What Is Click Fraud and How To Prevent It?
Click Fraud is an act when someone intentionally clicks on your paid online advertising such as Google AdWords or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), with the motive to increase your ad spent and not genuinely interested in your brand's products or services.
Click fraud is the act of illegally clicking on pay-per-click (PPC) ads to increase site revenue or to exhaust a business's advertising budget.
Click fraud is different from invalid clicks (those that are repeated or made by the ad's host/publisher) in that it is intentional, malicious, and has no potential for the ad to result in a sale. This happens with pay-per-click advertising and may involve either human, a computer program, or an automated script pretending to be a legitimate user and clicking on paid search advertising with no intention of purchasing something.
Usually, in pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising, the owners of websites that post the ads are paid an amount of money determined by how many visitors to the sites click on the ads. Click fraud occurs when a person, automated script, or computer program (bots) imitates a legitimate user, clicking on the ad without having actual interest in the target of the ad's link such as your website.
To understand click fraud, we must first understand how PPC advertising works, and why would click fraud occur. For this example, we take a look at the most popular PPC advertising, Google SEM.
Google SEM works through keyword advertising. This means that they will show listings from the most relevant websites when a user searches for a keyword. Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) caters to an average of 7 listings (on page 1) for every keyword. Therefore, it is important for you to select the keywords that are not only relevant to your business but also has enough search volume on Google before you being strategizing your SEM campaign.
Whilst Google determines your SEO ranking based on your Domain Authority, Relevancy of your website to the keyword, as well as the credibility of your website, SEM campaigns run using a method called Cost-Per-Click (CPC). This is when you set a monthly/daily budget on your Google AdWords account, and for each time your SEM listing is being clicked by someone, you pay Google a certain fee. Once that budget is used, your listing would not appear on Google until you top up that budget again. While the concept of this is fairly simple, optimizing your Google AdWords SEM campaign can be tricky. If you'd like to learn more about Google SEM, you can read this article here.
How to prevent Click Fraud?
To prevent click fraud, you may exclude certain IP addresses from clicking on your SEM ads. If your internal reporting systems collect IP address information, you can add IP exclusions in Google Ads. This means the specific IP will not be able to see your ads in future, and that user will no longer be able to click them.
This is simple to do. In the Google Ads interface, under the Settings tab in a particular campaign. Expand the Additional Settings button and choose IP Exclusions.
If you have a key competitor whom you suspect might click your ads fraudulently, you could try excluding their location from your ad targeting. If you know the location of your competitors’ headquarters, this can be excluded from seeing your ads through Location Targeting.
This can be done by postcode. If your competitor’s headquarters are located in a particular postcode that isn’t of strategic importance to you, you can exclude this from your campaign. Some things to note about preventing click frauds are:
1. Be aware of your competitors
2. Limit your exposure
3. Keep a close eye on your campaigns
4. Only target high-value sites
5. Work with a reputable agency to identify and eliminate click frauds
What to do if you're experiencing Click Fraud?
If you are a victim of click fraud and you don’t believe Google’s automated systems are picking up on it sufficiently, here are some actions you can take. Google has created the most robust anti-click fraud program. Their system of detection uses a 3-pronged approach that starts with automated filters.
Advanced algorithms detect and filter out invalid clicks in real-time before advertisers are even charged. Since these filters cannot be relied on to catch all fraudulent clicks, Google’s Ad Traffic Quality Team also conducts manual, offline analysis and removes any clicks that they deem invalid before advertisers are charged. Aside from these proactive measures, Google also launches investigations based on advertisers’ reports of suspicious activity. Anytime malicious clicks are detected, they are labelled as “invalid” and credits are issued to the account.
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