October 14, 2020 | 7 min reading time

Before getting into the click fraud statistics lets take a quick look at what the problem is. What is click fraud anyway?

One of the first things that you need to be cautious of when running a PPC campaign is click fraud. It is common and it is everywhere. Despite all the protective and preventive steps taken by leading ad networks like Google Ads, PPC fraud is still here.

Click fraud (also known as PPC fraud or ad fraud) refers to invalid or illegitimate clicks on PPC ads that are generated by bots, scripts, humans, or any other way. The purpose of this type of fraud is to exhaust the budget of the advertisers or earn money. The clicks aren’t legitimate, and Google classifies all such clicks that have no intention of buying as invalid clicks.

What does google classify as click fraud

PPC fraud has existed for years and has its roots in early PPC and advertising networks. Publishers used to click ads on their own websites to earn money and this practice of earning money has transformed into a gigantic industry today.

If you are running a PPC or any ad campaign, the following ad, click, and PPC fraud statistics will help you better understand and prepare yourself.

Click Fraud, PPC Fraud, and Click Fraud Statistics

Here is an overview of the leading PPC fraud statistics:

  • Almost half of all internet traffic is generated by bots. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • One out of every three dollars spent by advertisers is wasted due to ad fraud. (Media Post, 2019)
  • 14% of all PPC clicks are estimated to be click fraud. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • Almost 56% of all online ads are never seen by any human. (AdAge, 2014)

Global businesses are expected to lose $44 billion by 2022 due to ad fraud. (ClickGUARD, 2020)

Click fraud statistics
  • PPC advertisers lose $51 million per day due to click fraud. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • Ad fraud by spoofed domains on ad exchange costs ad publishers as much as $3.5 million a day. (Marketing Drive, 2019)
  • Ad fraud is expected to become the biggest market of organized crime by 2025 worth $50 billion. (WFA, 2016)
  • As much as 90% of click fraud is caused by bots (bot farms, click farms, botnets, etc.). (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • 77% of all US fraudulent traffic is categorized as sophisticated invalid traffic. (Marketing Drive, 2019)
  • 54% of ad fraud in the US is carried on desktops while 46% is done on mobile. (Marketing Drive, 2019)
  • The global estimated cost of invalid clicks is $23 billion in 2020. (University of Baltimore, 2019)

As you can see so far the click fraud statistics are just staggering, and they just keep getting bigger.

The total cost of invalid clicks in the US is predicted to be $9 billion in 2020. (University of Baltimore, 2019)

True click fraud statistics
  • Websites with ads.txt get 3.5% less ad fraud clicks than sites without ads.txt. (eMarketer, 2018)
  • The invalid click rate for some keywords in search campaigns is as high as 90%. (University of Baltimore, 2019)
  • 69% of companies that spend at least $1 million a month on PPC reported that 20% of all the traffic they receive each month is invalid. (Forrester, 2018)
  • Ad fraud is expected to cost businesses $100 million a day by 2023. (TechRepublic, 2019)
  • One in five of all US programmatic ads in 2019 had invalid traffic. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • 36% of businesses don’t know how much they're exposed to ad fraud. (WFA, 2020)
  • 88% of digital ad clicks are fraudulent. (Oxford Biochronometrics)
  • Mobile ad fraud resulted in a $1.6 billion loss in the first quarter of 2020. (AppsFlyer, 2020)
  • Attribution is one of the biggest ad fraud sources in 2020. (Media Post, 2019)
  • The global fraud detection and prevention market is expected to be an $85 billion market by 2025. (VynZ Research, 2020)
  • USA, APAC, and the Middle East are the top-ranked locations for web fraud. (Fraud Score, 2020)
  • Russia, APAC, and CIS are the top-ranked locations in terms of mobile fraud. (Fraud Score, 2020)

These click fraud statistics show how huge this market is and where it is heading. PPC fraud is linked to PPC spending, and it grows with the same proportion. When advertisers spend more on PPC, fraudsters earn more because a certain percentage of clicks in any PPC campaign turns out to be fraudulent.

ad fraud statistics

Industry Click Fraud Statistics

Here is an overview of the click fraud statistics for specific industries that shows how it impacts leading markets in the world. A click fraud protection tool is a must in today’s time:

  • The global education sector receives the highest number of fraud clicks. Around 30.46% of all clicks in the education sector are fraudulent. (University of Baltimore, 2019)
  • The global eCommerce sector is expected to lose $3.8 billion due to invalid clicks by the end of 2020.
  • The US eCommerce sector is expected to lose $1.4 billion due to click fraud by the end of 2020. (University of Baltimore, 2019)
  • The global travel sector is expected to lose $2.6 billion by the end of 2020 due to click fraud. (University of Baltimore, 2019)
  • The US travel and tourism sector is expected to lose $1 billion by the end of 2020 due to click fraud. (University of Baltimore, 2019)
  • eCommerce and retail sectors receive the least fraudulent clicks. Only 9.67% of clicks are fraudulent in the global eCommerce and retail sector. (University of Baltimore, 2019)

Bots Farms and How They Contribute to Click Fraud Statistics

Bots, bot farms, botnets, click farms, and other scripts are an important element of the click fraud industry. A fairly large number of clicks are carried out via these bots. Here is an overview of the PPC fraud statistics specifically related to bot farms:

  • Bots inflate monetized audience by 50%. (White Ops)
  • 28% of website traffic is generated by bots. (Adobe, 2018)
  • Spam sites sent 10 to 100 times more traffic to advertising exchanges than real sites. (Botlab, 2020)
  • PPC agencies and businesses are expected to lose $7.2 billion due to bots by the end of 2020. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • Methbot was one of the highly sophisticated bot farms with more than 1900 dedicated servers that cost advertisers $3 million per day consistently. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
Bot farms contributing to ad fraud
  • 3ve is one of the biggest bot farms that’s currently active. It controls more than 1 million IP addresses and over 700,000 devices. Google, along with other partners, is still hunting for 3ve. (ClickGUARD, 2020)
  • Hydra is an ad fraud operation that creates fake app traffic and has cost marketers $133 million. Google and other companies are still trying to hunt it down. (Business Insider, 2020)
  • Icebucket is a bot network that generated around 1.9 billion ad requests for 300 publishers and impacted 2 million people on the connected TV. (Marketing Drive, 2020)
  • Smart bots are the most common ad fraud type that accounts for 57% of mobile ad fraud. (Scalarr, 2020)
  • Click spam and smart bots together account for 90% of mobile ad fraud. (Scalarr, 2020)
Bot farms contributing to ad fraud

That Wrap

Click fraud isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The click fraud statistics above clearly show that PPC fraud is a rapidly growing market that is linked to global digital ad spend. As long as businesses are spending money on ads, ad fraud won’t go anywhere – at least not for now.

The ad fraud market is gigantic and it is growing exponentially. How big it will become after a few years and where and how it will end, nobody knows. Ad networks like Google Ads and Facebook are busy tackling and minimizing click fraud but you can’t (and shouldn’t) rely on your ad network.

Your best bet is to take preventive steps to protect your PPC campaigns from all types of fraud. Monitor your ad campaigns constantly, check detailed statistics, and importantly, use a PPC fraud detection and prevention tool such as ClickGUARD. Spending a few dollars on PPC click fraud protection can help you save millions in the long run.

Jason is the CMO @ ClickGUARD. He is passionate about all things PPC, SEO and has extensive customer acquisition experience. When not writing about SEM he can be found surfing the wildest ocean waves of the South American coast.