Blame it on Google : Rise of mobile ad fraud(5 of 7)

While in previous posts, we have seen how all the stakeholders: ad networks, attribution platform, and advertisers are positioned in the overall app marketing ecosystem.

The ecosystem was in a messy state due to the limitations faced by each of the stakeholders. It eventually led to ad fraud growth in mobile ad space. Let’s see the limitations faced by each of them


Lately building an app had become comparative easier task like building a website. However growing it to a certain threshold level and driving further growth through virality was very different from the website.

For a web marketer, marketing starts with the calculated mix of a short terms strategy called Search Engine Marketing(SEM) and a long term strategy called Search Engine Optimization(SEO). While SEM generates quick traffic by spending money in Adwords, SEO is a continuous process to generate sustained organic traffic over a medium and long term.  Display ads are used when the search campaigns reach a critical volume, and any incremental lead would cost too high to go after.

However, the scenario is different in the app stores(Appstore and Playstore). Google said a large percentage of the installs in playstore was happening through store search and other discovery options. The scenario is no different in AppStore. This being the case, Google didn’t introduce search ads in Playstore till 2015(AppStore did it only in 2016) which would have been a boon to advertisers. Adding to the trouble, ASO(App store optimization) was not so elaborate and rewarding as SEO. So advertisers flocked to playstore discovery options to get visibility.

One of the most prevalent app-discovery options is the “Top-ranked app of the day” and the featured app of the day. Google updates the rank once in a day whereas Apple does it once in every two hours. As mentioned in the earlier, top rank algorithm of Appstore and Playstore gives the highest weightage to daily app install volume and velocity. Only in early 2017, Google started considering other engagement factors of the app.

Thereby to increase the app discoverability and accelerate install growth, app developers flocked towards options which give them higher install volume at lower cost. Which happens to be Blind ad networks. That too predominantly incent ad networks where advertisers were promised high installs volume at a per installs cost as low as 10 -15 cents. This scenario led digital marketer to jump start large scale campaigns(even though for a short period) in a situation where they neither understand the mobile attribution fully nor having information about their ad placements.

The lack of the standardized in mobile app attribution measurement across the industry had created knowledge gap for the advertiser. With Google and Apple changing their ad tracking policies frequently and attribution platform coming up new solutions to patch up the information deficiency, advertisers were shooting in the dark for most of the time.   

While the advertisers were limited by knowledge, attribution platforms were limited by their pricing methods and Ad networks are limited by high competition. We will see about it in the next post.

To be continued…


Age of App attribution: Rise of mobile ad fraud (4 of 7)

As we saw in the earlier post, with no standardization set in the attribution like Google did in web analytics using GA, Mobile Attribution Platform (MAP) market had many players catering to small groups of customers.

Minimum criteria to enter the market happened to be integrating with Google AdWords and Facebook ad manager for mobile traffic data. Understanding the limitation of their tracking platforms, Facebook (FB has Facebook analytics) and Google starting sharing their attribution data with few early players in the industry. Even platforms without direct integration (official marketing partner) with Google or Facebook were able to build their tools by using various analytical workarounds.

Once Facebook and Google were on-boarded as partners, moving forward and adding other ad networks was like icing on the cake. Many players entered the market, but a dozen players are currently active now.  Google also re-entered this industry by acquiring firebase in 2014 and provided free service. But it failed to catch up with other players. However, they could provide something that no other player would be able to: App download information matching with playstore developer console.   

Except for playstore, Appstore, and OS, nobody can really know whether an app gets downloaded and installed on the device. Even app developers come to know about it only when the app gets opened for the first time in the mobile device. Likewise, attribution platforms will be informed and measure an app install through the first open event only. However, firebase’s integration with playstore gives app developer access to the user level app download data.

With literally no differentiator regarding underlying services attribution platforms started promoting themselves with simple add-on features time to time. In the initial days it was the availability of post-install events for quality measurement, then it was a cohort level different data representation and user retention. The recent buzz word for differentiation is fraud analytics.

Fraud analytics as the differentiation factor was first started by Adjust with their excellent article( It spurred a lot of digital marketers to rethink their digital strategy. However, the fraudster always used to outpace the marketer by a significant margin.

We will see how.

To be continued…