7 Techniques for Beating Lead Fraud

A few months back I wrote about lead quality and offered a few best practices. This is an issue that is very important to me – so I was honored to be asked to participate in a panel, “Maximizing your Lead Generation: Best Practices” at the IAB Leadership Forum: Performance Marketing on March 14th in Chicago. I will be joined by some of the key thought leaders in lead generation marketing.

None of the issues we are grappling with today are new — the online lead generation marketplace has been plagued by data quality issues for years. A key driver of poor quality has been the persistent focus on maximizing publisher revenue at any expense. This has led to problematic practices like pre-checked boxes, multiple offers per page, lead reselling and spinning. These practices, in turn, create consumer confusion – they sign up for stuff they don’t really want.

Because it was hard to quantify these problems and marketing dollars were abundant, many were content to ignore them all together. But that’s changing. Recently I have been hearing more and more about lead fraud, and the potential for it to dramatically change the marketplace. Everyone must focus on quality to keep this industry growing and thriving.

Marc Diana, CEO of LeadPoint, wrote a post on his blog about the black cloud of fraud in lead generation. Marc believes as I do that fraud is the next big challenge facing our industry, and that the battle will happen along two fronts: systems for lead verification and indemnification. In this post I focus on lead verification.

Lead aggregators such as LeadPoint and the Postmaster Network are fighting the battle to verify leads on a variety of fronts. Why are aggregators such an important line of defense against lead fraud? Because the current tactics for verifying leads are expensive. Economies of scale are necessary to support the investment in technology.

Here’s a peek at techniques that Return Path is either using today or quickly developing to verify the leads we send to advertisers:

  1. Matching IP data against postal information submitted. If someone says they live in U.S., but the IP is in Germany, we filter them out. On the other hand, if the IP matches the state and city filled in the address field then we know that data is very likely to be accurate.
  2. Matching zip code with city. We consider it a red flag if these two fields don’t line up.
  3. Validating an email address. First we look at the syntax of an email address; verifying that the @ symbol and dot are in the right places. We also send an email to check for bounces. For an added measure of verification we ask for a confirmation from consumer in the email. This last step obviously depresses lead volume, but substantially increases quality.
  4. Validating the phone number provided: First we look up the area code to check for match with city. Unfortunately, cell phone area codes can’t be verified this way. So, we can work with third party service provider such as Targus Info or Tower Data, to look up phone numbers and check addresses for a match. They can do this type of matching for businesses, cell phones and home phones.
  5. Verifying that the person resides at the address provided as indicated on the phone record.
  6. De-duping leads against each other to make sure you are not sending multiple leads from the same person.
  7. Removing leads that are obviously bogus – because they have bad words or random strings of characters, for example [email protected] or [email protected] We also maintain a suppression file of serial complainers so that our advertisers don’t pollute their list.

These techniques are just the beginning, but they represent important steps forward in minimizing and ultimately eliminating lead fraud. If you are an advertiser, you should insist that your lead provider employ these tactics to ensure the quality of your leads.

If you are publisher and you can’t provide this level of verification on the leads you collect, consider working with a top-tier aggregator who can help you better generate revenue without contributing to lead fraud.

And, if you are planning to attend the IAB Leadership Forum, be sure to stop by my panel and say hello.

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