What is click fraud and how is Google Ads fighting it?

Digital

We've taken a look at some of the common types of click fraud, what Google are doing to combat it and what you can do if you suspect you have been targeted.

Written By

Thomas Coughlan

Posted On

20 Feb 2019

What exactly is Click Fraud?

Click fraud is one of the most talked about topics on Google Ads and other PPC platforms. But what exactly is it? Click fraud has been defined by Google as “invalid traffic” and includes any clicks or impressions that may artificially inflate an advertiser’s costs or publisher’s earnings.

How much has been lost to Click Fraud?

According to Click Guardian, it was estimated that in 2016, £5.4 Billion was lost to click fraud. By the end of 2018, it was estimated that £20.7 Billion was lost. That is an enormous amount of money that advertisers have lost to fraudsters or click errors.

With so much money being lost, you might be thinking what Google is doing to try and reduce it. However, Google is using a number of methods to fight it. This includes manual reviewers, automated filters, deep research and a global team of scientists and engineers.

Types of click fraud

Clicks to increase advertising costs

This type of click fraud is the one advertisers fear the most. This is when other businesses who are competing for the same keyword deliberately click on your ads to increase the cost per click for you. This drives up the cost for everyone competing, which knocks out the businesses who have a smaller budget and therefore lowers the competition for companies with the bigger budgets.

Clicks to increase profits for website owners hosting your ads

This type of click fraud is only applicable to advertisers who use the Google Display Network. These are the ads that appear on third-party websites who are signed up to Google’s AdSense program. Before being accepted to join the program, the website is checked thoroughly to ensure it meets Google’s third-party policy requirements. For every click on your ad on a website, the webmaster earns 68% of the amount paid to Google. You can see where this is going. Webmasters who do not attract much traffic to their website and therefore not many clicks on your ad will not be earning much money from Google. Therefore, they may decide to start clicking on your ad themselves to increase the revenue they get. In some cases, they invite others to their website to also click on your ad.

This is against Google’s strict policy and anyone caught is immediately banned from the program. Publishers who generate an excessive amount of traffic will also be banned. However, if it is found to be accidental, they will be suspended until the problem is fixed.

Automated clicks by clicking tools, bots or software

There are automated programs that run on internet servers and hacked computers that are programmed to create a large number of clicks and impressions and to make it appear like real users. Google uses automated filters to capture this activity, however, they also have a team of specialists who look for and stop bots.

Accidental Clicks

Sometimes people click on an ad by accident and provide no value to the advertiser. This can often happen on mobile when a user intends to click on a link and accidentally clicks on an ad instead. The engagement for these are usually low and tend to have high bounce rates – up to 100%. Google uses its tools to stamp out these clicks.

Legitimate clicks

Sometimes there may be legitimate clicks on your ads that may look like click fraud. When competitors are carrying out competitor research, it is likely that they will click on your ads. However, it’s likely that they will also be clicking on your competitors’ ads as well and there isn’t much you can do to stop this.

Many searchers click on ads multiple times when they are looking for products and services. They may be comparing products on different sites and going back to your website to find out more information.

How can you combat Click Fraud?

If you suspect you are losing money to click fraud, there are ways to combat it. Firstly, you should optimise your ads and keywords to only target relevant searches. Identifying and increasing a low conversion rate can help you to identify any potential invalid activity.

You can also use Google Analytics to track the performance of your keywords and assess any suspicious clicks from specific locations.

By looking on your Google Ads account, you are also able to see if you have been credited for any invalid interactions. You can do this by logging into your account and clicking ‘Tools’ in the top right section. Next, under ‘Setup’, click ‘Billing & Payments’ and then ‘View Transactions and Documents’.

You can also monitor any invalid interactions in your account statistics. You are able to customise the columns to add the invalid interactions data. This allows you to see the number of percentage of invalid clicks.

How to report click fraud

If you have followed all the previous steps and your suspected click fraud doesn’t show up, the next step is to contact Google. You should share as much information as possible with them including a description of the invalid activity, details of why you suspect the activity is click fraud and what you have done to counteract it. Their team of specialists will then use a range of tools to identify any invalid activity. Due to the amount of data they have to deal with, this can take up to several days. If it is then proven to have been click fraud, you will receive a credit in your Google Ads account.

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