Click fraud is not a new thing.
For years, this practice has been performed as a way to circumvent the system and suck money from internet advertisers.
This practice has become increasingly sophisticated year after year. A study by the University of Baltimore estimates that this type of fraud cost approximately $35 billion dollars in 2020 alone.
In this article, I’m going to talk about how these click-and-traffic bots work, the main types and how marketers can minimize damages.
What are PPC frauds?
In pay-per-click (PPC), advertisers pay for every click on their ads campaigns.
These advertisers can expose their products and services on various websites through the Google Ads Display network, Youtube Social Networks, place their website in the top positions of the SERP, among other ways.
A major challenge of this is that this pay-per-click is vastly evaded and it is estimated that fake users can account for up to 40% of all internet traffic.
But let’s understand now what the main reasons for this fraud are:
Publisher and Affiliate Fraud
This type of fraud is quite common. In it, bloggers and affiliates circumvent the system by generating false clicks on the ads on their sites.
The logic is this:
The blog owner registers for Google Adsense and releases several spaces on his website so that advertisers can expose their products and services. For each click made on ad banners, they will receive 68% of the amount paid by the advertiser for that click.
For this, it uses bots that pretend to be real people clicking on these ads, or hires people to perform these clicks on a recurring basis.
Fraud by competitors
Unethically, this type of fraud aims to increase your competitor’s ad spend (especially on the search network) by making them lose as much money as possible. This harms the performance and relevance of your ads.
As with scams carried out by competitors, someone could be vindictively clicking your ads to deplete your budget. It could be a former employee, former partner, a dissatisfied customer, among other possibilities.
Top sources of fake clicks
A click bot is software programmed to click on links from various websites. Lately, they have become quite sophisticated by imitating various actions that a real user would do, such as: mouse movements, variation of time between clicks, among others.
The ultimate goal is to generate a maximum amount of clicks for the reasons mentioned earlier in this article.
Whether they can be set up automatically or by human hands, click farms are hired to generate clicks on specific links.
They usually have a network of people who click or take specific actions, and in return, they get paid for doing so.
They are not limited to ads, many companies hire them to increase engagement and followers on a social network, watch videos on YouTube or another website, comment on publications, among other actions.
With a very robust structure, criminals use thousands of IPs, domains and automatic bots to create an ad fraud network. The most famous of these was Methbot, whose infrastructure consisted of over 500,000 IPs, 6,000 domains and over 250,000 URLs. Each housed a video ad and used variations of famous domain names to trick users.
It is estimated that Methbot earned between 3 and 5 million dollars a day!
How to protect your ads from PPC fraud?
I can already say that it is not possible to completely avoid this problem, but there are ways to minimize your losses.
Here are the main ways to do this:
Honeypots: Through it, the ad servers use fake ads as bait to detect and expose the Bot, causing the IP to be blocked.
Exclusion list: Having a exclusion list is a great option to block false clicks on your ads. You can add IP addresses, websites and device IDs that are considered suspicious.
Targeting: Target your ads to exclude common geographic areas that regularly generate false clicks.
Indicator analysis: Very drastic changes in your ad indicators can be a red flag for you. Be suspicious whenever you identify behaviors such as: Sudden increase in click-through rates, traffic spikes, increase in bounce rates, lower than normal dwell time, among other cases.
As I said at the beginning of the article, click fraud is nothing new. Although restrictions on the part of Google and other ad platforms increase, criminals have evolved their ways of defrauding systems.
Nowadays, due to privacy policies, Google faces several technological limitations to accurately detect what is actually coming from a browser or not.
But one thing is certain. No matter the size of your budget or market, we are all vulnerable to this type of fraud.
It is up to advertisers to be aware of this problem, monitor their indicators, take the necessary measures that are within their reach and charge Google and other platforms to evolve and block this type of online behavior.
In addition, it is extremely important to invest in companies that do not limit themselves to just using paid strategies in their businesses.
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