The potential money to be made from in-app advertising multiplied by the benefits of an app at the top of the charts, leaves the mobile app ecosystem susceptible to fraud. Anti-fraud is centered around two key areas, protecting developers and keeping the trust of mobile advertisers.
The first step to be able to analyze potential fraud is to have a mobile tracking solution in place. As a mobile marketer, using an unbiased 3rd party tracking solution enables you to compare metrics across all your mobile advertising channels. Not only will be you be able to review which mobile ad networks work best for your key metrics, but you will also have a system of record in place for dealing with ad fraud. Most reputable ad networks will immediately address any abuse found on their network and not bill you for any questionable user acquisition installs.
Next you want to spot check the data with your own internal metrics to know your baseline usage numbers. Doing a monthly check of your expected conversion rates, retention, loyal users, and average revenue per user (APRU) over each mobile media source will help any disparities standout. If needed, run a starter mobile Facebook campaign to develop a standard threshold of loyal user data metrics. One of the most common areas of fraud is paying for traffic that is unknowingly incentivized where users have no actual intent. From the fake traffic you’ll see a massive drop off in user retention after roughly 3 days if not immediately after the initial installation.
Today’s more sophisticated mobile bots can act as users who install your app, play your game, make some in-app purchases, and potentially even meet your retention goals disguised with a lot of bad traffic. On Android, mobile instances can be spun up on demand with different Android IDs, but they often still come from the same block of bad IP addresses. The best way to root out bad traffic is to ask your network partners for sub publisher level reporting by pub ID to have a more granular view into potentially fraudulent traffic sources. It’s also best to not pre-pay upfront for installs until you can verify the user level data after conversions.
Google and Apple have made significant steps to add anti-fraud protections into their app stores, but it’s impossible to stop illicit short-term gain in the top download charts and in the advertising networks outside their control.