What Is Click Fraud? How To Identify Suspicious Activity And Protect Your Ad Budget
What Is Click Fraud? How To Identify Suspicious Activity And Protect Your Ad Budget
Learn how to combat click fraud in online advertising. Discover detection methods, protection strategies, and the importance of click fraud prevention tools to safeguard your ad campaigns from fraudulent clicks and maximize your advertising investment.

The ability to advertise on the web is like a dream come true for any business. These ads allow businesses from any part of the world to become visible to and interact with prospects from all over the globe. Talk about a big blue ocean. 

While online advertising has certainly empowered businesses, the business of ads has also empowered those with ill intentions, commonly known in the online realm as fraudsters. There is a huge variety of frauds plaguing the internet and the online advertising industry, with each type costing internet users and advertisers billions of dollars. One of the most common forms of online advertising frauds is known as click fraud.

In 2022 alone, fraudulent clicks accounted for 22% of all affiliate traffic. The estimated cost of these clicks, paid by unaware advertisers, is about $3.4 billion. This means advertisers cannot work under the assumption that the clicks they are paying for all come from real users. 

This also means that advertisers who value their data and their advertising investment must act to protect themselves against click fraud. 

Prevention starts with awareness and that’s exactly what this article will help you build. Let’s start by answering the most obvious question.

What Is Click Fraud?

The practice of using fake clicks to dupe advertisers and advertising platforms is known as click fraud. While clicks on ads on most platforms and in most industries cost only a few pennies, the cost of fraud adds up quickly when fraudsters send thousands of fake clicks to your ads. 

Click fraud is unfortunately a common practice for sabotaging competition. Businesses with malicious intents may generate clicks on their competitor’s ads to simply drain their ad budgets and gain an edge. The other common culprits behind click fraud are dishonest publishers. Such publishers may inflate the number of clicks on their ads to make more revenue and food advertisers into giving them more ads to place on their website. Such publishers are often backed by click farms. Click farms are organizations that employ either cheap labour in developing countries or bot networks to generate fraudulent clicks on websites. 

How To Detect Click Fraud

Using click fraud detection tools is perhaps the most surefire way to determine if your ad campaigns are plagued with click fraud. However, if you currently do not have access to a click fraud protection, it is possible to detect click fraud manually by scanning your ad campaign performance. To detect click fraud, look for the following signs:-

1. Consistent traffic numbers originating from the same IP address. While this in and of itself is not an alarming sign. However, if this traffic is not resulting in conversions, you can consider it a red flag.

2. If you notice sudden anomalies in your ad campaign reports, you can be sure that your campaign has been a victim of fraudulent clicks. Look for anomalies such as unusually high bounce rate, or a sudden spike in ad spends, or a drop in time on site after click through.

3. One of the most obvious signs of click fraud is high traffic numbers coupled with low conversions.

4. Similarly, if you are getting a lot of ad traffic but only a handful of page views (in comparison), it may be a sign of ad fraud.

How To Protect Your Campaigns From Ad Fraud

There is a lot that ad platforms like Google do to prevent the menace of fraudsters. However, their efforts are not nearly enough. With thousands of fraudsters continually using new and old ways to try and make a quick buck, simply depending on the protection offered by ad platforms. 

At the end of the day, the responsibility of protecting their ad campaigns falls upon advertisers. Thankfully, there are concrete and actionable steps that you can take to ensure your campaigns perform to their full potential and your reporting shows you the transparent truth.  

Adjust Location Targeting Settings

As mentioned earlier, click farms are a commonly employed tool by those engaging in click fraud. In most cases, click farms are run by low-paid workers located in developing countries. Most advertisers can fortify the protection of their campaigns by simply limiting their geographical targeting to avoid such countries. 

To take this a step further, advertisers can simply limit the geographical targeting of their campaigns to areas where most of their existing customers are located. 

If you are noticing that fraudulent traffic is still coming through the ads, you can simply analyse the location from where the traffic is originating and make sure you aren’t targeting them.

Blacklist Problematic IP Addresses

Blacklisting or excluding a specific IP address from your campaigns will prevent ads from being served to that IP address. So if you are noticing fraudulent traffic coming from specific IP addresses, you can take action and block them immediately.

Doing this, in some cases, is better than blocking entire geographical locations from seeing your ads. This is because blocking a location means even genuinely interested prospects located in those places will not be able to see your ads and subsequently, become paying customers. If you are worried about the same, blocking IP addresses may be the answer. 

Place Budget Caps On Campaigns 

Manual oversight on your campaigns, no matter how vigilant, is prone to human errors. In such cases, instances of fraud can result in a serious drain in your overall ad budget.

By putting caps on the amount you spend on specific platforms or with specific publishers, you can easily avoid such an unpleasant situation.

Invest In A Reliable Click Fraud Protection Software

If manual oversight on ad campaigns is not perfect, what is? The answer is a click fraud protection software. As the name suggests, such a software can automatically identify instances and sources of fraud and prevent them from draining your ad budgets and skewing your analytics. 

That said, it is important to remember that not all ad fraud prevention tools are made equal. Some are more comprehensive and user-friendly than others. It is important to choose a tool that not only offers the protection features you desire, but also offers a user experience that fits your technical capabilities. 


What Is Click Fraud

What Is Click Fraud

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