Click fraud is also called organic poaching. Click spamming can lead to several types of fraudulent activities happening on an app or website. The spammers may send fake impressions or cause PPC click fraud by making it look like the viewer has engaged on the site and has converted.
It may sound unlikely, but PPC click fraud is a reality in the cybercrime world and it often goes unnoticed or gets overlooked due to unawareness. From the global perspective, it is noted every year that advertisers are victimized by click spamming causing them to lose major PPC ad budgets. Figures tell that marketers lose approximately $5.8 billion annually due to click fraud on PPC ads.
Stats predict that digital ad spend loss could reach $68 billion globally due to click fraud by the end of 2022. Losing revenue just after your ads were ready to go live is something worth preventing for a successful ad campaign. So, the question keeps niggling the advertisers, how to prevent click fraud from happening? However, before adopting preventive strategies, understanding PPC click fraud thoroughly is important.
Is Click Fraud Reality or Myth?
When advertisers plan an ad marketing campaign and it goes live on Google or any other advertising platform, each public click you earn costs you some money as well because applications charge you for PPC ad posting.
However, the winning side is when these clicks convert and let you earn a good revenue instead. In this way your call to action becomes successful and most of the people clicking the ads have genuine intent to make a purchase or oblige to whatever goal you have set for a certain ad.
The approximate rate of conversation for mobile ads on Google is around 3.5%. This often results in at least 30 actual sales happening for every 100 clicks people make on your posted ads. However, trouble arises when these 30 clicks are not organic in any way but a fraudulent practice to click-spam your ads. This is how click fraud on PPC ads is explained in simple terms and is a potential issue each marketer faces in the cyberworld.
As Google charges you for each click it doesn’t make sense to pay for clicks that aren’t even real. They are spamming your ad budget in vain. When you have a proper marketing plan in mind and you prepare for it and start implementing it with tedious efforts and substantial investment, you expect at least a decent ROI. Therefore, spending your allocated ad spend on something that does not provide any ROI is not worth it. Furthermore, PPC click fraud becomes a distinctive hurdle in reaching out with your ad message to the right audience.
Search engines would try their best to keep this at bay. Google also takes necessary measures to prevent click fraud from happening so that advertisers are not deceived by this subtle yet serious cyber offense. Competitors clicking on Google ads often go unnoticed until you start experiencing major ad spend loss.
Search engines are now trying to take matters into their hands and devising strategies to counter this issue. As PPC click fraud is quite elusive, it often remains hidden. Difficulty in unveiling the click fraud on PPC ads makes solving the issue quite cumbersome. Inability to make the right calculations and catch the dupe clicks increases the possibility of ad budget loss even more.
Types of Click Fraud
The whole click fraud dilemma can be understood by simply describing it as intentional clicks costing you a loss of PPC ad budget. But the question is why would people deceive you like this? What’s their motive and who’s the perpetrator?
The puzzle can be solved by sorting click fraud into two main types and analyzing them individually to understand it in depth.
Ad Publishers Click Fraud
The ad network involves three main characters:
- The advertising platform
- The ad creator
- The ad publisher
According to SEJ’s Global PPC Click Fraud Report 2021, false inflation of ad revenue seems to be prevalent in the ad community these days. Fraudulent clicks artificially boost the ad revenue and it affects almost 80% of the advertising accounts annually.
Publishers also get involved in this activity by deceiving the paid advertising sites owned by affiliate marketers. As the publishing site that is running your ad gets a portion of the ad cost paid to Google, each click generates more ad profit for the publisher.
In recent times, PPC click fraud has begun to appear on a larger spectrum and is becoming more serious than ever. Websites are difficult to trust these days and publishers should be chosen with care as well to avoid fake users and invalid traffic scams. An article by Forbes explains this in detail.
Corporate Competitors Click Fraud
Competition in the ad community is getting more intense than ever. Competitors clicking on Google ads intend to falsely inflate the ad revenue to keep other marketers in their comfort zone. You will think that your ad message is getting across to real people and competitors will be causing you a loss of ad budget eventually. Click fraud on your PPC ads will prevent real people from converting and your sales will decrease even while your ad impressions will keep increasing.
This could be a predatory business tactic to engage your competitors in something that doesn’t provide them with any ROI. To let them invest in ad campaigns without a fruitful revenue in return. However, there is a limit to even corporate adversity. Taking things a step further by ensuring fraudulent clicks keep competitors at a continuous loss doesn’t seem like a decent competitive strategy.
However, the benefit they would reap by doing this fulfills two main motives:
- Providing false clicks to the competitors without a chance of a conversion.
- Spending ad budget of competitors rapidly to thwart active competition later.
