Google pushes out updates on its publisher ad platforms to help tackle domain spoofing

Google has released global updates on AdSense and DoubleClick aimed at helping publishers stop the sale of fake ad inventory.

Google pushes out updates on its publisher ad platforms to help tackle domain spoofing

These updates are largely aimed at tackling the problem of domain spoofing. While not a new problem, it has come to the fore of late due to outing of the "Methbot" which spoofed more than 6,000 publishers in the US and generated $5m (£3.76m) in fraudulent revenue per day.

Domain spoofing works by selling inventory with the URL of a premium website but the truth is the inventory is fed to a less than reputable website.

Recently, for example, the Financial Times found inventory for its video content on exchanges. The catch? The FT never released said inventory for programmatic exchange. Its domain was being spoofed. 

To address this, the IAB Tech Lab is encouraging publishers to publish an ads.txt on their websites. This is a simple text document that lists all the authorised digital sellers for a publisher's inventory. Advertisers can find these lists at publisherssite.com/ads.txt and check the inventory they're buying against it.

Google is supportive of this initiative. Recently, DoubleClick Bid Manager announced it would only buy a publishers' inventory from sources identified as authorised sellers in it ads.txt file when a file is available.

Today, it is pushing out three further updates to support ads.txt. 

First, AdSense will display ads.txt alerts in its user interface to let publishers know if we identify errors in their ads.txt file.

Next, by the end of October, DoubleClick for Publishers will include an ads.txt generator and validator to help publishers create their initial ads.txt file and correct and modify their existing ads.txt files.

And finally, by the end of the year, DoubleClick Ad Exchange and AdSense will filter unauthorised inventory, as identified by a publisher’s ads.txt file, from our auction.

Publishers must be proactive

While ads.txt adoption has been strong, with Google's ads.txt crawler locating files from more than 11,000 URLs, major publishers aren't leading the way. So far, only 252 of comScore's 1,000 publishers have put out ads.txt files, Google reported. 

"The broader the adoption of ads.txt, the faster we’ll be able to help prevent the sale and purchase of counterfeit inventory and foster a fair and safe market for publishers to grow their businesses," Pooja Kapoor, Google's head of global strategy, programmatic and ecosystem health, wrote in a statement.

Keeping unsuitable ads off of publisher sites

Google has also pushed out two new controls in DoubleClick to allow publishers to block sensational, tabloid-style ads and racy, suggestive ads from their sites.

According to Kapoor, Google has recently made changes that "significantly improves" the accuracy and quality of its automated creative filters. 

"Helping publishers create sustainable businesses and continue to grow is core to our mission," she added. "That cannot happen without a healthy advertising ecosystem. By helping to stop the sale and purchase of counterfeit inventory, and giving publishers the controls to prevent unsuitable and unsafe ads from appearing next to their content, we hope to make it easier for our partners to succeed."