How paid marketers are fighting back against the Fake Web

Bots and fake users steal ad clicks, pollute audience targeting, and skew metrics. Paid marketers are learning to protect themselves.

The post How paid marketers are fighting back against the Fake Web appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Anyone who manages paid marketing channels knows the importance of being able to accurately report on metrics and KPIs. Typically, marketers are looking to see if their campaigns are driving traffic, conversions, and ultimately pipeline for their go-to-market team. However, today nearly 40% of the internet is made up of fake traffic, which directly impacts marketers’ ability to do their jobs. When bots and fake users interact with paid marketing campaigns, they can decrease the effectiveness of nearly every aspect of advertising. 

First, when bots click on ads, the obvious downside is that they take away that portion of the cost-per-click budget. But the damage does not stop there, as they also consequently divert ad spend away from potential customers. Additionally, if audience segments and smart campaigns become infected with bots, they can inadvertently encourage ads to be remarketed to additional fake users until they are completely unusable. Optimizations also become skewed as pixels fire when fake users interact with campaigns, which ultimately delegitimizes all performance metrics. 

Fortunately, many paid marketers are noticing these issues, staying diligent, and fighting back against the Fake Web. Throughout this article, we describe the ways they are identifying threats and combating them in order to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns and make the most of their ad spend. 

Checking for time zone mismatches 

When it comes to mobile and desktop devices, users are able to select a Declared Time Zone in their settings. Typically, if the user is a legitimate person going about their daily life, they select the time zone that they are most frequently living and working in, so that their Declared Time Zone reflects reality. However, some malicious users may choose to declare a different time zone from the one they are actually in, so that they appear to be in a time zone that a given business typically works within. The reason for this deception is to trick that business into thinking they are a legitimate customer. One way that smart paid marketers are snooping out this type of suspicious activity is by checking the Declared Time Zone of a device against the actual Device Time Zone. If there is a mismatch, the user could be masking their identity for malicious purposes. 

Watching out for repetitive behaviors 

Bots are programmed to perform the same actions over and over. Similarly, malicious human users typically perform hacks and fraudulent activities at a high volume. Furthermore, and perhaps most concerningly, botnets attempt to make a whole network of bots look like a single user. For this reason, to protect their campaigns from planned attacks, paid marketers are looking for repeated behaviors coming from the same IP address or from the same cookied user. Identifying repeated malicious behaviors can help these marketers stop attacks in their tracks. 

Analyzing traffic metric anomalies

Website traffic metrics from paid marketing campaigns can vary based on many naturally occurring factors such as time of day, keyword strength, and current designated campaign budget. For this reason it can be tempting to overlook unusual spikes in traffic from advertising campaigns, and brush them off as a non-issue. But savvy paid marketers know better. Unusual spikes in website traffic on specific days, from areas outside targeted geographies, and atypically high bounce rates, can all be indications of a bot attack. By carefully analyzing all website traffic, these marketers are able to quickly identify malicious activity impacting their campaigns. 

Looking for user agent inconsistencies

User agents are the devices and mechanisms that someone uses to access the internet. For example, someone’s user agent string could identify them as a tablet user who is operating on a Windows operating system, and accessing the internet via Google Chrome. All internet users have a string of information about themselves like this, and most user agents have unalarming qualities. But malicious users may try to manipulate their user agent in order to hide their true characteristics, so that they can more easily commit fraudulent activities while going undetected. However, marketers who pay close attention to user agents in their analytics platforms are looking out for inconsistencies, and identifying potential threats. For example, using an Apple device with Android software is nearly impossible, so if something like that appears in a company’s analytics platform, there is a good chance that the user is manipulating their user agent for malicious purposes. 

Reevaluating traffic sources 

Paid marketers take stock of the sources that are driving the most traffic to their site to see if they align with the channels they are investing in most. However, if one paid channel is driving a lot of traffic, but that traffic is leading to unusually low conversion rates, something could be awry. In order to identify whether affiliate programs, content syndication programs, and other paid platforms are sending bots traffic to their sites, paid marketers are looking closely at this traffic and checking to see if behaviors across different channels are driving the same behaviors throughout the funnel. They are essentially looking for oddities and inconsistencies throughout the buyer journey, and diving in deeper to see if any inconsistencies could be caused by fake traffic.  

