– By: Kerry Coppinger | Manager, Brand Marketing
When cybersecurity technology first went to market, it was considered something only information security officers, information technology leaders, and corresponding teams needed to concern themselves with.
It was commonly used by highly technical departments at the most advanced organizations. It was seen as technology that addressed the issues of confidential information leaks, network security issues, and other serious hacks.
However, over time organizations have come to realize that cybersecurity can serve additional purposes outside of just protecting the most classified materials from getting in the wrong hands.
Innovative departments that may have been previously intimidated by cybersecurity are starting to better understand its capabilities and can conceptualize how there might be potential for cybersecurity to proactively contribute to business objectives rather than just quietly protect confidential data. In recent years, forward-thinking Chief Marketing Officers and their teams have begun to implement cybersecurity measures to ensure campaign integrity, accurate resource use, improved optimization, and in many cases to even increase pipeline and revenue.
Throughout this article, we will cover how exactly cybersecurity can be used for marketing purposes, and why it’s time for smart go-to-market teams to add a cybersecurity solution to their technology stack. We’ll start by explaining the issues marketers face and where this type of tech can step in to help.
Studies show about 40% of internet traffic is invalid
Understanding that invalid traffic is so prevalent on the internet is the first step in realizing just how much this could influence go-to-market initiatives and overall business objectives. In order to better understand why addressing IVT is so important, we can start by describing the types of threats businesses typically encounter. Invalid traffic consists of various types of threats that can negatively impact a business.
Typically, they can be grouped into three broad categories: malicious activity, suspicious activity, and bots.
- Malicious Activity – As the name suggests, this type of internet activity is intentionally harmful. Malicious activity is carried out by users who have the goal of skewing data, stealing information, hacking into accounts, or imitating someone else for malicious purposes. Some common types of malicious activity are click farms or groups of workers for hire who continuously click on digital assets, competitors who repeatedly interact with your digital advertisements to drain you of your budget, and false representation or users who intentionally imitate other users by taking on their identity.
- Suspicious Activity – This category covers any activity that is potentially harmful, or raises red flags but is not necessarily malicious. A common example of this is users who hide behind proxies or Virtual Private Networks (VPN). Their identity cannot be confirmed, and their location could be skewed so their intentions are unclear. There are many reasons someone might choose to use a middle-man tool like a proxy and not all of them are malicious, but at the same time these tools make it easier to commit malicious or fraudulent activities. Regardless of intention though, users who hide their identity or commit other suspicious actions are not likely to convert into real paying customers and therefore classify as invalid.
- Bots – When many people think about invalid activity or invalid users, the first thing that comes to mind is a robot. While invalid activity consists of much more than just bots, as we previously discussed, bots are very common and exist on the internet for a variety of purposes. Bots fall into their own category and are different from malicious and suspicious users because they are not users at all, they are automated tools. However, we should keep in mind that there are some commonly known bots that exist for innocent purposes like some crawlers and scrapers than simply index content for search engines or scan a website for a specific piece of data. At the same time, there are other bots like spambots that can overwhelm your email account with malicious messages, or account takeover bots designed to hijack a user’s account and steal information. But whether a bot is a standard non-malicious known bot, or an intentionally harmful bot, none of them are real users and therefore are all invalid.
Invalid activity poses a serious threat to CMOs and marketing teams
Because invalid activity is so prevalent on the internet, and there are so many different types of threats, it follows that these activities impact all digital assets, and are more than just an information security concern. When considering marketing departments specifically, there are several ways invalid activity and fake users negatively impact initiatives. For simplicity’s sake, we can cover three of the key ways IVT impacts CMOs and marketing teams, and how addressing these issues could lead to additional untapped marketing success.
- Marketers are missing out on potential revenue.
No matter the size of the budget or team, marketers want to make the most of their resources and spend the most time and budget nurturing users who have the potential to become customers. However, if invalid users are making their way into your customer acquisition funnel, much of that budget can become wasted on non-legitimate users or bots that have not potential to convert. This is clearly an issue of resource misuse, but perhaps even more concerning is the actual potential revenue that teams could be missing out on because of this misdirection. By eliminating bots and fake users from your funnel, that budget is then freed up to be utilized toward real human users with intentions to buy. There is a good chance there are users on the internet who need what you’re selling, but they can’t find you because your marketing efforts are instead being used on invalid users.
- Audiences that marketers are targeting are polluted with invalid users.
One key way marketers target potential customers is by using a pre-set audience. This is common on nearly every advertising platform as a way to narrow down the vast group of users on the internet by demographics, locations, interests, and more. However, because the internet is polluted with invalid users, your audiences could easily be polluted as well. If you are targeting, and potentially retargeting your campaigns toward groups of audiences, but a portion of those audiences aren’t valid, that decreases the effectiveness of your campaign. This happens all too frequently to marketers without them knowing because they don’t have the tools to mitigate these risks and eliminate invalid users from their audiences and then replace them with additional valid users.
- Campaigns are optimizing toward invalid users.
Marketing campaigns typically optimize toward the type of users that frequently view digital campaigns, click on advertisements, and fill out website forms or download content from a given website. However, this high level of activity can sometimes come from invalid users. While there are some valid users who click on a bunch of ads, and download a lot of content, and fill out every form available, it is sometimes more typical of bots and fake users. If your campaigns identify these actions as positive, they could accidentally optimize toward additional invalid users. Before you know it, your campaign could become overrun with users who have no intention of converting into real customers and are misguiding future campaigns as well.
Where Customer Acquisition Security (CAS) comes into play
Since cybersecurity has historically been used only by very technical information security teams, new language and new technology has since emerged to specifically fit the needs of marketers and go-to-market teams. One of the key terms being used is Customer Acquisition Security, or CAS. CAS is an overarching strategy used by these teams to secure every aspect of their funnels from protecting advertising assets and organic marketing materials, to blocking invalid users from visiting a given website and interacting with content, to protecting conversion points and beyond. By prioritizing CAS and adapting cybersecurity for marketing purposes, teams are able to more easily and more accurately achieve their goals. Since almost half of the internet’s traffic is invalid, if assets are not protected then marketers are wasting valuable time, effort, and money on bots and fake users. By cleaning up all areas of marketing, it allows the brand to become more easily accessible to their target audience and produces both better results and more accurate data. The smartest CMOs are already adding CAS technology to their tech stacks, and companies of all sizes are starting to catch on.