When it comes to business, the old adage "You’ve got to spend money to make money," couldn’t be more true. Aside from the financial outlay to develop your product and manufacture it, and all the overhead that comes with owning a business, you are responsible for marketing your product so the public knows that your product exists.
You’ve set aside some marketing dollars to spread awareness and attract people to your brand and your website. You’ve looked into a variety of advertising options, and determined that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a sound way to spend your marketing budget. After all, you only pay when users click on your ad, so you only pay to advertise to people who are at least mildly interested in what you offer.
PPC advertising can provide a healthy return on investment – unless you become the victim of click fraud. By understanding what click fraud is, and being aware of the tools that are available to protect yourself and your investment, PPC can be an excellent choice to market your business.
What is click fraud?
Click fraud happens when a person or a bot clicks on an ad, button, or hyperlink to trick the platform into thinking there is more interaction than there actually is.
With PPC advertising, click fraud can happen for one of two reasons:
- The website owner who is hosting the ad will click on the link repeatedly to increase the amount of money the business must pay them.
- A company’s competitor may employ click fraud to divert from the business’s marketing budget.
Interestingly enough, sometimes it’s the business itself that will engage in click fraud. Search engines like Google rely on the click-through rate – how many people have visited a site because of a certain link – to determine search rankings. Sometimes, a business owner will attempt to scam the system, inflating the number of clicks through click fraud and moving up the search engine ranks so that more actual users will find and visit their page.
Any type of click fraud can be damaging to a business which is why you’ll want to protect yourself against this illegal practice.
What is a click bot?
You’ve likely heard of click fraud bots, but do you know how they operate? It’s estimated that bots comprise roughly 52% of all internet traffic. Harmful bots (like fraud bots) make up a large part of this number.
So what are click bots and what are they doing to our websites? Click bots are designed to carry out click fraud. They vary from relatively simple (access webpage and click on the desired link) to advanced (mimic the actions a human would take such as moving the mouse and clicking at uneven intervals). The more advanced a bot is, the more difficult it is to distinguish it from a legitimate user.
Rather than attempt to create hundreds of thousands of clicks from one device with a single IP address (this bot traffic would be immediately suspicious), bots are installed across many devices, often through malware. This means that the device owner is completely unaware that their electronic property is being used for nefarious purposes.
Bots aren’t always to blame for click fraud. Some scammers will employ people to manually perform click fraud. While it’s more difficult to recognize human fraud, it’s considerably less efficient than utilizing fraud bots.
Click Fraud Prevention
Instances of click fraud are not uncommon. A recent study from the University of Baltimore found that in 2020 click fraud cost marketers over $35 billion.
Search engines like Google have put practices in place to protect businesses from click fraud. These include:
- Automated detection systems built with machine learning and complex algorithms to keep ad platforms clean.
- Manual reviews when invalid activity is suspected or brought to their attention.
- Advanced research to uncover sources of invalid traffic and prevent them from entering their networks.
Knowing that Google is looking out for your business is great news, though it’s still important to be proactive to protect your business. The first step is creating ads that are more difficult for scammers to target. You can consider allocating more budget to social media ads that are less keyword-focused and therefore harder to search for.
You also have the option to be more targeted with your desired audience which will lessen your chances of encountering click fraud. Being more specific about the geographic locations your ads target and avoid can also provide an added layer of protection from click fraud.
Next, you can help prevent click fraud by keeping a close eye on your ads and your ad spend. The moment you suspect fraud, it’s time to jump into action. If you’ve detected fraudulent clicks coming from specific IP addresses, Google Ads will allow you to block these IP addresses.
Click Fraud Detection
While preventing click fraud is an admirable goal, it’s not always possible. Scammers have created highly advanced and indiscernible methods for perpetrating click fraud which is sometimes impossible for the average business to protect against.
Thankfully, there are a number of click fraud detection protection services available. Here are a few recommendations.
ClickCease blocks bot traffic from Google and Facebook ads before these clicks can impact your ad spend budget. Users can also create custom detection rules to provide the level of support their business needs.
Price: Standard Plan starts at $59 per month; Pro Plan starts at $79 per month
2. PPC Shield
PPC Shield offers holistic support to protect your Google Ads campaigns from fraudulent clicks. Notable features include instant blocking of suspicious IP addresses, detailed reporting, and a budgeting tool to help you allocate ad spend saved from click fraud prevention.
Price: Basic Plan starts at $39 per month; Standard Plan starts at $55 per month; Professional Plan starts at $119 per month
Looking for protection for your ads against mobile fraud? If so, the AppsFlyer fraud protection tool is worth looking into. This tool provides multi-layered protection against click fraud and has an extensive partner network to keep companies safe from emerging threats.
Price: Free with paid plans starting at 6 cents per conversion
Singular provides a comprehensive fraud prevention tool with a suite of features including iOS and Android click prevention, hyper-engagement detection, and geographic outliers to keep your ad placements safe.
Price: Free, with custom paid options available
ClickGUARD’s platform is a powerful click fraud prevention system. Offering a Google Ads shield to protect conversions and prevent invalid clicks and advanced bot detection, this tool identifies and prevents threats from targeting your ads.
Price: ActiveGUARD plan starts at $79 per month; PremiumGUARD plan starts at $79 per month; EliteGUARD plan starts at $99 per month
Unfortunately, click fraud is a very real threat to your PPC advertising campaigns. While it has the potential to drain your budget and leave you short of your marketing goals, with the right protections in place, it’s still a viable option for your business. Investing in education and services to prevent click fraud is a worthwhile expense.