Ad fraud is a huge problem for anyone running a PPC campaign. No matter the scope of your ad campaign, the effects of ad fraud can be devastating, and may include blown budgets, compromised data, and more.
Just how common is ad fraud, exactly? Studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of all clicks on PPC ads are caused by click fraud. If anything, we believe that to be a conservative estimate.
The good news is that there are ways to identify and address ad fraud. An important first step is acknowledging that ad fraud takes many different forms, and thus calls for many different methods of detection and prevention.
6 Common Types of PPC Ad Fraud
Bots account for an extraordinarily high percentage of all Internet traffic. Not all bots are created equal, and advertisers need to be on high alert to the malicious bots that mimic real human behavioral patterns across different online applications. Because they so convincingly mirror the workflows of real humans, these bad bots often carry out click fraud.
Bad bots can carry out repetitive tasks, including initiating fake clicks, at a really fast rate. Because they can accrue so many fake clicks in such a short span of time, they can absolutely devastate a PPC budget. In short, bad bots inflate the cost of PPC campaigns, making it hard for advertisers to remain in the black
2) Click farms
The basic premise behind click farms is pretty simple. Just imagine a big room full of people, all hunkered in front of computers or smartphones. Now imagine that all of these people are being paid modest sums of money, just to keep clicking on PPC ads over and over again. The intention? Driving up clickthrough rates while devastating PPC budgets.
Click farms are especially common in countries where the advertising industry isn’t very well-regulated. Because of this, it’s really pretty difficult to do anything about click farms.
3) Data center traffic
Fraudsters can get a lot of use out of data centers, as well as hosting providers. These centers provide the infrastructure that is necessary to carry out fraud schemes: Anonymity, high-bandwidth networks, and more.
There are a number of ways in which fraudsters can weaponize data centers; often, they use the existing infrastructure to launch malware or automated software. There is also evidence of fraudsters using cloud data centers to run emulators and browsers, basically generating massive amounts of online traffic. Needless to say, all this artificially generated traffic can throw a wrench into your PPC campaign, and also compromise the integrity of any data you collect from it.
4) Click spamming
By click spamming, we basically mean the practice of flooding ads with fraudulent clicks, all with the intention of draining PPC budgets. Click spamming specifically involves fraudsters executing clicks for real users who have not actually made clicks on their own. How does this happen? Basically, click spamming takes place when a user opens a mobile page or an app where the fraudster is already lurking. This allows the fraudster to make fake clicks in the background, among other nefarious actions, all of which can wreck your PPC campaign
This is a form of ad fraud in which the fraudster tries to conceal the location of their clicks. Of course, advertisers usually spend more or less money advertising in certain locations, depending on the strategic value of that location to their campaign.
Basically, geomasking amounts to fraudsters tricking advertisers into thinking that a click is more valuable than it really is. As you can imagine, this is yet another way in which click fraud can sap a PPC budget, and also mess up data collection.
6) Former employees or current unhappy employees
Here’s one final example of how click fraud can occur. When a current or former unhappy employee learns about how much it can cost you for each PPC ad, they may click on your ads just to get back to you. Google usually tends not to charge you for all the clicks, but they will probably charge you for the first few. And if you are in a competitive industry, let’s say personal injury where you can pay up to $800 a click, then that can be quite damaging to your business and finances.
How to Detect Click Fraud
Have you been sabotaged by click fraud? There are several common warning signs for advertisers to be aware of. Some of the most typical red flags for click fraud include:
- Large, sudden spike in PPC clicks
- Big peaks in clicks without any surge in conversation rates
- Traffic coming in from odd or unexpected geographies
- Decrease in page views, even with an increase in clicks
- Increase in bounce rate, even with an increase in clicks
What to Do About Click Fraud
When it comes to preventing click fraud, there are a number of strategies to consider:
- Use Google Ads to block the activity from bad bots, click farms, etc. With its invalid click detection filter, Google can block bad IP addresses. This is an imperfect solution, and some bad clicks will still trickle through, but it can minimize the damage done.
- Rely on PPC platforms that can monitor your campaign for click fraud, blocking any troublesome IPs or fraudster publishing campaigns.
- Make sure you filter out all internal IP addresses from your office, and if your employees work from home, ask for their IP address too so you can filter it out of your Google Ads accounts. Further, when they are leaving, especially on bad terms, make sure they agree not to engage in any activity that will hurt you. Make it clear that you are willing to take legal action if necessary to prevent click fraud.
Questions about detecting or preventing click fraud? We’d love to help. Schedule a call with experts Sefati & Company to discuss if PPC campaign goals and how we can help you get there.