Botnets continue to damage and dilute established mobile marketing and analytic practices, but it’s not just paid acquisition that’s suffering. Emerging disciplines like app store optimization (ASO) are being equally threatened by the increasingly sophisticated efforts of mobile fraudsters. Left unchecked, mobile botnets could cost lawful publishers billions in the years to come.
With a combined 5 million apps available between the Google Play and Apple App Stores, marketers can’t afford to leave any stage of their acquisition funnels unoptimized. Marketers are investing considerable time and resources into ASO solutions in hopes of maximizing flow-through of users landing on their store pages. Many of these strategies involve controlled multivariate tests of store icons, copy, screenshots, and keywords to find a combination that attracts the maximum number of organic views and produces the highest possible conversion rate. The results of these rigorous tests can be thrown into question, however, once an app attracts the attention of fraudsters. One strategy known as “click hijacking” can nullify weeks of effort in an instant.
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Automated click hijacking is among the more sinister tactics employed by botnets and the bad actors that control them. Once a device has been compromised, malicious software monitors install activity, waiting for the user to organically download any of the mobile world’s most popular apps. If they do, the malware intercepts the install and deceptively credits it to themselves, generating revenue from paid ad networks in the process. As a result, app marketers end up paying for users that would have otherwise downloaded the app for free. The damage to the mobile marketer, however, doesn’t stop there.
ASO efforts depend, in large part, on understanding the intent of the user and their path to install. Almost all installs must at some point pass through an app store page, and measuring the impact of keyword and creative choices on organic vs paid installs is a crucial division for any sophisticated marketing operation. Any significant misattribution of install source nullifies the scientific validity of an ASO experiment, costing the publisher time and money. If an ASO marketer can’t reliably tell whether a user arrived on their app store page organically or through a paid promotion, they can’t tell which test variant was most effective, and therefore cannot trust their test results.
Fraud prevention is a complex challenge, requiring cooperation from all those affected. Unfortunately, mobile ad networks are systemically disincentivized from doing so. Fraudulent or otherwise, networks are in the business of selling installs, and so the burden falls on publishers to monitor their own analytics for signs of fraud and to pressure networks into taking appropriate action when they arise.
Concerned app publishers can visit the Tenjin blog to learn 5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Brand From Ad Fraud and other helpful tips for maximizing ROI from your mobile growth marketing efforts.