Today’s web is replete with fake social media profiles, ad click frauds, deceiving analytics, cheating ad agencies, annoying spam, and so on. Among several other cybercrimes, the cyberpunks are also eying the ad dollars of advertisers.
By Rakesh Raman
All’s not hunky-dory in the cyberspace. The burgeoning network of cyber criminals is already ruling the virtual world and these criminals are committing all types of crimes in cold blood.
Today’s web is replete with fake social media profiles, ad click frauds, deceiving analytics, cheating ad agencies, annoying spam, and so on. And among several other cybercrimes, the cyberpunks are eying the ad dollars of advertisers.
As the cyber menace is increasing in intensity, this article will focus on the new wave of crimes in the online ad world. It’s based on my own experience as a new victim of this crime.
As an online publisher, I have been running multiple news sites for the past four years with the hope that this business will eventually take off to support my subsistence. With this hope, I was using advertisements provided by Google through its AdSense service.
Although according to Webstat analytic service, my sites get more than 1.5 million page-views in a month from all across the world and my sites score very high on HubSpot’s Marketing Grader, Google pays me peanuts. The monthly amount that Google would pay me can’t keep me alive even for a day.
Obviously, a couple months ago I started exploring more options to earn money by displaying ads on my websites. After a little online research, I discovered an array of ad networks similar to Google AdSense. These ad networks or ad exchanges provide a common online platform to advertisers and content publishers like me.
I started experimenting with different ad networks by displaying the ads delivered by them on my content sites. After trying out nearly a dozen ad networks, I found that all of them are worse than Google AdSense.
Lack of advertisers, arm-twisting tactics applied on publishers, faulty ad scripts, and inferior ads were among the many irritants that I faced on the new ad networks that I tried. While I was earning at least a few cents with Google AdSense, my ad revenues completely dried out in all of the new networks that I tried.
As I am totally dependent on my websites to keep my body and soul together, I work hard and spend almost 15 hours everyday to create content single-handedly for my four sites with the hope that I will soon start earning sufficient money for my survival. This hope also resulted in my depleting savings – the money that I saved when I was in a job before starting the current websites venture.
Alas, all my hopes are now shattered because I have just figured out that I am being cheated by the online crooks who are hell-bent to destroy me for their own benefits.
As my experiments with new ad networks was continuing, a couple months ago I signed up with a new network as a publisher. My experience in a word: horrible. At this stage, I don’t want to reveal the name of this network as I am repeatedly asking its people to repair the fault which is causing a whole lot of disturbances on my websites. But let’s call it “Network A” for discussing about it in this article.
After signing up with “Network A,” I discovered that there are hardly any proper advertisers with the network. It just had a handful of gaming ads in which no genuine consumer would be interested. Still, I added the ads from this ad network on my websites as an experiment.
But soon I found that because of its faulty ads, my browser started crashing and my computer stopped functioning. Obviously, the visitors on my sites would also get the same annoying experience. I reported this flaw back to “Network A” ad network company. But it could not resolve the issue. Finally, after some painful weeks, I removed all the ad scripts delivered by “Network A” ad network from my websites.
Now begins my tale of woes. I thought after removing the ad scripts of “Network A,” I got rid of it and can continue my experiment with a new network. However, when I put the ads from the new network a week ago, all my sites started misbehaving.
How? When you click the normal headline of an article, instead of going to the web page carrying the article, it will connect the user in a new browser window in which the ads / links of “Network A” appear, while I have already removed the ads of “Network A” from my sites. Similarly, when you tried to search something from the search box on my site, it will first connect you to the pages of “Network A.”
Presumably, some secret code of “Network A” still resides on my sites that is directing the links forcefully to its pages against the wish of the user. Why? These clicks gained through unscrupulous method will be shown as genuine clicks from my sites to the advertisers to extort money from them by the shady ad exchange. And I, as a publisher, is being exploited by the ad exchange, although I am not part of the shady deal.
While advertisers who are being charged for their ads can always come and check on my site that their ads are not being displayed, most don’t do that. Plus, the ads from ad networks keep rotating. So it’s difficult for the advertisers to monitor all the publisher sites for which they are being charged wrongfully.
And I have seen this fraudulent practice happening not only on my sites but various other sites too. Likewise, it’s happening for mobile users who are wrongfully redirected to certain favored sites by using secret programs.
Irked by this sudden attack on my websites, I have been trying to contact the concerned ad network (“Network A”) since Friday, August 1, to get the issue resolved so the users to my website get a smooth experience. But so far all my requests have fallen on deaf ears and the wrong ad clicks problem persists.
While I am virtually in a state of SNAFU, what should I do to get rid of the online ad crooks who are illegally occupying my websites?
This is a preliminary article on online ad frauds. In the subsequent article on this topic, I will discuss the modus operandi of the online thieves who dupe the advertisers as well as content publishers. I want to sensitize the advertisers about the nefarious designs of ad agencies and ad networks that are cheating them day in and day out.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Company