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Preventing PPC Click Fraud and Unwanted Clicks

Preventing PPC Click Fraud and Unwanted Clicks

Preventing PPC Click Fraud and Unwanted Clicks

PPC advertising is an extremely valuable tool to have in your digital marketing toolbox. It can propel your brand forward by driving relevant traffic that you would not have otherwise received. However, some competitors don’t believe in friendly competition when it comes to PPC. While clawing their way to the top spot, some companies play dirty by causing PPC click fraud to their competitors. Keep reading to find out more about PPC Click Fraud, the impact it may have on your business, how to tell if it’s happening to you, and how to prevent it moving forward.

What is PPC Click Fraud?

PPC click fraud is when competitors click on your ads illegally to exhaust your budget and, essentially, make your ad go away to make room for theirs. The bot or individual doing the clicking has no intention of completing your desired action (whether that is buying or signing up for something). By clicking on the ad enough times, it drives up your budget to the cap at the beginning of the day, making room for their ad to come up higher and get all the traffic for free without having to pay to outbid you. Sneaky, right?

What Happens If Click Fraud Happens To You

Now that you know PPC click fraud is a very dirty trick, it’s essential to know how much it can truly impact you. Other than just losing potential customers and your advertising budget money, PPC click fraud can cause damage to your online presence in a couple of ways:

  • Your Quality Score is lowered. This is a big deal. When you have a low Quality Score with Google, they think that your content is not relevant because your ads aren’t getting any conversions. Google is all about serving up relevant content, so as a consequence, you will have to pay higher bidding fees, and your SEO can be severely impacted.
  • It ruins your data. In the already competitive world of online marketing, you need to have every competitive advantage possible, including accurate data on your target audience. If your Google reports show negative feedback from an ad due to PPC click fraud, it can make you adjust in other areas of your digital marketing that shouldn’t need adjusting. As such, your entire digital marketing campaign can be affected all because of fraud.

How to Tell If It’s Happening to You

Getting high clicks and little-to-no conversions on your ad don’t necessarily mean you’re the victim of fraud. You could just need some adjusting with your advertising creative, demographics, or much more. However, eliminating PPC click fraud from the beginning will help you with this determination and could save you a lot of time and money on new ads and creative research.

When looking into click fraud on your account, you need to make a note of four key things:

  1. The IP address. This is the numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the internet. Think of it as your name badge.
  2. Click timestamp. This is the timestamp of when someone lands on your landing page after clicking your ad.
  3. Action timestamp. The action timestamp is when a person has completed an action on your site, such as making a purchase.
  4. User agent. This lets you know more data about the device being used throughout the process, whether it is desktop or mobile, which internet browser they used, and much more.

Check Your Timestamps

The number one dead giveaway that you are receiving fraudulent clicks is when the same IP or Mac address is serving up a ton of click timestamps but no action timestamps. This means that the same person is clicking on your ads repeatedly but not performing an action. While this could be normal to have happen every once in a while, an average internet user would not do this tens or hundreds of times in one morning.

By regularly checking your ad’s click timestamps versus action timestamps, you can stay ahead and block those IP addresses – more on how to do this later. Just remember that not every IP address that clicks through but makes no action is fraudulent. You’re looking for repeat offenders who are doing it way more than an average internet user would.

Preventing PPC Click Fraud and Unwanted Clicks

Preventing PPC Click Fraud and Unwanted Clicks

What You Can Do About It

Now that you’ve figured out how to determine whether you’re a victim of PPC click fraud and how it can negatively impact your business, it is time to take action. What can you do about PPC click fraud? Luckily, there are ways to can prevent it moving forward.

Take it to Social

Changing gears and focusing your advertising efforts on social media is a great way to go if you’re repeatedly running into PPC click fraud issues on search engine advertising. Advertising on social media is completely done through demographics, while search engine marketing is mainly done through keyword search. This key difference makes it extremely difficult for competitors or bots to find your ads in order to repeatedly click on them and drive up your budget.

Protect Your Budget

One of the scariest parts of PPC click fraud is all of the money you are wasting on it. However, you can use your budget to your advantage, in this case, to find out more about your fraudulent clicks. Set up a max daily PPC budget so that your money isn’t being eaten away. In addition to reducing budget waste, this will help you analyze what times your budget is being used and make adjustments from there.

