You hear a lot about ad fraud in the advertising technology industry, but it’s rare for someone to bring up attribution fraud. When someone engages in this fraudulent practice, you lose the ability to attribute sales throughout the buyer journey accurately. Everything from customer targeting to programmatic campaign ROI gets impacted when your attribution is skewed by unethical people gaming the system.
Attribution models started off quite simple. Buyers had a fairly straightforward journey. They used a single channel or device, and a first- or last-click attribution model made sense. Advertisers could easily track the last touch and build their campaigns around this. Today’s non-linear customer journey makes it impossible to get accurate attribution based on the first or last touch alone. While these data points are important, you also need to look at all the steps that lead the buyer to the purchase decision. Consumers use multiple devices, switch channels frequently and otherwise end up with complex journeys. If you rely on last-click attribution, you’ll miss out on all the essential data that’s available before that. Campaign ROI and productivity will never become optimized, and you end up hampering your growth rate.
Another downside of last-click attribution is that you open yourself up to attribution fraud. Since you lack visibility into the full buyer’s journey, unethical publishers can use several methods to put themselves in a position where they get credited with that final click before the conversion. For example, the programmatic platform could devote most of the advertiser’s spend on retargeted ads that are more likely to get conversions, even if the advertiser wanted a different traffic type for their campaign. The platform is trying to make their ad inventory look as desirable as possible by padding the numbers. Another way they manage this is through cookie-bombing visitors as they come through the page. They load down the user’s browser with their cookies, so when they click through to one of the advertisers’ pages, it gets attributed to that publisher.
A lack of visibility is the main reason that it’s easy for programmatic platforms to shift ads around to get the results that they want to show. They know how to leverage various ad technologies and cookie tracking, so they’re the one coming out on top in attribution.
Once you gain a comprehensive view of your buyer’s journey, you can see discrepancies in your campaigns easier. One way to address attribution fraud is through split funnel attribution.
This attribution model divides the funnel into two distinct sections. The dividing line sits between the customer’s first visit to your website and when they get handed off to retargeting campaigns.
You can see all of the data that’s important for getting a buyer to your website in the first place and then follow their journey as they see retargeted ads, read through your site content and proceed through the sales funnel.
The last-click channel doesn’t get a disproportionate amount of credit for the eventual conversion. Instead, every important touchpoint has a place in the process. The incentive to fraudulently force last clicks is removed, especially since you can start picking out behavior that doesn’t seem like it matches up to the expected conversion rates and ROI.
Fighting attribution fraud is just as important as dealing with ad fraud. Get more out of your campaign budget and get full visibility into your buyer’s journey by adopting an attribution model that accounts for complex funnels.