What is Click Fraud?
The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the advertising-fraud firm White Ops conducted a study suggesting marketers could lose as much as $6.5 billion from click fraud in 2017 globally. Luckily, this is down 10% from 2016. Still, with reason, many reluctant business owners will cite click fraud as a major reason to not engage in digital marketing. While click fraud is real, there are ways to prevent it if you know how it works.
Put simply, click fraud is the inflation of clicks in digital advertising by bots, competitors or publishers to drain the advertisers account or put more money in their pocket. Click fraud may be manual (individual humans actually clicking on your ad) or automated (bots created to systematically click your ads).
While search engines and display platforms are simply the medium for clicks, they are trying to take a stand to protect advertisers. Google, for example, has a 3-pronged approach to preventing click fraud. First, they try to spot out false clicks by an algorithm that takes into account searches per minute, location and click behavior to weed those out. They also have a team called Ad Traffic Quality team that will manually find erroneous clicks. Lastly, they allow advertisers to reach out if they think their campaigns are the victim of click fraud.
Click Fraud and Reporting
Click fraud will heavily inflate the traffic you have, muddying the results of your digital marketing efforts. Worse still, it can also drain your advertising budgets with revenue of zero.
First, you must spot it! If you’re lucky, the publisher, ad platform or search engine will make you aware of click fraud. More likely, you’ll find out by realizing none of you clicks are translating to conversions or sales. If you think something nefarious may be going on, we recommend checking:
- Click timestamps: was there a huge acceleration of clicks in a short amount of time?
- Conversion rates: have they tanked?
- IP addresses: see if the clicks are coming from a single source
- Location: frequently bot traffic will be coming from South Asia or Eastern Europe. If there’s no reason for you to have traffic coming from these places, be suspicious!
How to Prevent Click Fraud?
Maybe everything in your Google Analytics looks great, but you want to be proactive and stopping click fraud. You always want to work with only the most reputable search engines, publishers and ad platforms. Twitter and Facebook, for example, will only show your ads on their own channels. Both platforms have robust standards against click fraud. Taking out a third-party publisher significantly reduces your risk of fake clicks. If you’re running in AdWords (Google search, Google Display Network or Youtube), we highly recommend using IP filters. If you notice some bad traffic coming through specific IPs, just block it.
If you outsource your marketing to a digital marketing agency or freelancer, ask them! Digital marketers should know about click fraud and safeguards they have against it. Of course, you should always have full faith in your marketing team. If something seems wrong, it probably is.