The Hidden Cost of Ad Fraud: What Publishers Can Do to Win Advertiser Trust and Gain Revenue

Advertisers lose billions of dollars to ad fraud. But publishers also lose revenue.

By Kevin Rehberg, Vice President, Client Development

With estimates of dollars lost to digital ad fraud ranging from $6 billion to $42 billion in 2019, fraud is big news for marketers. But what is ad fraud’s impact on publishers?

While marketers waste valuable media investment, publishers also lose out on revenue diverted to fraudulent sites. How can publishers get credit for creating quality content and prove to media buyers that they are worth the investment? Here we look at how publishers can stand out from fraudulent sites and earn advertisers’ trust.

Don’t Purchase Traffic

Sometimes a legitimate publisher may purchase traffic to increase its number of visitors. Traffic vendors often sell a specific number of website visits for a fixed price. But if the promise of attracting a fixed number of visitors at a low price seems too good to be true, it probably is. The best way to keep bots off your website is to avoid purchasing traffic. Use legitimate marketing activities such as email campaigns, sponsored social media posts and search engine marketing. Not only does it reduce your risk for ad fraud, but it also offers advertisers a real audience and a greater return on their investment.

Monitor Traffic Sources

Publishers need to understand where their site traffic is coming from and continuously monitor traffic sources. A publisher might drive traffic by running a social media contest or sending an email blast. These types of marketing activities are easily identified in web analytics. However, if the source is unknown, the traffic exhibits suspicious characteristics such as spikes at unusual times, or coming from one location or device type, these are red flags that the publisher needs to address. Publishers can take the proactive step of protecting media buyers by filtering traffic from bots and data centers. This prevents ads from being served to nonhuman traffic and increases exposure to real viewers.

Implement Multiple Anti-Fraud Solutions

There are several industry solutions to help minimize ad fraud. While no one solution solves the entire ad fraud problem, integrating multiple tools into your overall fraud protection plan goes a long way. Adopt industry initiatives such as ads.txt and implement accredited ad fraud detection software.

Since fraudsters keep adapting their fraudulent tactics, the industry frequently makes updates to these solutions and develops new ones. Publishers should understand and implement the various tools to prevent and detect fraud, but also keep them updated so that they continue to stand out to advertisers in both direct and programmatic buys.

Have Third-Party Oversight

While technology is vital in the fight against ad fraud, independent oversight is just as important. An independent, third-party website audit identifies areas of risk that technology alone might not detect. An audit takes a deep dive into all aspects of website monetization including the processes, procedures and controls that the publisher has in place to reduce fraud. If an anomaly or suspicious traffic source is identified, the auditor brings these concerns to the publisher’s attention with suggestions for improvement. Third-party audits provide an extra layer of protection against fraud and help publishers stand out to advertisers by demonstrating that they are providing transparency and maintaining a high-quality advertising environment.

Get Credit for Your Quality Platform

It’s important for advertisers to understand your website’s value. Communicate how your quality content gives them a greater return on investment. Inexpensive ads may generate lots of clicks at a lower CPM than ads on premium websites, but nonhuman clicks will never convert into paying customers. Next time you have a client meeting, simply ask, “Are you sure you are advertising on quality sites?” An educated advertiser will understand the value of investing in human audiences.

Take a Holistic Approach

Ad fraud can be minimized by taking a multi-layered approach. Make sure the vendors you partner with are accredited and adopt industry initiatives like those mentioned above. Establish good business practices for sourcing and monitoring traffic and make sure your staff to understands their responsibility to follow them. Lastly, partner with a reputable auditor to add an independent layer of protection and demonstrate your commitment to transparency. By incorporating a variety of tools into your anti-fraud plan, you’ll have a greater chance of preventing fraud while developing a reputation for being a safe place for advertisers.

Learn more about what you can do to help minimize fraud. Download our whitepaper, 3 Truths That Help Confront the Digital Ad Fraud Crisis.

The Alliance for Audited Media powers transparency and collaboration between North America’s leading media professionals. AAM is the industry’s recognized leader in cross-media verification with unparalleled expertise across all brand platforms including web, mobile, email and print. More than 4,000 publishers, advertisers, agencies and technology vendors depend on AAM’s data-driven insights, technology certification audits and information services to transact with trust. To learn how AAM brings trust and transparency to today’s media ecosystem, visit

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