When you pay a service to promote your advertisements, you determine what types of websites your ad will be displayed on, how often they’re being shown, and how much you’ll have to pay for every click-through. Ad verification is the term that covers all activities that digital advertisers do to verify that their ads are being displayed fairly, on the intended websites, and to the appropriate audience.
Ad fraud is a serious issue. It’s estimated that up to 42 billion US dollars will be lost in 2020 due to fraudsters. Ad verification is important because some websites and ad vendors will try to exploit technicalities and loopholes to get around having to show your advertisements. Others will still display your ads but on the wrong websites or, even worse, on websites that may clash with the image of your brand. This is a particularly scary prospect for certain businesses, such as those dealing with tobacco or alcohol, as advertisement laws for these products can differ from country to country. You don’t want to find yourself associated with the violation of these laws, even if it’s the ad vendor who’s responsible. Fake click-throughs, misleading impression numbers, falsified web traffic figures – these are all clever techniques some websites and ad vendors will employ to squeeze you out of your advertising budget.
Ad verification involves the heavy use of proxy servers to conduct activities such as localized ad verification and ad fraud detection. Before we go further into how ad verification with proxies works, let’s go through a quick overview of what a proxy server is.
What is a Proxy?
A proxy is a special kind of server that acts as an intermediary for all of your communications with the internet.
Normally, your computer talks directly with a website or platform, telling it what data you’re looking for and retrieving that data from the service’s servers. In order to initiate these communications, you must know the address of the service you want to access (the URL). On the flip side, the server must also know the address of your home computer so that it knows where to send the data.
Sometimes you don’t want the web server to know the exact address of your home computer. For example, if you wanted to access a video that’s only available in Japan, you don’t want the streaming service to know that you’re connecting to their servers from Belgium. In such cases, you would connect via a proxy server.
When connecting through a proxy server, you tell the proxy what data you want and the proxy initiates the transaction with the website or service provider. The website only communicates with your proxy so it has no way of knowing who’s actually behind the requests. This is why proxies are such a vital part of cybersecurity efforts. In the case of the regionally-restricted video described above, you could connect through a proxy server located in Japan to make it appear as if you’re connecting from Japan.
Ad Verification with Proxies
There are two types of ad verification: localized ad verification and ad fraud detection. Proxies play an important role in both types of ad verification although the nature of their role in both cases is entirely different.
Localized Ad Verification
Are you planning an international campaign that will target multiple countries and language regions? If you are, your marketing team has probably gone through a lot of work and reiteration to ensure that the ads you’re running in each zone are tailor-made for the language and culture. Localized ad verification is simply the work of validating that the right ad is being displayed in the intended region.
In this case, proxies are used to make it appear as if you’re accessing a website from the target audience’s country. Say, for instance, you’ve created a customized advertisement targeting the Catalonia region of Spain. Localized ad verification would involve connecting via proxy located in Catalonia and checking the targeted websites to ensure that your advertisements appear as you want it to users in Catalonia.
Ad Fraud Detection
Ad fraud is an umbrella term for any falsified reporting of advertising traffic, clicks, or impressions. Hackers and frauds use many methods to do this, but the end result is the same: you end up losing money by paying for advertising that isn’t to your specifications. And with how easy it is to set up a blog or website, “ad traps” (websites whose sole purpose is to rack up ad impressions and stuff site statistics) are becoming more and more common.
Ad verification companies maintain massive proxy pools which they use to protect their ad verification software from being detected by fraudsters. This ad verification software can identify IP addresses and websites engaged in ad fraud then add them to a blacklist that is shared with ad vendors around the world. Once a website is placed on a blacklist, vendors will no longer want to run ads on it and the fraud loses a revenue source.
However, these ad frauds maintain networks of their own, and if they find an IP address that they suspect may be an ad verification bot, they’ll record its IP address and block it from scanning their websites. These records of ad verification bot addresses are shared between frauds, so once a bot has been found out, its address becomes completely ineffective. This is why it’s key that these ad verification services use residential proxy networks with rotating IP addresses. If a bot gets found out by frauds, it’s a simple matter to swap out its proxy IP address for another one and continue with its work.
Ad verification is the work of verifying that your ads are being displayed properly on the right websites to the right audience. Ad verification with proxies is extensively used, whether it’s something as simple as making sure your German ad is appearing in Germany and not Russia or something as complex as identifying fraud.