on mobile ads each month, $0.4 billion in the UK, they understandably want to know that their ads are seen by real people, not robots, ideally the people most relevant to their ad message.

    Advertisers are now investing up to half of their digital advertising revenues – according to the latest stats – in mobile ads. They want/need to know that their money is invested wisely and that the ads they are paying for are seen by real people, not robots, ideally the people most relevant to their ad message.

    Advertisers need to be able to trust that the various parties that create, manage and deliver etc. their ads have put all measures in place to ensure their ad campaigns deliver maximum return on investment ROI. That is entirely reasonable.

    Richard Foan, Chairman, JICWEBS (the UK-based Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards) tells ClickZ:

    “The level of concern among advertisers about click fraud – that includes mobile click fraud – worldwide has now reached a point where the industry – agencies, ad networks, DSPs, exchanges – needs to accept there’s an issue and continue pulling together, through cross-industry initiatives to rebuild trust.

    The industry must get behind initiatives from bodies, such as JICWEBS in the UK and TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group) and MRC (Media Rating Council) in the US, make sure their business practices – and those of their suppliers – are compliant with the best practice guidelines and get themselves certified/registered as being compliant.”

    Research by InMobi (via eMarketer), July 2016, shows that at 48% concern over fraud/viewability is the biggest barrier to the take up of programmatic purchasing (buying ads on the fly via an ad exchange) of mobile inventory.

    We will look more closely at the industry initiatives led by JICWEBS, TAG and MRC in part two of this column.

    What is mobile ad quality?

    Advertisers (publishers too) are beginning to require from their adtech partners an assurance that they are buying good quality mobile inventory.

    The following definition of mobile ad quality is an adaptation of one supplied by David Ip, mobile, cross-device and healthcare advertising at Conversant Media.

    Mobile ad quality is a combination of:

  • No evidence of ad fraud, or other invalid traffic – ads are seen and clicked by humans, not robots.
  • Optimum viewabilty – ads are displayed on the mobile page in such a position and for long enough that a human registers it.
  • Content adjacency or brand safety – ads are displayed on a mobile site/app and next to content that is appropriate.
  • This is the first of two columns on mobile ad fraud. Part 2 will focus on spotting and combatting mobile ad fraud. Viewabilty and content adjacency will be discussed in subsequent columns.

    How big is the mobile ad business?

    By any measure, mobile ad revenue is growing very rapidly, worldwide – particularly in the US.

    US – mobile ad business was worth $15.5 billion in the first six month of 2016, up 89% YoY. That is 47% of online ad spend (Source: IAB, November 2016).

    UK – mobile ad worth £1.7 billion (US$ 2.1 billion) in the first six month of 2016, up 56.1% YoY. That is 36% of online ad spend (Source: IABUK, October 2016)

    How big is mobile ad fraud?

    When you have a prize of this size it should be no surprise that it’s attracting the attention of the fraudsters. The problem is no one knows exactly how big mobile ad fraud is or how much it is growing.

    The internet advertising business has only recently started trying to measure and discus how to combat desktop ad fraud – which has been around a lot longer than mobile ad fraud – arguably, it has been plaguing the business for decades.

    If things continue as they are, the WFA (World Federation of Advertisers) projects:

    [Internet] Ad fraud is likely to exceed $50bn globally by 2025 on current trends second only to the drugs trade as a source of income for organized crime.

    In fact things have got so bad that in July 2016, in the US, two senators wrote this letter to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) asking what steps the FTC was taking to:

  • Mitigate digital ad fraud.
  • Reform opaque advertising exchanges.
  • Combat criminal organizations involved in ad fraud (together with e.g. the FBI).
  • But it isn’t clear what proportion of ad fraud is mobile, as industry stats do not seem to be available. However anecdotal evidence from agencies – those that have the systems in place to detect it – suggests that mobile ad fraud is on the rise or, if not, they are getting a lot better at detecting it.

    Shailin Dhar Ad-Fraud Consultant, Dhar Method:

    “Mobile click fraud is uncharted territory in comparison to desktop because it has not been monitored with the same scrutiny and not for nearly as long. Estimates with fraud are always tough but I would say there are more invalid/accidental clicks on mobile

    That’s the universal problem with fraud statistics: there’s no such thing as accurate fraud numbers. It’s always estimates, regardless of what anyone tries to claim. You are trying to count something that actively doesn’t want to be counted.”

    The US and UK already have significant volumes of click fraud but we will see, or at least detect, an increase in emerging advertising markets like India and China.

    So how does mobile click fraud work?

    Mobile ad fraud or click fraud works in multiple ways, including:

  • Fraudster places hidden code in a) browser extensions; b) native applications, which are then download to the user devices, or c) on publisher sites.
  • The code generates fake views or click throughs a) as the user of the compromised device browses the web, or b) or simulating browsing while the device is supposedly dormant; or c) ads are served invisibly behind legitimate ads or screens on the compromised publisher app or site.
  • The views or click throughs are attributed to the fraudster’s network, which takes a cut of the click-through revenue.
  • For a more comprehensive description see Anti-fraud best practices (PDF) from the UK based JICWEBS (Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards).

