You’ve worked hard to perfect your ad campaign, create action-inducing landing pages, and win sales. Your ads have just gone live, but there’s one big problem: People are out there clicking your ads over and over with absolutely no intention of buying anything.
It sounds dramatic, but click fraud is something advertisers should be aware of (advertisers lose around $5.8 billion a year globally), and it can make a difference to the success of your ads.
What Is Click Fraud?
When you run a PPC ad on Google or any other platform, you pay every time someone clicks your ad. If you’re doing your job well, you should expect a good number of those clicks to convert into a sale (or whatever your goal is).
For mobile ads on Google, the average conversion rate is 3.48 percent, so you might reasonably expect to make three sales for every ten clicks you get. What happens if people start clicking your ad with absolutely no intention of making a purchase or engaging with your site, though?
This is what’s known as click fraud, and it can be a problem for advertisers.
If people (or bots) are fraudulently clicking on your ads, then it can mean you’re paying for clicks that aren’t real. This can use up your daily ad spend, meaning you never reach your target audience with your message.
Surely Google and the other search engines can’t let this happen?
Click fraud is something the search engines have begun to take more seriously, and they have put systems in place to combat it. The problem is click fraud is very difficult to spot, so it’s not a perfect science, and it’s still possible people are out there clicking your ads and using up your ad budget.
Types of Click Fraud
Click fraud is very simple: Someone clicks on your PPC ads with the intention of costing you money. Why are people doing this and what’s in it for them?
There are two main types of click fraud.
Click Fraud by Competitors
Wouldn’t it be great if your competitors spent a whole load of money on something and got nothing in return?
Of course, we wouldn’t mind if this happened, but some companies and individuals are taking things a step further by ensuring this happens.
Your competitors stand to gain from fraudulently clicking your ads in two ways.
Firstly, it means you’re paying for clicks that have no chance of converting, and secondly, it means you’re blowing your daily ad spend much more quickly. This means there’s less competition for when they run their ads later in the day.
These low-quality clicks may also impact your ad score, meaning your ad gets shown less often and your CPC goes up.
Click Fraud by Publishers
Your competitors benefit from click fraud by hurting you, but there’s also another player in this equation who stands to benefit directly from clicking your ad: the publisher.
If you’re running display ads (ads on third-party websites), then the publisher gets paid a percentage of what you pay Google for each click. More clicks on your ads equals more revenue for the publisher.
Not every website out there is perfectly trustworthy, and there have been some stories of ad fraud on a big scale in recent years.
How to Tell If Click Fraud Is Affecting Your Website
A big part of being successful with PPC is being able to interpret data. This is how you fine-tune your PPC strategy and it’s also a way of figuring out if click fraud is affecting your website.
To tell if you’re experiencing ad fraud, you need to see what’s happening once people click your ad, and where those clicks are coming from. To do this, you need to collect:
- IP addresses
- click time stamps
- action time stamps
This information will help you to identify large numbers of clicks that might be coming from the same person without ever leading to action.
If you see lots of clicks from the same IP address, where there’s a click time stamp, but no action time stamp, then it might raise some suspicion. You can then check the IP address on a website like www.whatismyip.com to see where that click is coming from.
While people who are carrying out sophisticated click fraud have ways of hiding important information, this can give you a clue as to whether you’re being targeted.
If you do have suspicions, then it’s always worth contacting Google and reporting the issue so they can look into it further. As always, the clues are in the data, so if you’re experienced with PPC and something seems off with your numbers, then it’s always worth investigating.
Why It’s Important to Eliminate Click Fraud
You’ve got many options when it comes to advertising and you’ve chosen PPC because it offers you a certain ROI. But if you’re suffering from click fraud, then you’re not going to see the return on your investment.
What’s worse is that your competitors (whether it’s them carrying out the click fraud or not) are likely benefiting.
It’s important Google and the other search engines have mechanisms in place to stop click fraud because they want advertisers to keep using their platform without having to worry about “fake” clicks. You’re the one who’s taking the hit for this, so it’s in your interest to make sure it’s not happening.
You need to trust your campaign data to make the most of your ad spend and see conversions, and this is why click fraud is a consideration for many advertisers. According to PPC Protect, 11 percent of all paid search clicks and 36 percent of display ads clicks are fraudulent, so it’s not something to ignore.
5 Steps to Prevent Click Fraud
Click fraud can be difficult to detect, but there are some steps you can take to help prevent it. There’s no surefire way of eliminating click fraud, but if you’re conscious of it, then you can limit its impact.
