PPC is an effective way to increase a business’s website visibility in the search engines. For the educated business owner or marketer, click fraud is not a strong enough argument for avoiding it. With a little knowledge up front and a watchful eye, you can enjoy PPC advertising for your Miami area business without concern of loss or fraud.
Click Fraud Defined
Click fraud is considered a black-hat marketing technique as it involves fraudulently inflating the number of clicks a PPC ad receives. Why would someone do this?
- Competitors resort to this in an attempt to sabotage a competitor by pushing up their costs and maxing out their budget for a given day.
- The advertisers are clicking on the displayed ads themselves to dishonestly generate revenue for themselves.
What’s Being Done to Combat Click Fraud?
For some time, it didn’t appear that the search engines were doing enough to combat click fraud and they received many complaints. Why couldn’t they do more to prevent these black hat practices?
It’s a legitimate concern because money is on the line. Whether or not a click is genuine or fraudulent, it’s generating revenue for the search engine displaying it and that was a pretty damning factor in the minds of the advertisers. To combat the problem and to keep the trust of their advertisers, the major search engines put together task forces to police the situation.
Google’s system of detection is the strongest and uses a triple threat approach. The first is the use of automated filters. Using an advanced algorithm, invalid clicks are identified and filtered out in real time in such a way that the advertiser is never charged.
The filters can’t, however, catch every single invalid click so Google’s Ad Traffic Quality Team does monitor manually, using offline analysis to remove illegitimate clicks again before the advertiser is charged.
Lastly, and on top of these proactive strategies, Google also conducts investigations when advertiser reports are received about the suspected fraudulent activity. It should also be noted that in cases where invalid clicks aren’t identified until after the advertiser has been charged, credits are issued to the advertiser account.
How to Detect Click Fraud
With a grasp of what click fraud involves, next is understanding how to detect such behavior in a PPC account. There are a number of ways you can identify potential click fraud.
First, you’ll need some form of internal reporting which you should already have for a myriad of other benefits in your business. Google Analytics is a great tool to use. Using Google Analytics, you can discern if a click became a lead and if that lead then resulted in a sale. Armed with such information, in the use of PPC advertising, you can not only identify possibly fraudulent activity, you can make key adjustments to your bidding.
What are you looking for in your metrics for possible click fraud?
- IP address
- Action timestamps
- Click timestamps
- User agenta
The reason you need an IP address is obvious. Why the other three pieces of information? The action timestamp shows when a person completed some action on your website while the click timestamp tells you that they arrived as a result of clicking on your ad. An individual IP address with a large number of click timestamps but no action timestamps is suspect.
For the user agent data, it’s really useful for determining whether or not someone using a given IP address is the same person. It provides information about the device being used to access your website, internet browser type, and more.
If you’re able to identify a suspect IP address using the data outlined above, perform a quick IP check to try and determine who it belongs to. The following sites can help you find IP address owners.
Be mindful of proxy servers as it’s not uncommon for a large amount of traffic to come from one place only to learn that it’s not fraud but an IP address belonging to a proxy server at a physical location like an airport, university, restaurant, and more. Be careful in your research and rule out everything you can.
Also review the searches produced by the suspect IP address. If the searches are random and vary wildly, a proxy server is a more likely culprit. If the queries are similar to each other and happened in a short window of time, they are likely suspect.
Dealing With Click Fraud in Your Account
With all other possibilities considered and ruled out, if you have a suspect case of click fraud in your account with data to back it up, it’s time to report it to the search engine.
Even with the search engines’ assurances that they are doing everything they can to eliminate click fraud, you can also deal with matters on your own.
3 Ways to Protect Yourself from Click Fraud
Google Ads With Exclusions
Did you know that you can prevent your ads from being served to IP addresses you’ve matched up to invalid clicks? You can. To create an exclusion, go to the Settings tab and scroll down to the IP Exclusions option. Enter any IP addresses you don’t want to have access to your ads.
Exclusions can help filter out other invalid click situations as well. Is the activity coming from a specific geographic area? If so, consider excluding these location and/or their languages from your campaigns. If you have further details on a suspected IP address, you might also consider excluding their city, zip code and more. Just be entirely sure in making your changes that you aren’t throwing away good traffic or doing anything that could negatively impact your local SEO efforts.
Try Advertising on Other Platforms
The reach of many social media platforms is substantial and since they only appear on the selected venue, there is third party which greatly reduces the chances of fraud. While it’s possible that competitors can find your ads on these venues as well, the specificity of the targeting options doesn’t make it easy for them.
If potential click fraud is a big worry for you, why not try GDN Remarketing Campaigns. In these campaigns, ads are only displayed for those who have visited and expressed interest in the advertiser’s website already. Publishers can’t see the ads and can’t click on them.
Need help or have questions? Contact us today at eSasson Studios and we’ll be glad to help.