How to prevent «stealing» your income by an Ad Network

6 ways Ad Network can cheat on you and how to avoid it

Why Ad Networks may be dishonest

Ad Networks work both with mediation systems and directly with private publishers. Very often customers come and go regardless of the quality of work done by the network. It causes some Ad Networks try to get as much revenue from the publisher as they can before he's gone. Working with the mediation system assume long-term relationship and Ad Networks shows more loyalty and honesty. Meanwhile, they may play unfair when working with the publisher in order to increase their income.

We don't want to intimidate you or create the illusion that all Ad Networks are just waiting for the opportunity to deceive the client. The truth is there are good Ad Networks that help webmasters to monetize the websites, and there are bad Ad Networks that may use you for their own gain. As a healthy lifestyle requires to learn about junk-food to avoid it, the same if you want to be a successful webmaster, you should learn how unfair Ad Networks can spoil a website. And then choose to work with Ad Networks or mediation services that honestly help to maximize monetization of websites without losing regular visitors.

There are several ways Ad Network can increase their income in secret from the client, but they all have the same feature: the network can manage ads and statistics. The Ad Network gets this opportunity if the client places the Ad Network JS code on the website. In fact, by inserting third-party JS code on the website, you give control of your site to the owner of the code. There is nothing to worry about if there is trust or personal agreement, but you should not blindly rely on honesty when working directly with the advertising network.

You'll be frauded just as much as you allow it. In this guide, we analyze the main methods of fraud, how this can affect your website and how to discover and prevent it.

1. Multi format

There are several advertising formats that can be placed at your website by Ad Network: it might be banner, popunder, vast or push. Usually, an agreement with the advertising network states exactly what format of advertising will be placed on your site. But one ad js-tag allows the network to host different formats without the permission of the publisher, this is called multi-format.

The most common cheat is adding popunder and/or push to JS code of native banner. If you have agreed to advertise only push or only a popunder format, in fact, both of these formats may appear on your website.

By using a multi-format of advertising Ad Network appropriate all extra income and increase the revenue from the publisher. You should be especially aware of suspiciously profitable flatrate and fixed CPM. Regardless of what formal you assigned for, the chance of multi-format advertising is about 100%. With this technique, the network can offer to the publisher tempting rate, for example, incredible high CPM for banner $0,2 instead of common $0,05.

To hide additional advertising, networks cover the track. After the publisher has inserted network JS code to the website, the Ad Network manager checks the IP and country from which the publisher enters the admin panel and disables the multi-format for this region. Also, Ad Networks can exclude countries where additional formats can be seen by major competitors. And most importantly, networks block extra ads for VPN / Proxy traffic so that the publisher cannot see unwanted “add-ons” by enabling VPN.

We have to tell that with multi-format advertising Ad Networks earns on your traffic + 100%, and sometimes even more.

2. Frequency capping

There is one more way to earn extra income with a popunder format. Ad Network can increase the frequency capping for the user. For example, you have agreed that a unique user sees a popunder once a day. Similarly to the case with the multi-format, the Ad Network checks the IP and geolocation of the publisher and competitors and then increases the frequency capping for targets where it will be unnoticed.

In pursuit of profit, Ad Networks can obscenely increase the frequency capping. For example, the network keeps low frequency capping for the Czech Republic, let's say once a day, meanwhile sets the frequency for the US up to 10 times a day! In addition to the fact that the Ad Network steals your profits, very high frequency capping of popunder may dramatically affect website traffic. First, Google imposes sanctions and removes from the search engine websites that do not meet the requirements of The Coalition for Better Ads. Second, regular visitors will be very disappointed with endlessly appearing, intrusive popunders. Thus, due to the unfair advertising network, you can lose most of the traffic.

3. Shaving

Getting the statistic only from Ad Network you let it show you fake figures. For example, Ad Network may shave part of the traffic that comes from one IP address, when in fact you had several unique visitors and, no doubt, adverts were shown to all of them.

