Advertising 8 Min Read

Ad Fraud is a Problem — Here’s What You Can Do to Stop It

Written by Tim Edmundson

Ad fraud, in which campaign performance is faked in order to generate revenue, is a major problem for the industry. That said there are ways of not only identifying ad fraud, but also protecting yourself from its impact. Let’s dive into the current state of ad fraud, and what you can do to avoid it.

SteelHouse makes protecting your campaigns from ad fraud a priority. Want to learn more? Speak to an expert today.

Ad Fraud is Running Rampant

Digital marketing is a $100 billion business, and according to some estimates, ad fraud rakes in $18.8 billion a year. That’s a problem — a big one. According to Ad Age, for every $3 spent on digital advertising, one of those dollars ends up in a fraudster’s pocket. And with bots projected to account for up to 90% of ad clicks, there’s plenty of opportunity for these fraudsters to get paid. So what can be done to ensure your dollars aren’t ending up where they don’t belong?

Ad Fraud Warning Signs

Thankfully, there are ways to detect ad fraud and cut it off before it makes too big of an impact on your bottom line. Knowing is half the battle, so be sure to keep an eye out for the following.

Low Viewability | Viewability determines whether your ad had the chance to be seen by an actual human. And while 100% viewability isn’t feasible, yours should be around 40-60%. If it is lower, that means there’s a chance your traffic, visits, and clicks are coming from fraudulent sources since the ads couldn’t be seen by actual people.

High Click Through Rates | While not always an indication of ad fraud, it could be a piece of the puzzle. Be sure to keep an eye on the time between clicks and conversion; if it’s unusually quick, it could be cause for suspicion (to be able to see this, you’ll need log-level data).

Strange Traffic Sources | Good news: you’re getting a lot of traffic from your latest campaign. Bad news: it’s from outdated browsers and unpopular devices. Traffic from unusual sources such as these can be indicative of fraud; also keep an eye out for repeated visits from the same IP addresses, as well as random countries outside of your targeting parameters.

Straying Too Far From Your Benchmarks | You know your performance benchmarks (or at least, you should know them), and if your campaign performance starts to stray too far from those there’s a chance you’re dealing with fraud. Be sure you have established benchmarks for clicks, CTR, MUVs, page views, and conversions to be able to know when things look off.

A Lot of Visits, But Little Added Revenue| If you’re seeing a big spike in visits but no movement on revenue-driving conversions, you could be getting fraudulent traffic.

With these warning signs, you have a good chance of safeguarding your campaigns. But don’t limit yourself to just keeping an eye out — get proactive with protecting your performance.

How You Can Prevent Ad Fraud

You need to be smart about how you approach launching, curating, and analyzing your campaigns. Ad fraud is a tough problem, but it’s not insurmountable. You should ask your current vendor questions that will give you a sense of whether they’re doing everything they can to help protect your campaigns.

  • What is the viewability of my ads?
  • Are there clicks on non-viewable ads? How can this happen?
  • How do you verify that actions taken (clicks, visits, form fills) are by humans and not bots?
  • How do you correlate in-view impressions to counted conversions?
  • What do you currently do to mitigate ad fraud?
  • Are you partnered with any third party ad fraud prevention or brand safety companies?

If you’re not satisfied with the answers, it could be time to look elsewhere. SteelHouse takes ad fraud very seriously — we have answers to all those questions above. Here are a number of the steps SteelHouse takes to prevent ad fraud — be sure your ad platform does the same.


  • Leverage highly-specific audience targeting to ensure you’re going after the right audience as well as keeping your ads from ending up on fraudulent sites.
  • Pre-bid on viewable inventory — if your ads aren’t being served on viewable placements, then there’s no way the performance those ads generate will be human.
  • Utilize fraud-prevention companies to help mitigate the chance your performance isn’t legitimate.
  • Employ blacklists of fraudulent URLs and IPs. If you cut them off at the source, they can’t fraudulently affect your campaign.

Live Campaign

  • Run your campaigns on high quality inventory by mixing PMPs within your offering to cut out fraudulent sites.
  • Utilize attribution technology that cuts out fraud. SteelHouse’s Verified Visits only tracks performance from ads that are guaranteed to be in-view per IAB standards.
  • Flag high click rates that spike your performance — it’s good to check in on these since that sort of behavior can be attributed to fraud.


  • Take advantage of viewability reporting (which is free with SteelHouse) to ensure your ads are being served on viewable inventory.
  • Check your ads are served on quality inventory — with publisher-level reporting found in the SteelHouse Advertising Suite, you know where your ads are being served.
  • Don’t pay for clicks. Clicks are easily faked with bots and click farms, so be sure you’re paying for conversions with a CPA or ROAS goal, or similar.

By taking measures like these, you give yourself a strong chance of not becoming another ad fraud statistic. It’s too rampant a problem to just hope for the best, so follow the guidance above and have confidence that the performance you generate is legitimate.

Combat Ad Fraud Directly with Verified Visits

As mentioned above, you need an attribution model that works for you when it comes to preventing ad fraud. SteelHouse’s proprietary Verified Visits measures user visits to your site following the guaranteed in-view display of your ads, in a window of time defined by you. That means SteelHouse is the only ad platform that can tell you which clicks, visits, and conversions come from viewable inventory.

With Verified Visits, you get free viewability measurement and the confidence to know your performance is tied to ads that are seen by actual humans, and not bots. Want to learn more? Request a demo today.