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How to Spot and Eliminate Digital Ad Fraud

Johnny Molson

There’s a kind of fraud that comes from lack of transparency from Google and Facebook, a kind of fraud that comes from criminals stealing ad dollars from businesses, and a kind of fraud that could be happening because your digital manager isn’t paying attention. It all adds up to a lot of loss for businesses. In this episode of The Wizard’s Roundtable, we look at the different kinds of mismanagement that can plague your advertising efforts.

In this episode:

Johnny Molson

Dave Young

Luis Castañeda

TRANSCRIPT

Johnny Molson 

Let’s let the robots do the work. What’s the worst that could happen? Every business wants to know “did my ad work?” When somebody sees my ad, did that encourage them to make a purchase. And that’s one of the attractive things about digital advertising is when done correctly, you can plot from when somebody saw that ad all the way through to the purchase, when done correctly, but digital advertising has been plagued with ad fraud. In other words, the ads you’re paying for aren’t actually being seen by people with eyeballs and money. Some of it can be attributed to Google and Facebook, YouTube, those entities just being negligent and sloppy with their reporting the time and the days of giving digital a path are over.

Mark Pritchard:

It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.

Johnny Molson

A lot of it though, can be attributed to out and out criminals, criminals who are making it appear that your ads are being seen by people when they’re not malicious boats posing as you viewing 1000s of ads every day. These are highly sophisticated, organized criminals, and they are creating ever evolving programs that mimic human behavior. Now solving the problem has been put on the backs of the duopoly of Facebook and Google. But it also has to do with whether or not the person who’s managing your digital advertising is paying attention and managing it properly. After a recent article from Forbes magazine came out, there was a pretty interesting conversation that was happening around the wizards roundtable and you are going to get a chance to eavesdrop on that right now. With us today. in Tucson, Arizona is Dave young. He was one of the original pioneers in getting businesses to blog more and put video on their sites, thus enhancing their SEO in Guadalajara Mexico, Luis Castañeda, who is a digital expert who really pays attention to what’s happening with businesses. And he’s going to help explain how a business can make sure they’re not being taken advantage of and what they should look for. And I’m Johnny Molson in Springfield, Illinois. And let’s start at the start. Does digital advertising have a fraud problem?

Luis Castañeda 

There is ad fraud, you know, I’m not a fraud denier. But also it think fraud has existed is not unique to internet advertising. And, you know, you have lots of histories of magazine, printed, but never distributed, and things like that. So, in my opinion, most of the fraud is due to poor management. I was, when I started selling advertising, I worked for a guy called Chris Lewis. And he told me that they responsibility to prove results is the pop from the publisher, not from the client. And this guy really make it very important for his business, to prove value to prove resolved to his clients. And I really think that is a key important aspect of what what I do, and I take it to the heart that I am responsible of showing my my clients, the value of internet advertising.

Johnny Molson 

Well, I guess, would it be fair to say that there is, you know, fraud is a pretty charged word. I would say some of that can be at least attributed to the fact that there are just unattended bots that are hitting these websites that, you know, Google and Facebook and the others don’t don’t know if it’s a human or not. And then there’s then there’s blatant fraud, where they people are just ticking the things up. So I, you know, I think it’s important to know that distinction. But Luis, for a business owner, what should they be looking for? That would say, wait a minute, something’s not adding up here.

Luis Castañeda 

With a, in my experience, every advertising campaign needs to have an objective. Okay, so once you know what the objective is, obviously, you need to make sure how do you measure the result? How do you know if it works or not? And that will be the first step. A second step is okay, the follow up, I try to, to use the Deming circle approach, plan, do check act, and I think most of us fail at the acting part. You know, we do the plan, we do the do. We do the check, but then it’s like, Okay, I got the report. Fine, right. But you need to go to the details and make actions on that and that’s how thing, you can find those peculiarities or those outliers. Okay, so I think it is important based on your objectives, you know, what is helping to reach the objective what is not, or also based on your web traffic, which is in my case, the, the medium that we use to capture the leads or the sales is to see, okay, which sources of traffic are bringing results in which ones are behaving where, you know, they only stay for one second, you know, something’s wrong, either my site is wrong, or something is wrong with the person who should be watching over it.

Johnny Molson 

So that’s interesting. Okay, so so time spent on the site might be an indicator that you’re getting hit by some bots, is that fair?

Luis Castañeda 

That is fair to say that that will be one indicator, or, as I mentioned before, look for outliers, because maybe not even bots do not let’s forget about the bot, let’s forget what is working what is not. Because even if it is a valid website, you know, New York Times is sending traffic to my website, but it’s not working, you know, isn’t that getting me leads? Is not getting people to download my white paper or to see my, my video? So you have to go after those signals? And then, you know, regardless if you support or not start making decisions, and no, I don’t want to be bringing traffic from those sources.

