What is click fraud and how can you prevent it?

3 Nov 2022


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Lee Frame

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What is click fraud?

Click fraud can be detrimental to PPC advertising as it wastes your budget on fake clicks that aren’t from customers. The main perpetrators are usually ad hosts, who will generate lots of fake clicks in order to profit from the advertiser. However, click fraud can also be carried out to purposely drain the budget of the advertiser.

When you create a PPC ad, it will be hosted by another website. You pay money to this website every time someone clicks onto your advertisement link. Therefore, it can be common amongst less trustworthy websites to commit click fraud on your ad. This means that you, as the advertiser, end up paying money to the website for clicks that aren’t from interested buyers.

Click fraud might also be used maliciously by competitors. A competitor could repeatedly click on your ad link in order to drain your budget. Whilst this may effectively damage competitors, it’s obviously bad practice and shouldn’t be carried out. Plus, it’s a form of fraud.

How to identify click fraud

Click fraudsters can be sneaky, but regularly tracking your ad performance can help you to spot it. Some key features to look out for are:

  • Lots of clicks from the same or similar ISPs, especially if there’s no conversions.
  • Abnormally high search costs.
  • High click-through rates but low conversion rates.
  • Decreased page views accompanied with peaks in impressions.
  • Other anomalies in your ad data.

How to prevent click fraud

If you place your ads on Google, we have some good news for you. The search engine does have a process in place to limit click fraud. Google’s Ad Traffic Quality Team uses automated detection systems and advanced research to detect bad traffic. Their team also manually reviews suspected cases of invalid activity.

You might still want to take some extra steps to prevent click fraud, which could include the following:

Monitor user behaviour

If you know how your users normally behave, it’ll be easier to pick up on suspicious activity. Monitor the behaviour of users on your site so that you can spot any signs of click fraud. You’ll then be able to block certain IP addresses through your Google Ads account.

Use specialised software programs

If you want an easier way to prevent PPC click fraud, try a software program that’s designed to detect and block fraud. This software will monitor the clicks on your ads and then automatically block malicious traffic sources. Of course, there’s no saying how reliable each software program is, so be sure to do your research.

Place your ads on social media

A lot of click fraudsters will type in generic keywords on search engines to find paid ads. On social media, this is a little more difficult. Therefore, ads placed on social media mean there’s less chance of click fraud. What’s more, this eliminates the risk of a website host committing click fraud for a profit.

Social media ads also allow you to target users more specifically. This means ads are only available to users who match your target audience, rather than being accessible via search. Therefore, the risk of click fraud is massively reduced.

Keep an eye on competitors

As we mentioned, some sneaky competitors might try to commit click fraud against you. If you suspect a competitor might be doing so, there are ways you can track their behaviour. There are software programs out there which prevent competitors from seeing your ads, which therefore reduces the risk of click spamming.

Stick to a budget

To limit the financial risks of click fraud, you should stick to a budget for your paid ads. If you find lots of spam clicks coming your way, you don’t want the costs to bring you over budget. Set strict limits for how much you want to spend on each ad, and don’t go over.

It can also help to set different prices for ads on different websites. For example, allocate more of your budget to social media ads, which pose less of a risk when it comes to click fraud.

Generate referral reports

Another option for preventing click spam is to use software that generates referral reports. This will let you know which content-targeted websites users are being sent from. You’ll be able to see which sites are sending a suspicious amount of visitors to your ads.

Although click fraud can seem scary, that doesn’t mean PPC ads aren’t worth the risk. You can read our blog post about the benefits of PPC to learn more about this. If you decide that PPC advertising is for you, feel free to get in touch.

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