Deploying go-to-market security 

As one can imagine, analyzing all of this data on top of running paid marketing campaigns can quickly become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are go-to-market security platforms that can step in and automate many of these processes. GTMSec is one of the fastest-growing categories in cybersecurity, largely because it is designed to address the problems that the Fake Web causes for marketers and analysts specifically. Rather than creating solutions for the IT department to protect against fraud, these GTMSec platforms speak the marketer’s language and can help block fraudulent activity from infecting their campaigns. Since bots and fake users stand in the way of marketing objectives, it makes sense for paid marketers to prioritize cybersecurity in order to meet their goals and KPIs.

The post How paid marketers are fighting back against the Fake Web appeared first on Search Engine Land.

How your PPC conversions will be impacted without privacy-first measurement

What happens if you don’t build new measurement frameworks? Decreased PPC performance, for starters. Let’s avoid this.

The post How your PPC conversions will be impacted without privacy-first measurement appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Within the next 12-15 months, third-party cookies will retire across digital marketing channels.

Savvy advertisers know they need to begin developing a game plan for the cookieless future, but what will happen to those who don’t adapt to these changes?

Above all, marketers will suffer from signal loss, which will negatively impact how we measure campaign performance, optimize campaigns over time, create audiences for ad distribution and drive growth within our digital channels. 

The industry sea change with the lion’s share of attention is the retirement of third-party cookies in Google Chrome.

Sure, other browsers, including Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox, have previously restricted third-party cookies. Chrome is more monumental simply because of its market share.

SimilarWeb recently released a study that showed Chrome was the world’s most popular browser with 62% of web traffic. 

To recap from my previous article, Google Chrome will retire third-party tracking cookies around Q3 2023. That is an approximate timeframe for this monumental change, but it gives us a target to make sure that our digital marketing campaigns will be ready.

This might sound like the distant future, but many of the measurement solutions needed to replace the functionality of third-party cookies could require significant time and effort from development teams.

This type of support usually requires a few cycles to be prioritized on project roadmaps.

Getting started in the next couple of months will be beneficial in the long run.

Look at it this way: your future self will thank you for being thoughtful and proactive!


Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.

Processing...Please wait.


What happens when marketers do not build new measurement frameworks?

For over two decades, marketers have utilized third-party publisher cookies to track their media performance. This method isn’t perfect, but it’s been a standard practice that’s set to evolve in a major way during the next 12-15 months.

From a digital marketing perspective, one of the most significant impacts is the loss of conversion measurement. This loss of performance data includes sales, sign-ups, purchases, revenue and other engagement metrics since those actions are likely to be restricted.

If marketers do not evolve their measurement practices, their accounts will rely on algorithmically-driven modeled conversions. 

Successfully enabling automation within PPC is critical to driving positive results.

One of the most potent algorithmic elements is smart bidding. Algorithms that drive cost-per-acquisition (CPA) and return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) bidding need strong data signals to optimize performance.

The data that feeds these algorithms must be reliable so that accounts are optimized toward the most valuable actions and this conversion data needs to have enough volume to drive machine learning.

Data loss means bid algorithms will not function properly, which will result in decreased PPC performance. Let’s try to avoid this!

More conversions will be algorithmically modeled as a result of signal loss

There is too much at stake (i.e., money) for ad platforms such as Google and Microsoft to leave marketers without another option to gain back lost data.

When marketers forge new measurement frameworks via Enhanced Conversions (EC), Google Analytics 4 or Offline Conversion Tracking, those are considered Observed Conversions.

This mix of first-party data and user-matched data (EC) is generated by registered actions taken by our website visitors.

Try to collect as much observed conversion data as possible.