Dave Young 

This this conversation started on Facebook, in our, in our private group discussing an article in Forbes that talked about, like the headline said, When big brands stop spending on digital ads, nothing happened, why? And it talked about Procter and Gamble, you know, they made the decision to shut off $200 million in their digital ad spend. And this unknown change in sales and Uber shut off 120 million in their in their ad spend and didn’t see any change no drop in meaningful numbers. And it turns out that there’s a whole lot of it was fraud. And I think Luis’s point about it being mismanagement is very, it’s a very valid point. And I think sometimes some of these gigantic companies just have barrels of money that somebody is responsible for getting rid of in some way, right? They’re just like, shovel it out the door, because it’s your budget, and you have to spend it. And you end up making horrendous decisions. And if if a local business owner is not careful. I mean, there was a one point in that article talks about somebody that was spending dollars in even in their AdWords on on the what Google calls the display network. Right. So rather than, and the definition of that is that your ads are showing up on lots of other websites, as opposed to just google searches where there’s obvious ads, right? So now your ads are showing up on who knows, right? And you can control that you can actually go in and tell Google Now let’s not do that site. Let’s not do that site. Let’s not do this site. And I think this the the way the story went was that she shut off the display network and or her traffic dropped by, you know, 118,000%, or something. I mean, a huge amount of our traffic was coming from the display network and her ads, but they weren’t sticking around. And they were all coming from Android devices. And so it was some form of bots, clicking on those ads and coming to our website, they weren’t there, were never going to be sales, right? It wouldn’t matter what kind of landing page you had those clicks. They’re not going to turn into sales. Anyway,

Luis Castañeda 

For me, the most important part is, you know, you have to test because it is so cheap to do a test. You know, you can run a one week test and find out for yourself, you know, okay. The guy in the article was right, it didn’t work perfect. Now you can tell with proof with facts, you think they should do the work, but it may work. So you need to start digging, finding what is it that works for you, and continue doing it and learn from that. Why is this work? How can I extrapolate these studies working into all their audience?

Johnny Molson 

Right, Luis, you’ve said something a couple of times and I think is really interesting, and I want to make sure we expand on it a little bit is you have to have a clear understanding of what your objective is, is part of the issue. That business’s objective is I just want some clicks. Some people come to my website and they’ve been they’re not clear on the various things, the various levers that digital can pull.

Luis Castañeda 

There are two answers to that Johnny. And that is a great question. Because many times, you know, I just want to do Google ads, because my competition is doing it, and I don’t want to fall behind. Okay? And in my opinion, the objective is very easy. You know, do I want to get more leads? Why when I make more sales? Do I want to get more calls? Do I want people to see my new video, whatever that will be your objective. But that’s the first part. And as I mentioned before, the second part is how you’re gonna measure the objective? and answer that is something that I see a lot with my customers, you know, I have a customer that was investing a lot of money trying to get leads, and they were not measuring. Yeah. You know, so I was talking today to a Google counselor that I have, and he was telling me that, you know, if you don’t have the measurement of the result, then how can you judge and it is like playing blindly trying to speak on a map and finding Chicago, you know, it’s impossible. So, there are these are the two is that okay, what is the objective? Should there is objective and second, make sure that you can measure it, then you can tell Okay, and there is another aspect to that, that in in the internet world, we call it conversions. Okay. But there is another one that is called micro conversions. Okay, so what is some micro conversion is okay, I didn’t do the objective, you know, I didn’t click for the lead. But what will be something else that you will be happy that the customer do on your website that puts him closer to making a lead? Okay, so my objective is trying to get the lead. I didn’t get the lead, but they watched the video, they downloaded the white page. Okay, that’s a micro conversion. So you can have like a second tier judgment. Okay, I’m not getting the conversion by I am getting micro conversions. Okay. Is not that bad.

Johnny Molson 

Luis, that’s, that’s so compelling that, you know, that small gap between, I’m doing Google AdWords because I want people to come to my website, which isn’t an objective, coming to my website isn’t necessarily an objective. Coming to my website to watch a video is an objective that you can that you can quantify, that you can measure, and it actually is causing something to happen. And I think businesses probably really need to zero in on that concept and give some thought as to what what is it you’re trying to make happen with your AdWords,

Luis Castañeda 

right? Because if you will not add another layer to that is also many websites don’t tell you what to do. You know, there is a saying that if you don’t tell me what you want from me, chances are that I will not do it. So I like to your website, he calls you, what do you want me to do? Give me a call to send you a quote, you know, send email to make an appointment. So is the call to action. So we need to have a clear call to action on the website. So that is going to help people say, okay, you know, Dave, he wants me to send him an email to set up an appointment.

