How to Identify & Eliminate Click Fraud in Your Adwords Account
As the saying goes, ‘the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one‘ – yes, click fraud is real and you need to understand the term before you become a victim of it.
In this article/
- What is click fraud?
- Who are the click fraudsters?
- What is the impact of click fraud?
- How does Google detect click fraud in Adwords?
- What makes an ad ‘invalid’?
- How to make a slight difference
What is Click Fraud?
Click fraud is the act of multiple illegal clicks on PPC (pay-per-click) ads to increase website revenue or make an advertiser run out of their budget. The source could be a person or a computer program that repeatedly clicks on ads with a particular objective or goal to achieve. In a broader picture, this can seriously harm conversion rates and advertising budgets for online business entities.
It is imperative to understand that click fraud is quite different from invalid clicks – as invalid clicks are in most cases not deliberate and do have the intention to make a purchase. Whilst the legal implications of this is blurry, it certainly is not an ideal facet of the marketing and advertising ecosystem.
Who are the Click Fraudsters?
This is something that a lot of businesses continually invest in these days, just so that they know why they are being targeted and by who.
Most of the time, this could be a result of a negative business practice being carried out by your competitor. According to experts, if a competitor clicks on your online advertisements in an attempt to increase the amount that you pay for the search terminology, you might be in serious trouble as it can actually push you out of the market in the longer run.
Sometimes marketers do not know or do not have enough data visibility to monitor their advertisements online. As a result, the ad publishers might take advantage of it and benefit from paid search advertising through this illegal act.
The End User or Customer:
At times, your end customer might also engage in an activity that is quite similar to that of click fraud. Although not intentional or deliberate, the customer might be trying to visit a specific website through an online advertisement instead of a direct URL visit or via a search engine. This could alert the search engines and be deemed as a fraudulent activity nevertheless.
What is the Impact of Click Fraud?
According to Click Guardian stats, in 2016, an estimated 7.2 Billion dollars (5.4 Billion pounds) was lost to click fraud. In 2017, this amount increased to 16.7 Billion dollars (12.7 Billion pounds). There is a visible and alarming upward trend as far as this phenomenon is concerned. This amounts to a staggering 227% increase in the amount lost to click fraud over just two years.
Taking that into consideration, yes, the impact is enormous. With all the new digital marketing touchpoints and a constant increase in global online buying and selling trends, it becomes challenging for search engines to identify click fraud. As soon as the threat of fraudulent activity is somewhat contained to some extent, the emergence of a new digital marketing trend reactivates the threat that needs to be worked upon once again.
According to experts, platforms such as Google Ads or Bing Ads face enormous challenges in identifying and eliminating click fraud on a regular basis, mainly due to the fact that they cannot let user accessibility be adversely affected by their anti-click fraud programs.
How Does Google Detect Click Fraud in Adwords?
Since this type of fraud first surfaced over the internet a long time ago, search engines have been continually coming up with ways and techniques to tackle this. In the digital era we live and with all the technology easily accessible to the ones with harmful intentions or motives, click fraud detection can become a real challenge.
Amongst all the search engines, Google is considered to have the best program that deals with click fraud in Adwords. Well, not really a click fraud to them as they label it as ‘invalid clicks’, as according to Google, not all clicks are fraudulent and terming it as an invalid click, eliminates the confusion whether an ad-click activity was meant to be a fraud or not.
The system they have in place is primarily based on a concept that revolves around algorithms that constantly detect and filter out invalid clicks in real-time. A 24/7/365 Google Ad Traffic Quality Team is tasked with monitoring and removal of all suspicious activities related to this. With a robust combination of manual tests and offline analysis being conducted round the clock, they do eliminate a large number of fraudulent clicks constantly. As soon as an ad is termed fraudulent, Google labels it as ‘invalid’ and the user is credited back with the same amount.
Whilst steps are being taken, it is clear the industry still has much ground to cover, with hundreds of fraudulent apps being routinely removed from Google Play, and the infamous Singh versus Google lawsuit, regarding Singh’s allegations of click fraud on the Google Display Network.
What Makes an Ad ‘Invalid’?
Although Google’s mechanism of identifying invalid clicks has never been made public, however, a lot of experts say that the significant factors that play a role are:
- IP Address
- Device ID
- Time/Day of the Activity
One thing that Google has is information. Plenty of it actually. They use this to their advantage to extract trends and make predictions from users’ campaign data and how other ads are behaving within similar contexts. This helps to identify whether an ad is real or not.
How Can You Make a Slight Difference?
Needless to say, Google is doing a lot, but it is certainly not enough. If you have a Google Ads account and you feel that you are a victim of click fraud, well, this might be the right time to do something about it rather than only relying on what Google will do for you.
Here are some ways you can identify and reduce invalid clicks:
- Choose Single Platform Only: This is one of the easier steps that you can take right away. If you decide to post your ads only on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, this means the ads will only show on the selected platform. A large number of potential threats are eliminated since they cannot penetrate or find a way to reach your ads. Moreover, since most paid social media advertisements are keyword specific, those spam and malicious competitors will also find it hard to find your ad placement.
- Ban Specific IP Addresses: Using your Google Ads account, now you can monitor the traffic you receive and the IPs through which that traffic originates. If you know for a fact that specific IPs are not genuine, you can place them under the ‘blocked IP addresses’ list and your ads won’t be shown to that IP addresses in future. Websites such as ‘whatismyip.com’ and ‘whatismyipaddress.com’ can come in quite handy to help you get more information on a specific IP address.
- GDN Remarketing: A large number of illegal clicks coming from the publisher can be tackled by remarketing the ads as they only appear to those who show interest in the first place. The publishers won’t be able to do anything about the ad as it wouldn’t appear at their end in the first place.
- Narrow Down Your Target Audience: At times, you might feel that certain geographic or demographic factors are playing a pivotal role in generating unwanted or non-potential traffic to your ads. All you need to do is to exclude those locations and languages to decrease the number of invalid clicks on your ads.
- Optimize Your Keywords: You know what your product is about and who needs it. This directly means that you know your keywords, too. So why not make your keywords better so that you only get potential buyers of your product viewing your ads and not someone who might not even know what your business model is about?
- Use Google Analytics to Full Effect: Google Analytics is a powerful tool when it comes to monitoring traffic on your account. You can have updated insights on your account activity at any given time.
Click Fraud in a Nutshell
Even with all the precautionary measures you take to eliminate or also reduce click fraud activity on your account, there won’t be a perfect scenario whatsoever. To get better results from your PPC campaigns, all you can do is to stay up-to-date with all the new ways and techniques to counter the click fraud attempts. And how you can take necessary actions to minimize the negative impact it possibly can have on your business.
Remember, Google is all about sharing information. Any illegal activity that you can report or share with Google will eventually help in making the system more efficient and reliable.