What are best practices to avoid click fraud in Google AdWords?

Frequently seen in the pay per click (PPC) advertising world, click fraud is a deceptive technique that is costing entrepreneurs and companies thousands. Click fraud mostly involves malicious, the massive clicking of your pay per click ad by a compet

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Frequently seen in the pay per click (PPC) advertising world, click fraud is a deceptive technique that is costing entrepreneurs and companies thousands. Click fraud mostly involves malicious, the massive clicking of your pay per click ad by a competitor in the hope that you will panic when you see your sky-high PPC advertising bill and stop running it. Once you can’t any longer afford to advertise and remove your ads from Google or Yahoo, this means more clicks and more sales for the competitor’s services or products.

In 2017 alone, about 1 in 5 clicks on adverts were fraudulent, with the number slowly increasing every month.

Click fraud not only drives up advertising costs for businesses, but it also skews analytical data which many companies rely on to make useful marketing decisions. Maybe you have a pay per click campaign with a high converting and profitable keyword which delivers 80% of your sales. If that keyword suffers from regular click fraud and you don’t detect it, then from a marketing perspective you might decide to remove it. From looking at your data, the click-through rate would be remarkably high, while the conversion rate would be very low. Since you get charged for every click, ultimately the cost of the ad will overweigh the profit, and you will have to give up on it.

However, if you have sufficient data and monitor the keyword closely, then there is a high chance you would see a change in performance, alerting you to the fact that something shady might be going on with that keyword.

By staying vigilant and knowing the tell-tale signs of click fraud, advertisers can help themselves and make PPC platforms safer for everyone. Here are some ways how you can identify a click fraud:

  • Look out for sudden spikes in traffic

Keep an eye on your Google AdWords reports, and Google Analytics reports. In Google Analytics you can clearly see which traffic is coming from AdWords. You should review them regularly and look out for strange spikes in traffic that do not match with increasing your budget.

  • Check for sudden conversion rate drops

A sudden drop in conversion rates despite traffic remaining strong can also be an indication of click fraud. Compare your organic conversion rate to your conversion rate during pay per click campaigns. You should always keep track of the rate difference. Changes you make onsite can alter the conversion rates for both paid and organic traffic, but changes made within PPC management will only affect paid conversion rates. By regularly reviewing this ratio you should notice any strange changes that do not correspond with actions taken by you. If you have been experiencing somewhat steady conversion rates with traffic remaining steady and a few changes have occurred onsite or in your account, but conversion rates suddenly fall, then this could be a sign of click fraud.

  • Look for traffic from weird locations

If you see surges in traffic, reportedly coming from areas outside your geo-targeting; this should be immediately come suspiciously to you. If it is 1 or 2 clicks, it is usually fine, but sudden traffic growth from a location you are not targeting may well be fraud. Click fraud experts can use fake IPs to make to seem like their fake traffic is coming from an area when really it is not.

  • Check for high bounce rates

One of the main signs of click fraud is a sudden increase in bounce rates and shorter sessions on site. Of course, this could be due to your PPC manager targeting a new but unsuitable audience or an unsuccessful change to a website’s landing page. Though, if no changes have been made and traffic from AdWords starts to have growing bounce rates and little amounts of time spent on site, then that is a bad sign and potentially click fraud.

Now that you know you are being click frauded, below are the best practices you can use to avoid click fraud:

1) Exclude IP addresses

If you can identify the person, company or even better- IP addresses of those doing click fraud, you can then block them in AdWords. The hard part is discovering their IP, but you can surely look at your server logs or invest in third-party tracking software that specialises in revealing IP addresses.

2) Keep geotargeting tight

By keeping your PPC geotargeting tight, you can limit exposure to countries where click fraud is frequently committed. It also makes your campaign more relevant and discrepancies easier to spot.

3) Keep keywords relevant and specific

By avoiding broad match and keeping your keywords hyper-relevant, you can run a more relevant campaign, and this will also make it more difficult for fraudsters to target you. Click fraud tends to target broad and expensive keywords. Because these terms mean they can waste more money and as they receive high traffic volume anyway, they are less likely to be caught. By having a firm grasp of your keywords, you limit the chances of becoming a target.

4) Use ad scheduling

If you suspect someone has been doing click fraud against you at a particular time of day or on a specific day of the week, then use ad scheduling to avoid those times and keep your budget intact.

5) Use managed placements on display networks

Using automatic placements is the easiest way to get targeted with click fraud on the display network. By using managed placements, you can choose only reputable and relevant sites and avoid nefarious publishers.

6) Use click fraud prevention software

With all these efforts, click fraud can still slip through the net, but there are third-party specialists in click fraud prevention software. If you are a large brand and reasonably sure you are losing significant money to click fraud, it could be time to invest in extra software.