When you run a business, you need to advertise. And when you advertise, you may choose to go the route of paid advertising. There are quite a few advertising mediums to choose from, including online, print, television, and radio. But if you’re advertising online, you run the risk of a major headache: click fraud. But, what is click fraud, and how do you fight it? Well, you’re in luck. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you what you need to know about click fraud and preventing it.
What Is Click Fraud?
Click fraud is a type of online advertising fraud that can hurt either the advertiser or the website publisher who hosts the ad (I know, yikes). Online pay-per-click (PPC) ads are affected by this type of fraud. With click fraud, an outside source acts to illegally click on pay-per-click ads to:
- Exhaust all of the advertiser’s budget OR
- Increase the publishing site’s ad revenue
Outside sources can include:
- Computer programs
- Automated scripts (i.e., software programs)
No matter who clicks on the PPC ads, the fraudulent activity involves clicking with no intent to purchase from the advertiser.
What Is Pay-Per-Click?
If you’re new to the world of online advertising, you may be wondering, What the heck is pay-per-click exactly? With pay-per-click advertisements, the business pays the host website (aka the publisher) each time someone clicks on the ad. PPC advertising is a way to buy visits to your website, and the most common form is the paid advertisement on search engines like Google.
Because search engine advertising is the most common PPC advertising, Google Ads is the most popular PPC tool. You see this when searching online and the top links appear with the word “Ad” beside them.
Why Is Click Fraud Bad For Business?
Paid advertising is an important part of your business budget. If you want to attract customers, you need to get your name out there. PPC advertising is an easy way to get your ads in front of customers on sites they use organically. Customers can click on your ads and choose to make a purchase.
What does it mean for your business if you use PPC ads and a customer makes a purchase after clicking on your ad? It means you earn a profit. For example, if the website host for your PPC ad charges you $2 per click and a true customer makes a $100 purchase, your profit is $98.
Where things go upside down is when fraud happens. For example, if your competition sees your advertisement on a website, they may choose to click your ad 100 times. At $2 per click, that fraudulent activity just cost you $200, and you didn’t get a single sale.
Now, say your ad budget for the website was $200, and you spent the entirety of your budget to earn $0 in profit. Because you spent your entire budget on fraudulent clicks, real potential customers do not see your ad. As a result, you’ve lost your budget and your potential customers—wowza.
Do you see where this goes wrong? Fraudulent clicks cost you more money than you earn, and that can hurt your business both short- and long-term.
But, click fraud isn’t just bad for your business—it’s also bad for the website host. If a publisher or search engine sees a lot of click fraud, customers lose trust. Without trust, publishers lose ad revenue because businesses stop advertising. So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to identify and prevent click fraud.
How Do You Eliminate Click Fraud?
So, how the heck can you prevent click fraud? The most important part of knowing how to eliminate click fraud is to know when it’s happening. Once you know that your online advertisements experience click fraud, you can take steps to eliminate it.
Identifying Click Fraud
Not all fraudulent activity is easy to identify. But, the good news is that there are some things you can keep an eye on when it comes to monitoring your ad success.
Pay attention to things like:
- The number of impressions for your ads (i.e., how many times your ad appears in a search)
- Unusually high engagement with your ad compared to previous ads
- How many conversions happen in comparison to engagement (especially if there are zero conversions)
- High bounce rates on the page your ad directs to during times of peak engagement or impressions
- Decrease in page views when compared to impressions and engagement
- High engagement from the same or very similar IP addresses
If you notice a high number of impressions and engagement with a low conversion rate and high bounce rate, you may be the victim of click fraud. Take note that you should create an average baseline for prior advertisements to determine what you consider high or low numbers.
And, take into consideration any changes you’ve made to your ads. It’s possible that your ad gains attention due to positive changes. But if the conversion rate is low, that’s a strong indication that you may be experiencing click fraud.
Eliminating Click Fraud
Uh-oh. You ran your numbers and triple-checked just to be sure, but there’s no denying that you suspect click fraud. What now? Well, now you need to compile your data and findings.
After you have the information ready, submit it to the website publisher for review. Most publishers (e.g., Google Ads) have built-in systems to monitor click fraud. So, you may see credits to your account for fraudulent clicks before you submit your findings. But, that’s not always the case.
If the website publisher has not already identified the fraud and credited your account, provide the site with your information. The publisher takes your findings and analyzes the data against their own metrics. If they determine it is fraud, the website host typically credits your account for the amount of the fraudulent clicks.
There is no way to prevent click fraud completely. However, diligent monitoring of your accounts can help identify and remove any fraud. In turn, you can restore your ads to help reach actual customers. And by reaching actual customers, your business can (hopefully) increase sales and grow.