Ad Fraud Insights

Click Fraud

What’s Really Happening Down on the Click Farm

    Written by Alana L. Domingo
    on March 29, 2018

    Sure, we’re a little obsessed with bots on this blog. But we definitely keep tabs on another major ad fraud culprit: human click farms.

    What is a Click Farm?

    Like their bot counterparts, human click farms wreak havoc on the digital advertising ecosystem. Click farms are responsible for clicking on ads with no intent of converting. They visit sites and rack up worthless impressions. They leverage form bots to fill out forms with bogus information, generating false leads, creating a real nightmare for online advertisers.

    How Click Farms Work

    Human fraud detection is tough. Unlike bot activity, human behavior is more nuanced and less predictable.

    In the early days of click fraud, platforms like Google and Yahoo quickly put filters in place to stop automated clicks. But the filters did a terrible job at blocking fake clicks made by what seemed like real site visitors.

    Related Blog: How Does Ad Fraud Affect Clicks

    So naturally, fraudsters took advantage of this flaw, launching operations we now recognize as click farms. Under the direction of an owner, or “farmer,” low-paid workers browse the web, performing payable actions like clicks, form fills, and account signups.

    Click Farm Operations

    Traditionally, human click farms operate in two ways.

    1. Attacking Competition

    Sometimes, outside “customers” hire click farms to sabotage their competitor’s digital ad campaigns. For a certain price, farm workers click through ads in an effort to eat up the competing advertiser’s budget. Once the funds run dry, the farm customer’s ads have a better chance of ranking higher than the competition.

    Related Post: 4 Tips to Protect Your Agency and Clients From Click Fraud

    2. Generating Revenue From Ads and Fake Social Profiles

    Click farms are also used to directly benefit the farmer financially. Some fraudsters create websites built strictly for advertising purposes, using networks like Google to sell ad space. Once legitimate ads run on the page, the farmer directs their workers to interact with the ads, in turn generating revenue for themselves.

    In recent years, click farm antics have invaded social media too, as we’ve seen with click fraud on fake Facebook profiles. Instead of clicks, many farms now sell profiles, users, or accounts.

    And because these accounts are created by actual human users, often with seemingly legitimate information, they can successfully pass security filters on social platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

    How to Avoid Click Farms

    Immediately, you might think to block sketchy traffic sources as a way to avoid click farm activity. For instance, since many click farms set up shop in developing nations like Bangladesh, Thailand, and India, blocking traffic coming from suspect locations seems ideal. But that might not work, as some fraudsters use ad fraud in the cloud to mask their real locations.  

    Blocking traffic also means you might be blocking good users with the bad, especially if your campaigns aren’t targeted strictly to specific regions or demographics.

    So what can you do?

    Instead of focusing on the source, turn your attention to individual users. Your best bet is to implement an ad fraud solution that analyzes key data points, such as IP addresses and device information, and determines if users are legit or not.

    Obviously, eliminating all forms of fraud just isn’t possible, but with the right tools in place, you can guard your campaigns from those pesky click farms.

    Anura Ad Fraud Detection Software

    Anura enables marketers to identify fraudulent website traffic and optimize their digital ad spend. By leveraging hundreds of data points Anura can accurately differentiate between real and fraudulent traffic.

    This identification allows marketers to make better business decisions based off the behavior of real clients and customers. This information reduces wasted ad spend while maximizing resources on channels that produce real results, ultimately improving bottom lines.

    Contact us to learn more about how Anura can protect your business from the malicious actions of click farms, ad fraud, and more.

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