The high quality of clicks ensures a higher ad score. This is why if the clicks are useless they impact negatively on your ad score.
When you earn clicks, automatically you lose some cost per click according to the amount you have set willingly as your CPC budget. When the ad score decreases, you lose the opportunity to show your ads more often and the ad visibility gets affected. At the same time, your CPC increases and you get a higher cost for each click that happens.
How to Check the if Your Website is Affected by Click Fraud?
Interpretation of ad impressions and advertising data is key to a fruitful PPC strategy. Upping your advertising game by figuring out the click fraud on PPC ads is highly important to ensure success. Data interpretation and website stats analysis help achieve that. Click-spamming malware is difficult to spot. As fraudsters have become more sophisticated, bots are difficult to detect and track.
To understand whether click fraud is genuinely affecting your website, you have to find out the origin of earned clicks and web traffic sources. To prevent click fraud from happening, first, you have to collect relevant data including:
- Timestamps of clicks
- Timestamps of action
- User agents such as web browsers and device type, etc.
The traffic source details will help you detect whether multiple clicks are coming from the same IP or are unique in origin. This way you will identify which click will lead to actual action and which ad impression is recorded in vain.
If the clicks happen from the same IP having a click timestamp without an action time stamp, it calls for suspicious behavior and requires careful monitoring. Also, user agent spoofing must be identified to ensure further safety. The IP addresses and their origin can be checked on this website: www.whatismyip.com
Even though click fraudsters disguise themselves with sophisticated strategies and hide sensitive data, interpreting the above-mentioned data will give you some clues to justify your suspicions regarding PPC click fraud and rule them out.
You can also investigate further and contact Google to report the issue officially. The moment something seems suspicious while you interpret your data, you should start paying immediate attention. However, this awareness comes once you become more experienced in PPC advertising.
Click Fraud – Why is it Crucial to Address it?
PPC is just a portion of a larger ad network. If you have chosen this type of advertising out of several ad marketing options out there, you just have its benefits in mind. As PPC ads offer considerable revenue it happens to be a go-to choice for marketers. However, if this revenue gets lost due to click fraud you will have no ROI left at the end of the day.
In contrast, unfortunately, your competitors get to benefit from your loss whether they perpetuated click fraud or not.
Google and other search engines must install preventive mechanisms to avoid this malpractice. The prevention of click fraud on PPC ads will not only help increase their customers but will also build more trust among the advertisers and publishers. No one wants fake clicks to affect their ad budget. Whoever is getting affected by it should make sure it doesn’t happen. The ad data you collect should be believable so that you see actual conversions happening. Your campaign data impressions ensure your ad spend is being utilized correctly and wisely. Your message is getting across the right traffic and your marketing efforts are not being wasted.
According to PPC Protect Solution offering SaaS service to PPC marketers to detect digital ad fraud, more than 10% of paid search clicks and 35% of display ad clicks are fake resulting in artificial inflation of the ad revenue. The stats suggest that ad fraud is something hard to ignore these days and is very important to get rid of.
How to Avoid PPC Click Fraud?
Whether it’s targeting specific, high-value sites for display ads, purchasing software that generates detailed referral reports, keeping an eye out for competitors clicking on Google ads, or tracking invalid clicks, click fraud detection seems like a tedious task indeed. However, these simple steps may help limit the risk significantly.
6 Simple Steps to Avoid Click Fraud
There is no hard and fast rule to prevent click fraud completely but there are certain techniques to avoid it consciously. The impact can be limited by eliminating suspicious click activities.
Following steps can be followed to narrow down click fraud’s impact on PPC ads.
1. Learn to run Display Ads Properly
PPC Protect claims that display ads are prone to click fraud more often than search ads. Competitors clicking on Google ads are likely to be less than click fraud targeted on PPC ads on the display area of a website. How to prevent click fraud on display ads remains questionable until you think about how you run them in your publishing space.
As publisher ad fraud also comes into the equation once you talk about display ads, vulnerability is higher here. However, you can control your display ads far better than search ads, and retargeting them seems like a good option.
Focus on ad retargeting by making them visible to the chosen audience. You can avoid click fraud on PPC ads by retargeting them to the past visitors only. This will ensure real conversion. Chances of real action being happening also increase as recurring customers are more reliable than wandering ones.
It also means that publishers will be unable to see these display ads and won’t be able to click them.
Retargeting is an intelligent way of running display ads and managing them. Targeting the customers with a call to action at the right moment ensures quick conversion. People returning to your site and leaving a purchase incomplete with a filled cart halfway may be irritating at first. However, retargeting helps utilize ads to your advantage and motivates customer return by displaying specific ad product chunks. It also helps prevent PPC click fraud or competitors clicking on Google ads fraudulently.