    According 2015 research by Forensiq, an ad verification vendor, mobile devices are particularly susceptible to being hijacked by native apps, innocently downloaded, that contain malicious code that serve hidden ads and simulate click-throughs to landing pages that are never seen or by the user.

    Over a ten day period, the vendor spotted 12 million unique devices running run at least one of the 5,000 apps flagged for ad fraud. The research estimated that these hijack apps would cost advertisers US$857 million in 2015 in hidden ads. An example of a hijack app is shown in the image below.

    hidden ads

    Why is mobile ad fraud on the rise?

    Alex Hewson, head of media EMEA, M&C Saatchi Mobile:

    “Simple, risk and reward. Without data analysis processes and technology in place, it is difficult to detect and highly profitable. Legal recourse is very rare as, owing to the evolving nature of the industry, and standards are unclear.”

    The area of most concern according to agencies and ad verification vendors alike is ads to drive downloads of mobile applications.

    Hewson, again:

    “As cost models in mobile move towards cost per install for a large proportion of spend, the fraud we see is therefore largely associated with app install campaigns. And this is predominantly driven through display channels.”

    Badly designed ad formats to blame – yes it’s those [EXPLETIVE] interstitials again.

    Sometimes what appears to be ad fraud, may not be. Sometimes unintentional clicks are caused by mistakenly tapping an ad when attempting to close it.

    One of the plagues of mobile web and apps is full screen ads, such as interstitials, that interrupt page loading with a plea to “download our app” or “sign up for our newsletter”, but so often – no matter how accurately this is done – when tapping the cross (exit) to close the ad, it instead clicks through.

    Whether this is just poor design or malicious intent on behalf of the advertiser, publisher or ad network, these bad ads deliver erroneous or fraudulent clicks. But we aren’t just talking a few clicks here and there.

    These bad ads are so prolific that they actually cause spikes in mobile ad fraud levels. As Jason Cooper, general manager, mobile at ad verification vendor Integral Ad Science, explains:

    “Fraud of all kinds fluctuates, so we detect both rises and falls at select times. We mostly attribute any increased occurrence of mobile click fraud to the rising popularity of full screen ad units such as interstitials. The IAB requires that these ad units incorporate an exit button at the corner of the ad, meaning any miss click from the user while exiting the ad could be causing skewed CTR (click-through rate) results.”

    In the next column we will consider how the industry, agencies and advertisers can help prevent being victims of mobile ad fraud.

    This is Part 36 of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series. Here are the most recent chapters:

    • The future of mobile local search part three: tradesmen, home services, verification and guarantees.
    • Where is Google heading with mobile local search?
    • Is Google killing mobile organic search?
    • Accessibility: which Paralympics sites passed the test?

    Read the reports:

    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning
    • DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

    Andy Favell is a ClickZ columnist on mobile. He’s also a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact Andy via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

    How speed affects your site’s performance [infographic]


    Site speed is an important factor for SEO and conversion, but do we really understand its impact?

    There is increased online competition and a decreased attention span that makes it hard for a site to convert visits into sales, or even to increase traffic.

    Site speed can significantly affect a user’s decision on whether a visit to a page should be prolonged (or repeated) and this cannot be overlooked by any site owner.

    In fact, a page’s load time affects several key areas:


    It’s no surprise that 79% of customers are less likely to buy again from a site that lacks a speed optimised performance. As everything gets faster, you cannot afford to stay still.

    Mobile experience

    Mobile experience is highly linked with site speed as this is among the most important factors that affect the length of a visit. 64% of smartphone users expect a page to load in less than four seconds and if your page fails to do so, you might need to optimise it.

    User experience (UX)

    Customer experience and mobile experience are relevant to the user experience and what a visitor thinks of your site’s performance. A page that loads in 10 seconds has fewer chances to be visited again, comparing to a page that loads in just 2 seconds.


    If your site’s speed affects your page’s sales, then it also affects your revenue. It’s interesting to note that 40% of people will abandon your website if it loads in more than three seconds.


    Page speed affects the traffic to your site and even a one-second delay in page load can result in 11% loss of page views. Moreover, the introduction of AMP is another proof of Google’s focus on site speed and although it’s still early to draw conclusions, users seem to enjoy the feature when it’s available in search results.


    Conversion is also affected by a site’s speed and even a one-second delay can reduce conversions by 7%.

    Quick tips to improve your site’s speed

    • Test your current speed
    • Measure mobile performance
    • Monitor analytics for customer behaviour
    • Reduce heavy images and scripts
    • Remove unnecessary plugins
    • Avoid CSS files

    Skilled.co created an infographic that provides an overview of 12 case studies which prove why site speed matters.

    Here are some examples that may convince you to optimise your page’s load time.