When it comes to business, the old adage “you have to spend money to make money” couldn’t be more appropriate. In addition to the financial expense of developing and manufacturing your product and all the overhead that comes with owning a business, you are also responsible for marketing your product so the public knows your product exists.
You’ve set aside some marketing dollars to spread awareness and drive people to your brand and website. You’ve researched various advertising options and determined that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a reasonable way to spend your marketing budget. After all, you only pay when a user clicks on your ad, so you only need to show your ad to people who are at least slightly interested in what you offer.
PPC advertising can provide a healthy return on investment—unless you fall victim to click fraud. By understanding what click fraud is and understanding the tools you can use to protect yourself and your investment, PPC can be a great option for marketing your business.
What is click fraud?
Click fraud occurs when a person or a bot clicks on an ad, button, or hyperlink to trick the platform into thinking there is more interaction than there is.
With PPC advertising, click fraud can occur for one of two reasons:
- The website owner hosting the ad will repeatedly click the link to increase the amount the business has to pay.
- A company’s competitors may use click fraud to divert a business’s marketing budget.
Interestingly, sometimes the business itself is involved in click fraud. Search engines like Google rely on click-through rate — how many people visit a website because of a link — to determine search rankings. Sometimes business owners try to trick the system into using click fraud to increase clicks and boost search engine rankings so that more actual users can find and visit their pages.
Any type of click fraud can cause damage to a business, which is why you want to protect yourself from this illegal practice.
What is a click bot?
You may have heard of click fraud bots, but do you know how they work? It is estimated that bots account for about 52% of all internet traffic. Harmful bots, such as fraudulent bots, make up a large portion of this number.
So what are click bots and what do they do to our website? Click bots are designed to engage in click fraud. They range from relatively simple (visiting a web page and clicking the desired link) to advanced (simulating actions a human would take, such as moving the mouse and clicking at uneven intervals). The more advanced the bot, the harder it is to distinguish it from legitimate users.
Rather than trying to create hundreds of thousands of hits from a device with a single IP address (this bot traffic would be immediately suspicious), the bot is installed on many devices, usually via malware. This means that device owners are completely unaware that their electronic possessions are being used for nefarious purposes.
Bots aren’t always responsible for click fraud. Some scammers will hire people to perform click fraud manually. While identifying human fraud is more difficult, it is far less efficient than using fraud bots.
Click Fraud Prevention
Examples of click fraud are not uncommon. A recent University of Baltimore study found that click fraud cost marketers more than $35 billion in 2020.
Search engines like Google have taken steps to protect businesses from click fraud. These include:
- Automated detection systems built using machine learning and sophisticated algorithms to keep ad platforms clean.
- Human review when ineffective activity is suspected or brought to their attention.
- Advanced research to discover the source of invalid traffic and prevent it from entering their network.
It’s good news to know that Google is looking for your business, although it’s still important to proactively protect your business. The first step is to create ads that are harder for scammers to target. You might consider allocating more of your budget to social media ads that are less keyword-focused and therefore harder to search.
You can also choose to be more targeted to your desired audience, which will reduce your chances of encountering click fraud. Knowing more about your ad targeting and avoiding geographies can also provide additional protection against click fraud.
Next, you can help prevent click fraud by keeping an eye on your ads and ad spend. Once you suspect fraud, it’s time to act. If you detect fraudulent clicks from specific IP addresses, Google Ads will allow you to block those IP addresses.
Click Fraud Detection
While preventing click fraud is an admirable goal, it’s not always feasible. Scammers have created highly advanced and illegible methods to commit click fraud that are sometimes beyond the reach of ordinary businesses.
Thankfully, there are many click fraud detection protection services available. Here are some suggestions.
1. click stop
ClickCease blocks bot traffic from Google and Facebook ads before those clicks impact your ad spend budget. Users can also create custom detection rules to provide the level of support their business needs.
price: Standard plans start at $59 per month; Professional plans start at $79 per month
2. PPC Shield
PPC Shield provides comprehensive support to protect your Google Ads campaigns from fraudulent clicks. Notable features include instant blocking of suspicious IP addresses, detailed reporting and budgeting tools to help you allocate ad spend savings from click fraud prevention.
price: Basic plans start at $39 per month; Standard plans start at $55 per month; Professional plans start at $119 per month
Looking for protection against mobile fraud for your ads? If so, the AppsFlyer Fraud Protection Tool is worth looking into. The tool offers multiple layers of protection against click fraud and has an extensive partner network to protect companies from emerging threats.
price: Paid plans are free, starting at 6 cents per conversion
Singular offers a comprehensive fraud prevention tool with a suite of features including iOS and Android click prevention, hyper-engagement detection, and geographic outliers to keep your ad placements safe.
price: Free, with custom paid options
5. Click Guard
ClickGUARD’s platform is a powerful click fraud prevention system. The tool provides Google Ads protection to protect conversions and prevent invalid clicks and advanced bot detection to identify and prevent threats from targeting your ads.
price: ActiveGUARD plans start at $79/month; PremiumGUARD plans start at $79/month; EliteGUARD plans start at $99/month
Unfortunately, click fraud is a very real threat to your PPC campaigns. While it has the potential to drain your budget and keep you from reaching your marketing goals, with the right safeguards, it’s still a viable option for your business. It pays to invest in education and services to prevent click fraud.