Dave Young 

Perfect, great. You know, our friends, Jeffrey, and Bryan Eisenberg. years ago, this is early 2000s, the three questions that I think every website needs to answer. This is one, once you think about it, it’s so obvious. And it’s something that I’ve been preaching for years. And it’s something that it’s the lens that I always use when I’m looking at a website is who’s on the site? What do you want them to do? And what do they need to know in order to do that thing that you want them to do? And the tricky part is that those first two questions and the third, all three questions have multiple answers, who’s on the site? That can be a variety of people? It could it could be an existing customer, it could be a prospective customer, it could be one demographic or another? And then what do you want them to do micro conversion? Or do we want them to jump all the way to the bottom of the gravity well, and become a full paying customer? And I think the most important one is, what do they need to know in order to do that? Like, what do they need to know about this video you want them to watch? What do you need them to know about how you’re going to respond once they raised their hand and say, I want to do business with you? Right? So if you use those three questions as sort of a lens, you can, you can make great progress on making your ads work better, just because your website’s gonna work better. It’s gonna, it’s gonna convert more wherever you’re doing your ads, and that’s whether it’s a ad word or an ad that you’ve mentioned there, the domain on the radio, right? It’s going to do better if you answer those three questions or keep them in mind as well. You’re totally building it in

Luis Castañeda 

That’s a great point, David, because, you know, this is a teamwork, you know, is not only the advertising, and he’s not only the website is both of them working together, because he’s you know, I can have the best advertising on radio. But if I fumble when I got the call, you know, no one answer takes too long to answer or the person is rude, no sales? And who are you going to blame? Ah, campaign didn’t work. No problem is inside.

Johnny Molson 

What would you recommend that a business looks for when they are hiring somebody to manage and watch over there? I mean, just short of calling Luis Castañeda, which is what they should do. But if but what what things would would give a business owner an indication of, hey, this person is missing something?

Luis Castañeda 

Well, the integration between the advertising and the website, you’re gonna connect the dots. Yeah, connecting the dots. That’s that’s the key, you know, making sure that okay, he asked for my objective, okay, he understood my objective, he made sure that I mentioned my objective, he knows how to do it. And not only that, also connecting the vote of that objective to the Google Ads campaign, because the beauty of connecting the dots is the machine learning from Google, you know, Google has made a lot of progress in machine learning. And it is amazing. All the magic that can happen once Google knows who are the ones that send you a lead. It’s amazing, it works. So you have to look for those little details. It’s not only Okay, how much you want to spend, where do you want to be? And which keywords? No, you know, that’s basic does wasting your time, unless you only want traffic, but they need to understand your objective, they need to measure it. And they need to make sure that you can follow up with Google ads that objective so for me, those will be the key is people that want to understand what you’re trying to achieve and make sure that they can measure it. For me, the way I see the internet in a, what is important is it is cheap to test is cheap to experiment, it is cheap to try. So go out to try it worst thing can happen. It didn’t work and find. But also, as we mentioned, before we started the day, the table is the main such is what is important is not the medium, you know, if you have a good message, if you have a coherent strategy, the medium is not the important thing.

Dave Young 

No, I would just circle back around to the Uber situation. And I think mismanagement in terms of one of the one of the things we didn’t talk about was the the nature of the mismanagement, that that caused them to lose millions in fraud was they weren’t measuring success by the right metric. Right. So, Luis, when you talk about are we measuring some kind of a micro conversion? Will somebody at Uber thought that downloading their app was how to measure success, when really measuring success for them would be or people paying for rides. But they put this metric on downloading apps and the company that they contracted with said, oh, we’re just judged on and paid on how many people we can get to download the Uber app, regardless of whether they actually go for a ride. And so that’s where a lot of their fraud came from was these attribution, fraud in other apps that would trick you into downloading the Uber app. And now the the ad company got paid, because you downloaded the app, whether you use it or not, whether you had an account or not, you now downloaded the app, and so Uber’s paying for that. And I think it was a huge case of the measuring the wrong thing. And they’re measuring something that that that’s not how they grew, right? That’s not what made Uber Uber, it was the fact that you could go from the airport to your house or go from one bar to another or here to there. It wasn’t about I need an app, it was I need a ride. Right? And when they started measuring downloads, that’s that’s the wrong thing to measure and you open yourself up to people just taking advantage of that

Luis Castañeda 

And that is a great point, David. Because also that is you should always have a companion metric. You know. If I start you know, I’m gonna pay my salespeople by the volume of sales, they make these mod you know, chances are that they will Now for a lot of discounts, you know, they are gonna have a 20% discount, oh, I saw them cancel in at the end of the month, and we’re gonna have a lot of sales, but with a huge discount, okay, so that’s why you need to have a companion metric, you know, okay, my goal might make more sales this month. But, you know, we need to have at least this profit. Okay, so going back to Uber, okay, let’s assume that they wanted to grow based on the number of downloads. Perfect. Let’s have a companion metric is download with at least one trip? Yeah. Okay, then that’s a customer.

Dave Young 

Yeah, we’re not gonna pay you if the download that you got us doesn’t spend some money on a ride.

Johnny Molson 

Luis and Dave and a whole host of digital experts, that Wizard of Ads are worth getting to know, because we are paid when ads work. And when businesses succeed, we’re not paid on which media we buy. All we’re interested in is did the thing do what we thought it was going to do. If you’d like to get in touch with us, here are some emails that you should know. And here are some other videos that are worth looking at.

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