Invalid traffic and the travel sector: A match made in heaven

October 20, 2022
Posted by
TrafficGuard

The more organised among us are already starting to plan their travel for the upcoming holiday season. Flights back for Thanksgiving, a Christmas Eve train to our home town, maybe a hotel for a little seasonal getaway or a New Years Eve party. Second only to the summer peak, Q4 is a massively important time for travel operators who experience a huge surge in demand in conjunction with holiday travel. It’s a lucrative time, where operators can capitalise on demand and utilise incentives like limited time offers (LTOs) and coupons to make the most of the busy period.

You know that, of course. But so do ad fraudsters.

Why is the industry so rife with ad fraud?

We’ve found that bots make up a whopping 80% of invalid traffic experienced by operators in the travel sector. A clear indication that the industry is under a direct threat from nefarious actors, as this number usually sits between 15-30% for most other sectors. There are a few reasons we’ve identified for this increase, including;

  • The large number of third-party online travel agencies (OTA’s) that scrape the data of airlines/hotel databases, and sell them on behalf of airlines and rentals. Some of these are authorised, some are not, meaning a lot of web traffic cannot be controlled or easily monitored by operators
  • The frequent use of high-value loyalty programmes which fraudsters often try and take advantage of
  • The many travel vendors who use apps and mobile experiences to reach their target customers. In a crowded market, a lot of operators aggressively drive installations of their apps, leaving them more susceptible to receiving bad quality traffic and misattribution, if they do so without adequate protection

Don’t just take our word for it. We asked our CEO, Mat Ratty, why fraud is so prevalent in the travel industry, he said, “Where there is money to be made, there will be fraudsters. This is prevalent across all digital channels. What we do know is that the online travel market and airline categories are hugely competitive. As such, a lot of budget is spent on searches which have expensive PPC keywords. There’s also a lot of programmatic campaigns with tailored messaging to consumers who have shown an interest in a particular airline or destination. These channels are rife with ad fraud.”

A note on apps…

As we mentioned, the number of travel vendors who use mobile apps to encourage users to make and manage bookings or browse offers is huge. There’s a lot of competition between these vendors, and ambitious apps know that leveraging multiple advertising channels is the key to boosting their user acquisition and one-upping the competition. Their marketing mix is extremely diverse, advertising across social channels, UAC (Google’s Universal App Campaigns), and advertising networks.

But this is where the fraudsters come in. The more channels engaged by a vendor, the higher the risk of fraud. The more fraud, the worse their advertising outcomes. The worse the outcomes, the more money thrown at the problem. And we soon find ourselves in a cycle of investing large amounts of money into channels delivering poor results because of IVT—levels of which can reach a shocking 50% of all traffic.

This is especially dangerous at peak times such as the holidays, as that advertising budget is at its highest. Travel vendors using mobile apps as part of their offering should absolutely look to prevent invalid traffic and ad fraud from affecting their campaigns.

In light of the dangers, what should travel vendors do?

Scary numbers aside, travel vendors can make proactive changes to their marketing campaigns to avoid being affected by seasonal surges in IVT and ad fraud. Follow these golden rules to ensure your conversions are high and your stress levels low this holiday season.


Golden rule one: Don’t shy away from big-budget campaigns.

So we may have spent the last five minutes telling you how at-risk your budget is, but that shouldn’t put you off exploring new marketing channels and upping your ad spend to compete at peak times. Scaling and user acquisition targets will never be met if advertisers live in fear of bots, so avoidance isn’t the answer. Utilise proper fraud prevention techniques and one-up your competitors by continuing to push high-spend campaigns when your audience is at its most receptive. In the wise words of Matt Sutton, our CRO, “Having a proper system in place will allow you to save your ad spend, and make sure that your advertisements reach the right audiences”.

Golden rule two: If you’re pushing your mobile app, don’t rely on your MMP for fraud prevention.

While mobile measurement partners (MMPs) are valuable tools for attributing clicks and measuring channel efficacy, trusting their attribution data alone leaves you open to key vulnerabilities. This is because conventional MMP fraud tools only operate at or after the app install attribution, not at the impression or click level, potentially distorting attribution data. MMPs lack the insight to identify invalid clicks or those from fraudulent sources, which can lead you to make marketing decisions based on incorrect data. At worst, you may be funnelling more money towards channels which are delivering a large amount of invalid traffic, money right into the pockets of fraudsters.

It’s particularly important for travel vendors who use mobile apps to utilise fraud prevention to ensure every click is properly attributed, and every last penny of ad spend is going towards landing new customers during peak times.

Golden rule three: Ahem… Use TrafficGuard!

Predictable, but true—layering TrafficGuard onto your holiday season campaigns is the best way to ensure only genuine users can click on your ads. By protecting your campaigns you can rest assured that your budget is being optimised, your data is clean, and you’re doing everything in your power to stay miles ahead of the competition during peak times in your industry.

We can’t promise that the holiday rush will be stress free, but using TrafficGuard will give you some extra peace of mind that your digital ads are driving conversions and giving you Q4 metrics to sing about. Happy days.

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