When Ad Network shaves traffic, it also doesn't show you the revenue this traffic brought, and simply keeps it. The other option is more harmless but still cheating. Ad Network may shave only traffic statistics but transfer all revenue to the publisher. This is a strategic move that allows the network to artificially raise CPM and attract naive customers who think that the success of advertising is measured not in profit, but in the cost of impressions.

It's very easy to find out that Ad Network is cheating with statistics. A webmaster should use alternative trackers and compare numbers.

4. Redirect

Third-party JS-code can not only control the behavior of advertising on your site but also redirect traffic to other resources. That is, literally stealing your visitors. Some resources buy traffic at a price that greatly exceeds the potential income of Ad Network in case of fair work with a webmaster. For instance, if Ad Network gets 7 cents for 1000 impressions, it pays you 5 cents and keeps 2 cents. But if it steals some of your traffic, it can sell it for $1.

Usually, Ad Networks don't want to be suspicion and therefore redirect just a small part of traffic. They attract publishers by offering very high CPM in comparison to competitors. If you saw that the banner CPM is 5-10 times higher than that of other banners, it is a 100% redirect or multi-format, there are no miracles in the world of advertising.

Also, be prepared to lose the loyalty of visitors who open your site, and find out to be redirected to a completely different resource. It is unlikely that they will want to return to your website again.

5. Collecting Customer Database

Advertising in push format means that website visitors agree to receive notifications including ads. Moreover, the push can pop up on the desktop or mobile device even when the site is not open. If the Ad Network set push ads through the JS-code, the customer database is collected and stored on their servers, and you don't have access to it. This means you're not in charge of what kind of advertising and how often appears at laptops and mobiles of those who have agreed to receive your notifications. Unfortunately, Ad Networks may not care about your reputation, so they can spam your customers with ads until he wants to block you.

Moreover, since the database of subscribers of your website belongs to the network, if you decide to change the Ad Network, you'll not be able to transfer it and therefore will have to re-assemble again. You even couldn't be sure that your subscribers don't receive a push notification after you formally finished this advertising, because you have “gifted” your database to Ad Network.

There is a solution. Always collect the subscription database only on your own and manage it yourself.

6. Aggressive advertising

Aggressive advertising includes formats that block the site until the visitor takes some action, for example, subscribe to push. Also, Ad Networks may extort money by showing fictitious virus alerts. Such advertising does the most harm to your website, start from blocking on Google and up to a complete loss of visitor loyalty.

Similar to multi-format and high frequency capping cases, Ad Network hides from the publisher aggressive ads by blocking it for VPN/Proxy traffic and certain locations.

How to detect cheating Ad Network

As we mentioned above, Ad Network can easily cover the tracks when it has it's JS code at your website. To find out cheating a publisher has to check his website from various countries and devices which is very hard to do manually. You may ask your friend who lives in a different country to check the website, but statistically, there is a weak chance he will discover hidden extra ads or will be redirected to another website.

There are special services to detect aggressive commercial and other unwanted ad formats. They check the website from a bunch of countries/devices/browsers. But these services are pretty expensive and private publishers not always can afford it.


How to prevent Ad Network cheating on you

If you are aware, you can easily avoid unwanted Ad Network behavior. The most important rule is to never place to your website third-parties JS code from untrusted resources. Insert banners only using iframe function and collect push subscribers database on your own. Also always use alternative statistics trackers to compare it with data from the Ad Network.

Using the mediation system of advertising networks, you kill all birds with one stone. With this service, you always have independent statistics and tools to collect the Push database. For popunders, you can use the mediation system code or your own, and take only direct links from the Ad Network, without giving it the control of the site.

Mediation systems allow the publisher to control all advertising parameters and thus effectively avoid advertising content that can harm the site. And remember, the quality of work is measured by the steady growth in traffic and income.

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