Click Fraud: 5 Signs to Spot it Fast

11/4/2016 - PPC
how to avoid click fraud

With the increasing importance of a digital marketing plan and budget around PPC and display ads, click fraud on those ads can be a serious problem if it’s not caught quickly enough. Planning and executing a plan for PPC and display ads is a time and budget consuming process, so the last thing you want is having fraudulent activity on those ad units.

Why is Knowing About Click Fraud Important?

Why should you care about click fraud? Even with Google’s fairly sophisticated fraud tracking and monitoring system, sometimes click fraud may be overlooked and not filtered out of your ad results. This oversight means that you are paying for the fraudulent clicks that are charged to your account, even though they are not returning any results.

Essentially, click fraud drains your digital marketing budget with little to no return on investment. Additionally, this fraud can drive up the bids on your ads making you pay more and more for unqualified clicks. Lastly, click fraud can make it very difficult to get a real picture of your ad results. If 50 percent of the clicks you are seeing are fraudulent, you cannot really report on that data with a real sense of certainty.

5 Signs of Click Fraud

Thankfully, there are a few red flags that you can look out for to catch click fraud before it becomes a serious issue that drains your budget and skews your ad results.

  1. One of the first things to look for is the repetition of IP addresses. Seeing the same IP address over and over on your PPC and display ads is a sign that you may be a target of click fraud. This type of click fraud is typically automated and is essentially software that is targeting and repeatedly clicking on your ads.
  2. Another thing to look for is an irregularly large number of clicks coming from the same geographic location. These clicks are typically coming from “click farms” which are companies that pay people, usually in developing countries, to repeatedly click on display ads. These click farm employees are taught how to imitate the behavior of a real Internet user, so their clicks can sometimes be inconspicuous; however, click farm clicks can be spotted when a large volume of clicks stars coming from locations outside of your company’s area of business or when ad traffic is hidden behind proxies or when multiple clicks originate from the same user.
  3. Click fraud can also be spotted when IP addresses start coming in that belong to cloaking software companies. A large amount of masked IP addresses clicking on your ads is almost a surefire sign that someone or something is targeting your ads for fraudulent activity.
  4. Rapid increases in traffic for certain keywords is also an indication that fraudulent activity may be involved. This not only drives your bids for those keywords up, but it also drains the budget you have set aside for the keywords exponentially faster without giving you any return on those keywords.
  5. One of the last ways you can spot click fraud is when you see a doubling or tripling in the number of clickthroughs on ads even though you did not increase the bid on those ads, see a ranking change, or see a corresponding lift in business or revenue.

PPC ads and display ads are an integral part of a well-rounded digital marketing strategy, but click fraud can quickly ruin all of your hard work. Luckily, Google has a number of filters that flag click fraud, but if you start to see your bids skyrocket or your budget drain faster than typical looking for the five signs listed above will help you figure out if click fraud is to blame.