Are You Running a Google AdWords Campaign?
You may find yourself the victim of click fraud. Click fraud is a black-hat technique of falsely inflating the number of clicks on a pay-per-click ad. Most of the time my clients experience an attack by a competitor. It is the competitor business itself or the competitor’s unscrupulous third party marketing service who click away at an ad to drive up the PPC cost and eat up my client’s budget.
According to Google, they employ advanced algorithms to detect and filter out invalid clicks in real time, before advertisers are even charged. Since these filters cannot possibly catch all fraudulent clicks, Google’s “Ad Traffic Quality Team” also conducts manual analysis and removes any clicks that they deem to be invalid before advertisers are actually charged. Google also launches investigations based on advertisers’ reports of suspicious activity. Anytime malicious clicks are detected, they are labeled as “invalid” and credits are issued to the account. That said, none of this has ever helped any of my clients experiencing click fraud even when reported to Google with factual evidence. And believe me, it happens to a lot of my clients.
What can you do to protect yourself from click fraud?
- Use a Click Fraud Protection Service: ClickGUARD™ or clickCease are a few of the providers who offer click fraud monitoring and protection services.
- Add IP Exclusions in AdWords: If you’ve done your research and know the IP address associated with fraudulent clicks, you can block your ad from being served to that IP in the future. To set up an exclusion, all you need to do is go to the Settings tab and scroll down to the IP Exclusions setting. From there, you just plug in the offending addresses and you’re covered.
- Tweak Your Ad Targeting: If you suspect that a competitor is committing click fraud, you can exclude their zip code, city, etc. Of course, it is imperative that you are not eliminating valid traffic as you do this. Only set these exclusions if you believe that the majority of the clicks generated in these areas are truly fraudulent. If you suspect click fraud is coming from a specific geographic region, it may be worthwhile to exclude these locations and their respective languages. Sometimes your competitors will employ third party SEO or online marketing services that are based in other countries with low labor rates who will use the “click farm” tactic.
Alternatively you can use social media ad campaigns. The great thing about utilizing Facebook and Twitter ad platforms for instance, is that your ads will show exclusively on these platforms. There are no third-party publishers involved thus cutting out a significant source of click fraud. But what about malicious competitors’ clicks? Good news! This version of click fraud is less prevalent on paid social networks because of their specific ad targeting. Since ad placement is based on a keyword search, it’s much more difficult for competitors to even find your ads.