The alternative is Modeled Conversions in Google and Smart Goals in Microsoft Ads. According to Google, Modeled Conversions is:

“When Google surfaces modeled conversions in Google Ads, we are predicting attributed conversions. In most cases, Google will receive ad interactions and online conversions but is missing the linkage between the two. The modeling we perform is modeling whether a Google ad interaction led to the online conversion, not whether a conversion happened or not.” 

Even after these large-scale privacy shifts, Google will continue to acquire mountains of data per user: search history, browsing history, and any other online activity when someone is logged into their Google Account, especially when those signed-in users are on a Google property.

Google will not be able to install a tracking pixel for that user specifically, but they should have enough data to algorithmically predict which media interactions lead to a conversion for an advertiser. 

Microsoft Ads is working on a version of conversion modeling. This product is called Smart Goals.

According to Microsoft:

“Smart Goals use Microsoft Advertising machine learning models to identify the best sessions on your website. If you have the UET tag set up correctly, the smart goal will examine all your website sessions and determine which of those sessions can be considered a ‘conversion.’ Smart goals use multiple signals to identify conversions. Some of the signals that are used include session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser.”

In essence, they are similar to Google’s modeled conversions. They both rely on machine learning at scale to understand user behavior and potential reactions to paid media exposure.

Marketers need to provide numerous additional signals to make any modeled conversions as accurate as possible.

With the loss of user-level data, modeled conversions will be part of the measurement landscape going into 2023.

This brings us back to creating a strong framework for supplying as much Observed Conversion data within the platforms, which will help inform the Modeled Conversion algorithms. 

Marketers have time and tactics to forge new measurement frameworks

The prospect of rebuilding your measurement framework can feel daunting, but you have the next couple of quarters to determine which solutions work best for you and your business.

Now is the time to start evaluating your current processes, review the new measurement tactics that are currently available and begin building a plan. 

In my last article, we laid the groundwork for what this metamorphosis means for the digital marketing landscape and approximately when it should occur. This article has addressed why adapting to these changes needs to be a strategic priority.

Next time, we can begin drafting a plan on how you can build a privacy-centric measurement and audience framework for 2023. 

The post How your PPC conversions will be impacted without privacy-first measurement appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Google to use Customer Match lists for Smart Bidding, Optimized Targeting

Google Ads automation is getting smarter with more ways to use Customer Match lists.

The post Google to use Customer Match lists for Smart Bidding, Optimized Targeting appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full…

Google Ads automation is getting smarter with more ways to use Customer Match lists. The post Google to use Customer Match lists for Smart Bidding, Optimized Targeting appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Google blocked 3.4 billion ads, suspended 5.6 million accounts in 2021

Google’s 2021 Ads Safety Report details threats ranging from cloaking to abusive and inaccurate COVID-19 information.

The post Google blocked 3.4 billion ads, suspended 5.6 million accounts in 2021 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit S…

Google's 2021 Ads Safety Report details threats ranging from cloaking to abusive and inaccurate COVID-19 information. The post Google blocked 3.4 billion ads, suspended 5.6 million accounts in 2021 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Google Ads reporting issues with APIs and Ads Scripts

The reporting issue was between April 25th 2:32 PM PT and April 26th 12:24 PM PT.

The post Google Ads reporting issues with APIs and Ads Scripts appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

The reporting issue was between April 25th 2:32 PM PT and April 26th 12:24 PM PT. The post Google Ads reporting issues with APIs and Ads Scripts appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Microsoft Advertising is rolling out Auto-generated remarketing lists and more

A handful of new additions this month will be warmly welcomed by Microsoft advertisers.

The post Microsoft Advertising is rolling out Auto-generated remarketing lists and more appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for …

A handful of new additions this month will be warmly welcomed by Microsoft advertisers. The post Microsoft Advertising is rolling out Auto-generated remarketing lists and more appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Google Responsive Search Ads: What you need to know

Learn the benefits of RSAs, how the transition from ETAs impacts you search strategy and how to write effective RSAs

The post Google Responsive Search Ads: What you need to know appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land fo…

Learn the benefits of RSAs, how the transition from ETAs impacts you search strategy and how to write effective RSAs The post Google Responsive Search Ads: What you need to know appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.