Limit your chances of losing ad spend to fraudulent clicks.
Regularly audit your analytics and ad performance.
Keep an eye on some of these data points:
- Dramatic increase in bounce rate for paid clicks. If, historically, the bounce rate for a landing page is in the 20–30% range, but it quickly shoots up to over 60%, that may indicate that something has gone awry. Of course, bounce rate can be affected by other factors like page speed and web design, so a sudden jump doesn’t guarantee foul play.
- Abnormal number of clicks and impressions. A successful ad campaign will increase pageviews and impressions, but an unusual increase in clicks and impressions, like hundreds of clicks pouring in with “not set” as the location, may signal click fraud.
- Low or non-existent conversions. Lower-than-expected conversions on your campaigns can also be a sign of click fraud. If a competitor is using a click farm to manipulate your advertising efforts, the people or bots behind the attack aren’t going to buy your product or service.
In every instance, historical data is essential. Not every ad campaign will be a massive success, detecting click fraud in an analytics audit requires a comparison to baseline expectations.
Target specific countries or locations where your target audience is most active. If you do 98% of your business in the United States and Europe, for example, consider excluding countries outside of those locations to reduce your risk. You can still reach that tiny subset of buyers via other channels without risking your entire ad spend.
If you suspect certain websites are sending you fraudulent clicks, you can exclude them from display placements.
Knowing the major players in your space and commonly targeted keywords can help you monitor these clicks.
While blocking IP addresses in Google Ads is simple, identifying them requires evaluating your server logs. Google Analytics no longer allows you to see the IP addresses of visitors to your site, and Google Ads never has, since it constitutes personally identifiable information.
A reverse look-up of a questionable IP address can often help you determine if it’s likely click fraud. For example, if you suddenly notice hundreds of clicks from rural Idaho, and you sell beachwear, you can block that set of addresses.
If you’re in the market for software, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Do they work with your go-to ad platforms? Some click-fraud tools specialize in Google Ads, while others monitor and protect a wider range of platforms. Platforms themselves also have limitations; Microsoft Ads, for example, doesn’t allow automatic IP blocking by third-party tools that detect click fraud; Google Ads does.
- Is there a free trial? In the case of click-fraud software, trials can be especially helpful. You can test the software immediately on several campaigns to see its impact. Free trials may also be useful diagnostic tools to identify the scope of click fraud in your campaigns.
- Does their model align with your budget? Some tools cover only a limited amount of ad spend each month.
Set your ads to target and observe, then use audiences to prequalify impressions and clicks on suspicious publishers.
"If you set your ads to target and observe, the only folks who will have access to your ads are people in your audience lists." - Navah Hopkins, Director of Paid Media at Hennessey Digital.
Even with some manual monitoring and software, you’ll never prevent click fraud completely. Any marketing strategy that relies heavily on PPC, or any single channel for acquisition is at risk. Diversifying your marketing spend is an essential hedge.