Click fraud is not a new thing.
For years, this practice has been carried out as a way to circumvent the system and suck money from internet advertisers.
This practice has become more and more sophisticated year after year. A study of University of Baltimore estimates that this type of fraud cost approximately $35 billion in 2020 alone.
In this article, I'll talk about how clickbots and fake traffic work, the main types, and how marketers can minimize the damage.
What are PPC Scams?
On pay per click (pay per click, or PPC), advertisers pay for every click on their ad campaigns.
These advertisers can expose their products and services on various sites through Google Ads Display and YouTube, place their site in the top positions of the SERP, among other ways.
A major challenge of this is that PPC is widely evaded and it is estimated that fake users can represent up to 40% of all internet traffic.
It is scary!
But let's understand now what are the main reasons for this fraud:
Publisher and affiliate fraud
This type of fraud is quite common. In it, bloggers and affiliates circumvent the system by generating false clicks on ads on their websites.
The logic is this:
The owner of the blog registers with Google Adsense and frees up several spaces on his website so that advertisers can expose their products and services. For each click made on the ad banners, they receive 68% of the amount paid by the advertiser for that click.
To do this, they use bots that pretend to be real people clicking on these ads, or they hire 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 causing them to lose as much money as possible. This hurts the performance and relevance of your ads.
Like the scams carried out by competitors, someone can vengefully click on 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 clickbot is software programmed to click on links on various websites. Lately, they have become quite sophisticated by imitating various actions that a real user would do, such as mouse movements, variation in time between clicks, among others.
O objetivo final é gerar uma quantidade máxima de cliques pelos motivos mencionados anteriormente neste artigo.
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 perform specific actions and in return get paid for it.
They are not limited to advertisements. 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 a network of advertising fraud. 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 the Methbot won 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 its damage.
Aqui estão as principais formas de fazer isso:
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 an exclusion list is a great option to block fake clicks on your ads. You can add suspicious IP addresses, websites and device IDs.
Segmentation: 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. Be suspicious whenever you identify behaviors such as:
- sudden increase in click-through rates
- traffic spikes
- increased bounce rates
- length of stay below normal
- among other cases
As I said at the beginning of the article, click fraud is nothing new. As restrictions by Google and other ad platforms increase, criminals evolve their ways to defraud systems.
Currently, due to privacy policies, Google faces several technological limitations to accurately detect what actually comes from a browser and what does not.
But one thing is for sure. 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 within their reach and charge Google and other platforms for the evolution and blocking of this type of online behavior.
In addition, it is extremely important to invest in companies that are not limited to using paid strategies in their business.
Content marketing and SEO are the best solutions to increase your website's organic traffic and have constant organic sales for your business.