A Google Ads campaign can do a lot of good for a business, yet there is one topic that’s worth taking into consideration before you dive into paid ad campaigns: click fraud.
It’s either a thing business owners are scared about or something they are considering to drive up results. Here’s a short description of that click fraud is, and what Google’s doing to make sure it has no place in Google Adwords.
What Is Click Fraud?
Click fraud is a technique for raising the number of clicks on a pay-per-click ad in a, let’s say, less than honest way.
Usually, once you’re done creating the ad copy and creative, you will choose an audience and a set of keywords to trigger the ads. Once you give Google all the information it needs to run the ad on the Search Network or the Display network, technically it’s all out of your hands. Ads are shown when a user who fits your description and matches your keywords, but then they are the ones who decide if they click or don’t click the link.
Through click fraud, you create the impression the ad is being clicked, even though these are not real clicks coming from real users. Two common scenarios exist here:
- Using click fraud to try and sabotage a competitor by driving up the costs of their Adwords campaigns. The hope here is that the competitors then renounces a valuable keyword for being too expensive, and proceeds to choose other different keywords. Or it may be done to dry up the competitor’s budget in irrelevant clicks to end the campaign faster before they can gain important leads.
- Using fraudulent clicks on your own ads to create the impression of increased traffic. This practice isn’t done by a business owner, but it’s most likely a tactic employed by an ad publisher who essentially wants to show their work paid off. The ad has generated leads, and whether those leads turned into conversion is not their concern.
How Does Click Fraud Happen?
There is an entire art form to click fraud. One of the easiest ways to do it (there is nothing really easy with this practice, in all honesty) is to turn to a click farm.
Click farms are essentially businesses that employ people who will click on ads each day. Companies can hire these click farms, tell them what brands or even specific ads they need to target, and after that, these employees will simply look for these ads and send out invalid traffic its way. It’s the same practice you may see when buying fake followers on social media, or commenting on posts to make them seem more engaging.
The clicks themselves are completely real – real people make them and are manual clicks. But the intent isn’t real, as they have no real interest in seeing what’s on the landing page other than to mess with a campaign.
In other cases, there are automated clicking scripts that use a bot to click on the ads to save time or get results faster. Both of these methods are traceable unless the perp masks the IP address, in which case it can appear like these clicks are coming from completely different devices, connected to completely different networks.
How Does Google Detect It?
Click fraud is very bad news for pay-per-click services, as the costs of running these ads campaigns can drive up a lot, in which case many businesses and advertisers can simply call it quits.
Google created its own anti click fraud program to control this problem. They have a detection system in place that works on three levels to detect suspicious activity:
1. An advanced algorithm to detect and filter invalid clicks in real-time, even before you get charged.
These are automated filters that mostly work best for the “lazier” approach to click farming, like in those cases where the IP address isn’t masked. For the finer actions, there are other measures in place.
2. An Ad Traffic Quality Team which consists of manual reviewers who analyse clicks and remove those that are deemed fraudulent.
3. A reporting feature.
If advertisers notice one of their ads is full of invalid activity, they can report it to Google, who will then launch an investigation. Of course, most of the time if Google’s first two measures did not take effect, you will be charged with the fraudulent clicks, but if suspicious activity is detected, you will be refunded with credit to your account.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
There are several ways to protect yourself against click fraud. First, it’s important to monitor Google Ads performance and see if there is a spike in invalid activity. If there are only a few clicks that are invalid, this may be attributed to an accidental click, meaning a user did not intend to actually click an ad, and quickly hit return.
If you think you identify click fraud from one IP address, in particular, you can set up an IP Exclusion in Google Ads to block the ad from ever being shown to that address again. That, coupled with Google’s own protection should be enough to protect your ads.
To really go the extra mile, you can opt for a 3rd party service that monitors, detects, and removes fraudulent clicks, which can be especially good in highly competitive markets. Many of these services will provide a free trial to let you test their software.
We Can Protect Your Ads
Australian Internet Advertising has partnered with the best anti click fraud protection system around to make sure your ads don’t fall prey to these dishonest tactics. Reach out to us now for more info on how we can help protect your Google Ads campaign from click fraud.