Click fraud



Click fraud is a deceptive way to compete in contextual advertising. It represents a click on ads in order to spend the advertiser’s budget. The important thing is that this is not random clicks, but rather a deliberate cheating – lowering the position of a competitor in an unfair way, in fact the failure of his advertising campaigns.

With the help of competitors click fraud advertisers are trying to lower their positions in the ranking (search results or banners) to spend the budget, and specific ads do not appear and there were no conversions. To do this, they either purposely hire employees or create programs that perform click-fraud instead of people. Obviously, these are illegal activities, and even though the legislation has not yet developed the practice of effectively combating this type of crime, it can be considered a subspecies of financial fraud with the help of Internet technology. That is why in professional circles click fraud is also called from the English word “fraud”.

Click fraud occurs more often in those competitive areas of business where there is a lot of traffic, commercial demand and cost per click – high. For example, it often involves financial topics, as well as popular sites with food and household goods are subject to attacks. In addition, click fraud is a manual and automatic type. The first is performed by non-professionals, it is easier to detect by search engines and compensate the advertiser. The second uses bots and special programs for click fraud. Here much depends on the sophistication of the algorithm. 

1. What are the benefits of click fraud

Unscrupulous businessmen have many reasons for such fraud.

  1. There is less competition for keywords, therefore, cheaters’ ads become more popular and your own expenses for clicks can be reduced.
  2. Competitors’ advertising costs increase, but the ads don’t reach the target audience – the consumer doesn’t see the ads.
  3. The scammer gets more traffic and rises in popularity, and the action does not require a lot of effort.

2. How to understand that your ad is being scammed

Noticing that there is something wrong with your ads is quite easy if you carefully analyze campaign data and track changes.

First, the daily ad budget runs out quickly, which means that your Google Ads campaign is constantly being suspended for no apparent reason. If there weren’t any adjustments made prior to this that could affect user behavior, it could be the actions of competitors. Sometimes, however, invalid clicks only indicate that the campaign is not set up correctly and needs to be changed.

Second, if a lot of low-quality clicks appear in the campaign’s, there is a reason for this, too. Apparently, this is the deliberate actions of specific people. Especially if the transition to the page occurred literally for 1-2 seconds. After this the visitor immediately leaves the site. It is possible that a bot may have been used to click fraud.

Thirdly, the natural seasonal demand for your product or service will be indicative. The data from your site should not greatly exceed the statistical average. And if the average demand for the year according to your data is very different from those currently available, it is also something to think about.

Fourth, a sign of competitor skimming is if the source of traffic doesn’t match the company’s geotargeting. A lot of consumers can’t come from places where the products or services offered don’t exist.

Thus, let’s correlate the presence of a high bounce rate in Google Ads with an increased number of clicks and a lack of conversions. A combination of all these factors will tell you that it is the flood-attacks.

3. How scammers get away with it

Distinguishing bona fide clicks from fraudulent ones is becoming increasingly difficult.

  1. The time they spend on the site is always different. They imitate normal users, which means they try to behave in a way that does not fall under the patterns.
  2. The IP-addresses from which the jumps are made are also not repeated.
  3. Bots that click on ads can appear on the website round the clock, it is hard to figure out the patterns of their visits – they visit different resources from various devices, both stationary and mobile.

4. How to protect yourself from the click fraud

A number of measures can be taken by the user himself. To do this he will have to analyze the criteria in Google Ads, which presumably carry a large flow of traffic, and one by one exclude them. For example, from which browsers most visits the site, from which region many visitors come, etc.

When you understand which segments are involved in the scam, you have to create audiences of those who scam, and work with them separately – set downward adjustments on them and on audiences with similar criteria.

If there are specific foci susceptible to click fraud – ads or keywords – then disable these foci in the ad campaign. Exclude from displaying resources from which untargeted traffic comes, prohibit displaying on certain IP addresses. Below is an example of such exclusion.

Clicking, exclusion of IP addresses

Fig. 1 – Excluding IP addresses in Google Ads

You can also use other temporary ways:

  • launch a new campaign with different identifiers;
  • switch campaigns on and off at different times;
  • add minus-words to the list to make searches more accurate.

You can check by IP with ad system tags: for example, enabling GCLID autotagging in Google Ads cabinet adds a parameter to ad URLs to track offline conversions and effectiveness. This allows you to determine the campaign, cost per click and keyword associated with conversions. Facebook does the same thing, automatically adding page addresses to the URL when you click on it. This tag looks like FBCLID.  

Not only are advertisers actively seeking ways to combat click fraud, search engines are also interested in this, because their reputation is also affected. For example, the center of ad quality from Google monitors the clicks on each ad and detects suspicious behavior, and automatically returns to the advertiser the cost per click.

As for protection against click fraud, Google’s methods are constantly being improved, combining both manual and automatic filtering methods. In total, more than twenty parameters are taken into account, and each of them affects in its own way. The indicators are assigned coefficients. Each new click is reanalyzed and the parameters are recalculated. If the search engine algorithms decide that this click is invalid, the tracking system will filter it out, not include it in the statistics and will not write off funds for it.

Google Ads has a Click Quality Assessment Form, where the user can describe his problem and leave contact information. Adwords anti-scalping protection requires that you provide copies of your web logs or other tracking data where the information in question is listed. A specialist will contact you in one of the three ways listed on the form.

Click quality score, Google form

Fig. 2 – Google’s click-through quality assessment form

5. Choice of special programs to fight against raid attacks

You can also use special third-party services for protection against clickfraud. Programs against ad clickfraud can be quite effective in detecting invalid clicks and alerting users.

Criteria for how to choose a good service:

  1. Availability of a free test period – it makes it clear whether there is a need to constantly fight attacks, whether the services will help you.
  2. Integration with a web resource without involving a developer.
  3. Ideally, the service should monitor and ban not only IP, but also devices from which you click fraud.
  4. The ability to track the share of fraud from sites in the KMS.

Clickfraud.ru and clickcease.com showed themselves quite well. In particular, the latter is the leader in popularity. Its advantages are its intuitive interface, IP blocking for ad clicks and many other positive features. Below is a screenshot of the analytics in this program.

Click Analytics with Clickcease

Fig. 3 – Clickcease service screenshot: analytics of visitors and clicks

Thus, it is impossible to protect against click fraud, but it is realistic to detect and fight this problem in time. Although there is no universal way to fight this unpleasantness, but every advertiser can save his advertising from untargeted traffic, and the budget – from the drain of funds.

You’ll know the problem is solved when the spikes in traffic on your site are cut and your budget is reduced to its previous levels. Your investment in advertising should pay off at a lower cost. Being attentive to the dynamics of your advertising campaigns never hurts.

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