7 Ways To Stop Google Ad Click Fraud On Your Account
I often joke that one of my redeeming qualities is that I never click on a brand’s running Google ad whenever I search for their website. I prefer to navigate to the organic result. This is to help them save the ad spend my click would have necessitated.
Unfortunately, this is not a sentiment shared by many judging by the high rates of Google Ad click fraud. Many people go out of their way to click PPC ads multiple times for nefarious purposes. The Global PPC Click Fraud Report revealed 36% of display ads and 11% of search ads are either fraudulent or invalid.
What is the effect of ad fraud? And how can you stop it before it adversely affects your brand? Let’s find out.
What is The Difference Between Invalid Clicks and Click Fraud?
Invalid clicks are often lumped together with click fraud, and the reason is mostly because of Google’s definition of the term. According to them, Invalid clicks are “clicks on ads that aren’t a result of genuine user interest, including intentionally fraudulent traffic and accidental or duplicate clicks.”
But this definition is not entirely accurate. Invalid clicks are not always malicious. Sometimes, they can be unintentional. For instance, a searcher can accidentally open or double-click an ad. This is classified as invalid.
On the other hand, click fraud is the black hat technique of clicking with the aim of generating fake impressions and driving up costs for the advertiser. This type of clicking is deliberate and malicious.
Invalid clicks are not always charged to the advertiser as Google’s algorithm is often able to detect these types of accident clicks. However click fraud is not as easily detected by the ad network, meaning the advertiser has to pay for them.
How Does Click Fraud Affect Your Google Ad Campaign?
Click fraud is detrimental to a company in the following ways.
Leads to Wasted Ad Spend
Statista reported the estimated cost of global digital ad spend to be $81 billion in 2022 and projected to increase to $100 billion in 2023. This is up from $61 billion in 2021. Clearly, a huge amount of money is being lost yearly, and it’s only getting worse.
How does this loss occur?
For instance, say a brand has a daily PPC budget of $1000 with a cost-per-click (CPC) of $2. Now imagine the brand gets 400 clicks per day, and 20% of them (80) are by people with no good intentions. Since 20% of $1000 is $160, that brand loses $160 in a day. The figure might not seem like much, but it does add up. In a month, it amounts to $4960 wasted. Remember also that not everyone of the remaining 80% clicks will convert. So the amount lost at the end is higher.
Lowers Quality Score
Google defines quality score as a “diagnostic tool meant to give you a sense of how well your ad quality compares to other advertisers.” They went on to say the score is “measured on a scale from 1-10 and available at the keyword level.”
This means an ad’s quality score is directly proportional to how relevant Google sees the ad in relation to competitors' and searchers’ queries. Quality score has an impact on the success of an ad and determines CPC.
Click fraud lowers quality score because when you have a high number of invalid clicks and bounce rate, it signals to Google that your ad is not relevant to searchers, leading them to reduce the score. In turn, this raises CPC as you have to spend more for your ad to be shown.
Skews Campaign Data
Another effect of this fraud is that it corrupts the campaign’s results. Usually, this data is what marketing teams use in making decisions like budgeting, A/B testing, forecasting, and measuring the result of the campaign. But if a significant percentage is fake, it alters the data and doesn’t allow for making accurate decisions.
How to Stop Google Ad Click Fraud
Click fraud can not only be stopped but can also be prevented to a significant degree. Here’s how.
Set up IP Exclusions
There is the option to block certain IPs in your ad account. So if you suspect you’re a victim of click fraud, identify the IPs that have a high bounce rate, or show up multiple times without converting, and exclude them from subsequently seeing your ad. Here’s an example of a risky IP address.
Search for these types of suspicious and nefarious IPs regularly and block them. Find how to set exclusions here.
💡Pro tip → Edgemesh provides an updated IP exclusion list everyday based on the combined fleet intelligence. Access this list by signing up for our Ad Fraud system here.
Monitor And Analyze Traffic Data
Another way to stay on top of this type of fraud is to track your traffic data as it can reveal suspicious activities early so you can block them.
Adjust Geographic And Time-Based Setting
Some regions are known as click-fraud zones (typically third-world countries) and you should avoid running ads in such regions because you’re at risk of falling victim to click fraud. Instead, adjust your geographic settings to only advertise to economically privileged locations. While this will reduce reach and traffic, it is ultimately better. Choose quality over quantity.
Set up Google Analytics Alert
Google Analytics is a free tool that displays the performance of your website and ads. It is imperative to set alerts for metrics like bounce and click-through rates (CTR), as a high score can indicate fraud.
Run Remarketing Campaigns
Showing ads to people who have visited and engaged with your website in the past is another way to prevent fraud. Because those who have either performed an action, spent considerable time, or visited some pages are not likely to be fraudsters. Therefore, by retargeting them, you’re sure to be advertising to legitimate people.
Monitor your competitors’ sites and ads for signs they are unethical. An example is if you notice a competitor only advertises when you (or other competing brands) have run out of budget and are no longer running ads. Such a competitor is likely maliciously clicking your ad to drive you away, and when you’re back in the game, they go off to repeat the process.
Use a Click Fraud Protection Solution
Finally, invest in a detection solution like Edgemesh’s Ad Fraud Analysis and Protection System to prevent click fraud and reduce wasted budget. Our tool does this in two ways by detecting bots that drive automated traffic and also detecting ‘bad’ people.
The former is detected with the BTAG or bot tagging feature that identifies bots, tags them, and excludes them from future targeting.
On the other hand, Edgemesh detects ‘bad' people by observing and noting IP addresses performing suspicious activities. We then share the list of fraudulent IP addresses with the customer so they can exclude identified IPs from seeing their ads.
Who is Responsible For Click Fraud
- Unethical competitors who want to increase your ad cost and waste your budget. They can either use bots or click farms (humans) to achieve their aim.
- Publishers & affiliates in the case of Google Adsense or display network ads who earn per click and want to make more money. They can artificially inflate the number of clicks or stack ads to earn more.
- Unhappy customers & staff who want to retaliate against a brand so they attack their ads.
- Cybercriminals or even regular companies who want to game the algorithm by increasing their clicks and CTR so their page will have a higher ranking on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). The former do this to make their business appear legitimate, while the latter to encourage real visitors to their sites. Either way, it is still fraudulent, and your ads could be competing with such sites.
Take Action Against Click Fraudsters
Paid digital advertising is a huge industry worth $616 billion, and is an effective way to grow a business once you can circumvent ad fraud. By following the tips provided in this article and employing Edgmesh to solve the problem, you can run ads without experiencing the negative effects of this fraud.