Have you ever felt like you’re not getting the most from your paid search budget? Well, the chances are you’re probably right!
Unknown to many PPC marketers, there is a hidden enemy out there that hides in the shadows and quietly wastes your ad budget. And when you finally realize what’s happened, it’s often too late!
In this article, I’ll be showing you the dark world of pay per click marketing and how millions of advertisers are losing money to fraud. Known simply as click fraud I’ll also be highlighting how it affects you, and what you can do to fight back.
First things first, what is this mysterious click fraud and why should you care?
How to Defend Your PPC from Click Fraud?
What Is Click Fraud?
You’ve probably heard of credit card fraud, but when it comes to click fraud, the chances are you’re raising your eyebrows reading this.
To explain it simply, click fraud is a type of ad fraud that defrauds advertisers from their precious ad spend across various pay per click networks. This can be anything from Google Ads to Facebook Ads, Twitter, Instagram and many more platforms.
If you want a more technical definition of click fraud, then it can be defined as:
- The fraudulent clicking of pay per click adverts to generate fraudulent charges for advertisers.
As you probably know, when it comes to pay per click networks, advertisers are billed on every click they receive. But what happens when it’s the same person clicking their ads repeatedly?
They still get charged for those clicks! And that’s why click fraud is such a big problem in the advertising industry.
This type of fraud has been around since the creation of PPC networks, but it’s only in the past decade that it’s grown substantially.
Over the years pay per click networks such as Google have introduced their own fraud detection systems to try and eradicate the fraud, but fraudsters have simply managed to evade them.Return to the top or Download Your Guide to Creating Search Ads That Convert
Who’s Responsible For Click Fraud?
By now you’re probably wondering why anyone would want to purposely click someone else’s ads. What incentive do they have and what do they gain out of it?
Interestingly, there are various reasons why an individual would want to click other people’s ads on purpose, which might not be so obvious to all users.
As you’ll soon find out, anyone who purposely clicks on ads is either making money or draining their competitor’s ad budget.
The first suspect who’s responsible for click fraud is your not so friendly competitor. Whatever niche or industry you are in, if you’re running PPC ads then you’ll always have competitors.
With only so many keywords and above the fold ad spaces to compete for, competitors can often employ dirty tactics such as click fraud.
By repeatedly clicking your ads, competitors can quickly waste your money and cause you financial loss. In some cases, if you have a daily budget set for your ads then they can waste your budget for the day and stop your ads from running altogether.
But competitors aren’t the only ones with an incentive to click your ads. As part of Google’s AdSense program, they currently have over 2 million third-party websites that are part of Google’s display network.
In exchange for running ads on their websites, Google gives webmasters 66% of the revenue per click. This means that the more clicks a webmaster receives on their ads, the more money they make.
As you can imagine, it was only a matter of time before webmasters started clicking their own ads and engaging in shady tactics to increase their revenue.
Once webmasters realized that they could click their own ads to make more money, certain individuals scaled this exploit into large scale fraud rings.
Clicking on your own ads is very time consuming and tedious, but what if you could build something that makes other people click your ads without them knowing?
Known as botnets, over the past several years many large scale fraud operations have been uncovered. Some of which were reportedly generating between $3 to $5 million per day for fraudsters.
As you can see, defrauding advertisers can be incredibly simple and easy, meaning almost everyone’s ad spend is at risk.
How Click Fraud Affects Advertisers
On the surface it might just look like advertisers are losing a small portion of their ad budget to click fraud, so what’s the big deal? If they’re already spending a lot of money on PPC ads then they won’t even notice, right?
Besides the financial loss, click fraud can also affect advertisers in many other ways.
By fraudulently clicking on advertisers ads, this can often lead to incorrect analytics. Without filtering out the fraudulent and repetitive clicks, this can ultimately lead to businesses making marketing decisions based on incorrect data.
Remarketing ad campaigns can often fetch businesses 7 to 8 times their ROAS, but when automated bots, competitors and webmasters start clicking, this can be reduced significantly.
In some extreme cases, businesses might even decide that paid ads aren’t worth the return on investment and stop running them altogether. When all they really needed to do was block the handful of users who were repeatedly clicking their ads.
How To Fight Back Against Click Fraud
Ever since the huge rise of click fraud in the past decade, advertisers have been constantly trying to fight back against this growing threat.
Although Google does have it’s own invalid click center which aims to tackle ad fraud, many advertisers believe that it’s not enough and still lets plenty of fraudulent clicks through.
To take matters into their own hands, many PPC experts have come up with some ingenious ways to reduce their fraud by using Google’s platform.
These tricks have been discovered and fine-tuned over the years to help try and reduce the amount of fraud advertisers receive. Although these tricks don’t eliminate all fraud entirely, they can have a significant impact on how much advertisers can save.
The best thing is, these tricks and tips are totally free, meaning anyone can implement them into their own Google Ads account!
Take Advantage Of Exclusion Lists
As we explored previously, the amount of click fraud on Google’s display network is much higher than their search ads. This is primarily because webmasters receive revenue for every click and have a big incentive to fraudulently click their own ads.
Although not all webmasters participate in click fraud, many often place ads in places where users are likely to accidentally click them. Although the clicks might be accidental, advertisers still have to pay for every one!
To stop these low quality websites from wasting your precious ad spend, Google’s platform has its own special exclusion list. Similar to negative keywords on search campaigns, the exclusion list is how advertisers block websites on display campaigns.
Recently on our blog, we released a sheet of over 60,000 websites that advertisers should exclude from their display ad campaigns.
Based on data pulled from our platform and clients, we highlighted the top websites that have the lowest ROI and the highest levels of ad fraud.
Installing the list is very straightforward. Simply copy the list and create a new placement exclusion list in Google Ads, then select which display campaign you want to apply it to.
Once applied, your display ads won’t be shown on any of the websites on the list, which will filter out the bad sites and save you money in the long run.
Exclude Your Competitors Locations
If you haven’t tried the location targeting option in Google Ads, then you’re massively missing out. Not only does it allow you to target exactly which users should see your ads, but it also allows you to target which areas shouldn’t see your ads.
This probably all sounds very familiar, but you’re probably wondering how does this help fight back against click fraud?
One of the biggest problems for many companies is that their competitors will often click their Google search ads when competing for the same terms.
All these repetitive clicks can quickly add up and end up costing the company a significant amount of their ad spend. You could, of course, exclude your competitors using the IP exclusion method we talked about above, but the chances are you won’t have their unique IP address.
Thankfully, there is a much easier way that will let you block any competitor without having to track down their IP address.
By simply getting their physical office address off their website, you can set up an ads exclusion area within Google Ads to stop your ads from showing up for them. Without being able to see your ads anymore, they won’t be able to click them!
Although this technique is by no means perfect, it can greatly help fool your competitors into thinking you’ve stopped running ads and they’ve successfully clicked you out of business.
Hopefully, this article has given you an informative introduction to the world of ad fraud and why people do it. If you suspect someone is fraudulently clicking your PPC ads, then implementing the techniques above can save you a significant amount of money.
If you take any key points away from this article, make sure it’s this: don’t rely on Google or any other PPC network to protect your ad spend. Take action into your own hands.