2. Google Ads IP Exclusions Setting
Blocking certain IP addresses that seem suspicious can be a way to eliminate fraudulent clicks. Through Google Ads, these IP addresses can be excluded. After identifying your data you can choose to stop displaying your ads to these fake IPs.
- Go to the settings tab in your Google Ads account interface.
- Choose IP Exclusions and then identify those IP addresses as fraudulent.
Understanding how to prevent click fraud leads to the detection of several suspicious indicators requiring elimination. That is why spotting the exact root of trouble becomes difficult. However, even if not a fool-proof strategy this step will lead to exclusion of the majority of fake IPs carrying out click fraud on PPC ads.
3. Take Social Media Ads into Consideration
Social media ads are more visual and contain graphical representations of data mostly. Thus, they are less visible on search engines and can’t be searched based on keywords easily.
Known social media handles such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. contain massive public records and you can use this information to your advantage.
While planning your targeted ad campaign, you can collect and analyze public information and target your ads to the right audience accordingly. This will decrease the PPC click fraud chances and will help achieve improved ROI on your digitally paid ads.
4. Give Attention to Ad Targeting
To make click fraud on PPC ads less prevalent, you have to focus on ad targeting.
Click farms with user-agent spoofing and artificial bots tend to attack sites with fake clicks. By regional exclusions and specific-countries elimination, you can limit the risk of PPC click fraud. Mostly, in poor countries, click farms are present in saturation and fraudsters are on the lookout for illegal sources of income. Therefore, targeting your ads to specific countries helps prevent click fraud on PPC ads.
As an ad creator and marketer, your mission is to convert your audience once your ad message reaches them. You want to prepare them for signing up for your product and you are calling them for active action. Therefore, it is more important than ever to target your ads to real people with real intent to buy. Your audience should not be fake bots. Tailoring your ads according to demographics helps focus your target more making it difficult for the competitors to fraudulently click on Google ads inside your demographic ad spectrum.
To emphasize it again, it must be understood that the question, “how to prevent click fraud completely?” remains intact. However, these discussed steps can lessen the blow and improve your ad revenue considerably.
As the ads on SMM platforms eliminate third-party publisher interference, your ads become a tad bit safer. You can prevent publishers click fraud on your PPC ads while displaying them through your social media accounts.
5. Competitors Monitoring
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Always keep yourself a step ahead of your competitors. Keep an eye out on competitors clicking on Google ads intending to click-spam your PPC ad spend. There are software offering reports on your ad keywords being used in the search engines. This could be an indicator of competitors stalking your ads and clicking them fraudulently. Fraud detection services such as Ad Watcher, ClickForensics, and ClickDefence offer trial versions to generate click tracking reports. SourceForge is another open-source platform for fraud detection.
Trying and testing won’t hurt and for a positive result, it’s all worth it. It’s high time you start shielding your ad campaign from malicious competitors clicking on Google ads with destructive intent.
6. Using Anti-Click Fraud Protective SaaS Solution
Several SaaS providers are offering solutions for fraud protection. Major protection companies include but are not limited to, ClickCease, PPC Shield, ClickGUARD, Oracle, CHEQ, Clixtell, etc. This prevention software tracks your ad impressions and monitors significant ad data. Using signature methods and detective algorithms to identify fraudulent activities, they mark the fake clicks from suspicious sources as quarantine.
These protective services are mostly cloud-based these days and can be purchased as freeware too. These solutions for a basic package tend to cost $50 approximately per month and are cost-effective too.
The thing to consider before choosing to invest in PPC click fraud protective solutions is the scale of your ad campaign. Also, you must identify first the need for purchasing the service. Whether you are getting affected by click fraud on your PPC ads or not. It’s equally important to select the right sort of service and then to take full advantage of it as well to improve your ad revenue and recover ad spend lost quickly.
Click fraud is an intricate cyber offense that could be the culprit behind all your ad spend loss. Even though search engines like Google have been busy tracking those illegitimate clicks and refunding you for them, the problem hasn’t been nipped in the bud yet. The question remains on the back burner still that how to prevent click fraud completely. Nothing seems like a perfect solution and the quest goes on. In this case, experts recommend a proactive approach and prevention seems better than the cure.
Paid ads are a sophisticated marketing approach and require fine-tuning. You have to generate proper ROI to redeem your ad spend and gain profit from your PPC ads. If click fraud on PPC ads keeps happening, you don’t stand a chance against fraudsters.
Spending hours creating something worth advertising for and investing time in creating the most amazing ad copy, then losing all that to a bunch of fraudulent competitors clicking on Google ads doesn’t seem fair at all. It’s time to turn on the defensive mode and protect your ROI.