Stick to Remarketing

Remarketing ads are only displayed to users who have already visited your website. Ever gone on a retailer’s website, almost bought something, then it haunted you around the internet for days afterward until you finally decided to buy it? That is remarketing and, since it is only served up to users who have already visited, competitors have no way to click on the ads because they cannot see them.

IP and Location Exclusions

If you know exactly which IP or Mac addresses are hounding you with fraudulent clicks, you can block them from seeing your ads. This will stop them from continuing their practice and help cut down on all the PPC click fraud madness.

It’s as simple as this:

  • Click on the campaign
  • Click on Advanced Settings
  • Click IP Exclusions
  • Click Edit
  • Enter the IP address you wish you exclude
  • And hit Save!

In addition, you can block specific locations from seeing your ads. Oftentimes, click farms are based in other countries, and if you’re a local business, there is no reason for them even to see your ads in the first place. You can also block other competitors from seeing your ads (only if you suspect they are the ones performing fraud) by zoning in on their zip code —just be careful that you are not excluding any good potential customers by doing that.

Report It to Google

Can I talk to the manager?

If you’re fed up with PPC Click Fraud, make sure you report it to Google. They are committed to making advertising on their platform a fair place for everyone, whether that is the user or the advertiser.

What Is Google Doing About It?

Advertising on Google isn’t the wild west; they take active measures to find it, prevent it, and penalize those who do it. Here’s what they say about preventing PPC fraud: 

Google takes invalid activity very seriously. We use over a hundred complex algorithms to spot bad traffic as it happens, and our global team of PhDs, data scientists, engineers, and researchers work around the clock to prevent advertisers from paying for — and publishers benefitting from — invalid clicks, impressions, views, or interactions.

When we find something wrong, we try to make it right as soon as possible. We suspend or disable invalid accounts and may withhold payments to the publisher. When appropriate and possible, that money is credited back to the advertisers — not only for the month where we found the invalid activity but often for the previous month, as well.

Here is their process, broken down:

  • Filtering. Whether it is automated filtering, filtering in real-time, or filtering in near-real-time, Google is all over it. “We use over 180 sophisticated filters to stop the vast majority of invalid traffic in real-time or soon after. With a combination of cutting-edge technology and a steady stream of data, our filters actually get smarter over time. A team of specialists continuously monitors and updates each filter to make sure they’re running at peak efficiency.”
  • Manual detection and review. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than dealing with a human. “Because no filter is perfect, we also manually review issues flagged by our advertisers, publishers, and automated systems. Whenever we find new threats like botnets or crawlers, we use that information to improve our filters. To make sure we’re not filtering any legitimate traffic, we periodically review all our filters and adjust as needed.”
  • Suspending and disabling offenders. Sometimes, the best way to protect advertisers and users is to suspend or disable a publisher’s account. “If a publisher generates an excessive amount of invalid traffic, we may disable the account immediately. If, on the other hand, a publisher seems to be generating invalid traffic by accident, we may only suspend their account until they fix the problem. Repeat offenders and deliberate abusers may have their accounts disabled and find themselves banned from using our ad platforms.”

We Can Help You Advertise on Google Worry-Free

Don’t let PPC click fraud deter you entirely away from advertising on Google. Advertising on Google can give you huge rewards and take your business to the next level when done right. Preventing PPC click fraud and unwanted clicks is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to proper advertising. The best way to advertise on Google worry-free? Bring in the experts!

At Navazon, we can help you with your PPC advertising all the way from concept to creative to management. We will keep a close eye on your campaigns to ensure they are performing as best as they can be and free of PPC fraud from competitors. We employ sophisticated software and algorithms that scour the PPC logs and identify fraudulent clicks. We also check your OPC traffic against a database of known black-listed IPs and Mac addresses. We report our findings and a list of fraudulent clicks to Google for refund or credit.

Ready to get started? Let’s chat!

Armed with over 10 years of experience in digital marketing, Jaclyn Uloth started her career at a full-service digital marketing firm for five years, guiding many websites to completion as well as developing and executing sophisticated marketing strategies for countless brands. More recently, she was in charge of digital, social media, and paid advertising efforts for well-known multinational franchise operations. Currently, she is using her years of experience and writing abilities to write marketing copy and blogs to boost the online presence of the brands she works with.