Here are five steps you can take to limit the impact of click fraud on your PPC ads.
1.Set Up IP Exclusions in Google Ads
If you’ve been through your data and decided that certain IP addresses are clicking your ads fraudulently, then you can block them through Google Ads. This will mean your ads aren’t shown to the IP addresses you’ve identified as fraudulent.
In your Ads account, go to the settings tab and choose IP exclusions.
This might be a way to spot some click fraud on your ads, but some of these operations are quite sophisticated, so it’s not a fool-proof method.
2. Think About How You Run Display Ads
According to PPC Protect, display ads are much more susceptible to click fraud. This makes sense because you’ve got the added element of publisher click fraud, which isn’t present with search ads.
You have control over how your display ads are shown, though, and one option is to focus on retargeting.
If you’re running retargeting ads, then they’re only visible to people who have visited your website in the past. This means the publisher won’t be able to see your ads on their site and isn’t able to keep clicking them.
Retargeting is an excellent way of targeting your audience at different stages of the customer journey, and it also has the added bonus of making it more difficult to click your ads fraudulently.
3. Concentrate on Ad Targeting
The more targeted your ads are, the more successful they’re likely to be. It’s also likely to make them less susceptible to click fraud.
Many of the click farms are concentrated in specific locations (generally low-income countries), so you might limit your risk by excluding these countries (and languages) from your targeting.
You want to get your ads in front of people who will take action, so it’s important you’re targeting your ads toward your audience. Not only might focusing your attention on a smaller geographic area make your ads more effective, but it might make it more difficult for people to click them fraudulently.
Again, this isn’t a science, and it’s very difficult to stop click fraud completely (if Google could, it would), but by following good PPC steps, you can improve your ROI while protecting yourself at the same time.
4. Focus on Social Media Ads
Social media ads are much less keyword-based than paid ads on search engines. This makes it much more difficult for people to type in a keyword and see your ad.
Platforms like Facebook have so much information on their users, which means it’s possible to be very targeted with the people you reach. This reduces the chance of click fraud and allows you to get a better return on your paid ads.
Unlike with display ads, social media platforms don’t have third-party owners either, so this eliminates publisher click fraud, making your ads that little bit safer.
5. Use Click Fraud Protection Software
There are lots of different providers of click fraud protection services. Companies such as ClickCease, Oracle, CHEQ, and PPC Shield monitor your ads using algorithms to detect fraud, quarantining fraudulent clicks.
These solutions tend to cost around $50 a month for a basic package and can save you money.
Whether you choose to invest in this kind of protection will depend on the scale of your PPC campaigns and if you think you’re suffering from click fraud. The nice thing is if these platforms work, then you should quickly start to see the results in your data.
You’re not tied in to anything, so it’s worth testing these out and seeing if they make a difference for your campaigns.
tldr; How to Prevent Click Fraud
There are some simple steps you can take to prevent click fraud. This is a complicated issue and no fix is a magic bullet, but these steps can help you spot click fraud on your ads and limit its impact on your PPC.
Set up IP exclusions on Google Ads
If you’ve analyzed your data and believe certain IP addresses to be fraudulently clicking your ads, then you can add them to an exclusion list in Google Ads.
Think about how you run display ads
A big part of click fraud is publishers clicking on your ads on their website. If you focus on retargeting with your display ads, then publishers are less likely to see your ads.
Concentrate on ad targeting
Focus on your target audiences and tighten your net as much as possible. The more people your ad gets shown to outside of your target audience, the more it’s likely to grab the attention of fraudsters.
Consider social media ads
Social media ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram are less keyword-focused, meaning they’re harder to search for. With intelligent targeting, these platforms still give you bang for your buck, they’re just harder for fraudsters to find.
Use click fraud protection software
If you believe click fraud is costing you big money, then it makes sense to invest in protecting your ads. Keep an eye on your analytics and evaluate whether protection software improves your ROAS.
Click fraud is a complicated issue that could be affecting your PPC ads.
While Google and the other search engines are taking action to prevent click fraud and refund you for illegitimate clicks, it’s not a perfect science. This is why it’s sometimes worth taking a proactive approach to ensure you’re getting the most out of your PPC.
PPC is all about fine margins. When you’re paying for every click, you need to make sales to see a return on your investment, but if you keep getting fraudulent clicks, then this just isn’t possible.
What’s your approach to click fraud?