Does your business count on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as a source of traffic and – ultimately – leads and sales? If yes, you might be shocked to hear some of the clicks you pay for actually count for nothing.
Click fraud is on the rise. In fact, it cost global businesses $12.48 billion in 2016, which is a massive 18% of the average PPC budget. This is the practice of people (and bots!) clicking on PPC ads with zero intention of buying or making an enquiry.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent click fraud. Read on as we discuss the ins and outs of this wretched tactic and – most importantly – how to stop it affecting your PPC campaigns.
Who commits click fraud – and why?
For the most part, click fraud is committed by businesses in direct competition with your own. By clicking on your paid search ads, they can eat away at your budget and drive your ads off search engine results pages.
Why would they do this? Your competitors will either find it easier to compete for those sponsored listings or find that more people will scroll down and find their business in the organic search engine results.
Some invalid clicks are also done by regular visitors or customers, who use your paid ad simply for access to your site. While most regular visitors use the URL bar or a bookmark to get to your site, others will use search engines, where they’ll find a paid search ad at the top of the results. Instead of scrolling down, they click on that listing and cost you money.
Click fraud methods – automatic vs manual
As for how it’s done, click fraud can be split into automatic or manual. Automatic click fraud is completed using software which repeatedly clicks on your ads, while manual click fraud is done by actual people. This could be your competitors, their employees or, as mentioned, your regular visitors or customers.
Fortunately, most cases of automatic click fraud are easy for search engines to detect. That’s because they use the same IP address for multiple invalid clicks. Somewhere in between manual and automatic are external companies or ‘click farms’, which get low-paid employees to complete large volumes of invalid clicks on behalf of your competitors.
How can I combat click fraud?
Ridding your paid ads of invalid clicks requires effort from both the search engine and yourself. Google has implemented its own systems to check every click on paid adverts. They will automatically identify and discard any clicks which they think are automated, accidental or intentionally fraudulent, so you won’t be charged for them.
There are also manual checks to identify clicks which have escaped the automatic filters. And you can even identify clicks yourself. If you spot anything that seems invalid or suspicious, you can raise a query with Google. If the information you provide is found to be click fraud, you will be refunded or credited for the amount you lost.
Finally, there are a range of actions you can take to prevent click fraud on your PPC ads:
- Invalid clicks – You can add invalid clicks and invalid click rate columns to the Campaign section of AdWords. Using this, you can see where click fraud is most common and use this to tweak your settings.
- Targeting – If you’re aware of particular problem areas, you can remove them from the areas your campaign targets. It could be a country where click farms are common, or a specific location of your competitors.
- IP addresses – More specifically, you can block certain IP addresses, so your ads don’t show to them. Just go to advanced settings in the selected campaign and add them to IP exclusions.
Make PPC work for you
Click fraud is just one hurdle in the world of PPC advertising. At Fluid Digital, we provide expert PPC management and assistance for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Getting to know your business and targets, we work to create, manage and optimise the perfect PPC campaign for you.
To talk more about how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.