Depending on Machine Learning for Click Fraud Prevention. Yes or No?

August 12, 2020
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7 min
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Click fraud is a term that describes all the interactions with a PPC ad that don't generate legit traffic. These interactions are usually done by robots, hackers or online criminals. As you work toward building your business, disingenuous robots and people are draining your marketing budget by clicking on your ads and ramping up illegitimate charges. You may be disappointed to find that a large portion of your marketing budget is being allocated to non-revenue generating results

Why Click Fraud Frustrates Growth

With the dramatic growth of PPC fraud, the challenge is to open up your marketing channels to qualified prospects while setting up roadblocks for illegitimate traffic. You may be wondering what role machine learning could play in helping to prevent click fraud. When you make preventing click fraud a high marketing priority, it gives you more accurate data to work with so you can make better marketing decisions.

How click fraud has grown and road map

Statistics of Click Fraud

By reviewing a few statistics, we can see that click fraud farms are running rampantly. 

  • Fraudulent PPC ad clicks amount to 20%, costing businesses up to $60 billion per year.
  • In 2018, Google had advertising revenues of $116 billion which is $23.2 billion in click fraud.
  • From 2015-2020, click fraud seems to be growing at about 52% year over year, and click fraud on PCs has grown 4%.
  • Mobile device click fraud was over 100% in 2017and could be closer to 200% in 2020.
  • AT&T produced the first banner ad which had a 44% click-through rate.
  • You can expect an average of 0.19% click-through rate on display ads.
  • In 2017, around 1 in 5 ad clicks were fraudulent.
  • The Russian Methbot Operation made close to $5 million per day from click fraud and ad view fraud bots.
  • In 2015, Bloomberg reported that 22% of all click fraud hit the finance industry. 
  • Between 2016-2018, companies lost $7.2 billion to click fraud.
  • You may save around 21% by doing a click fraud audit.

Due to the substantial increase of PPC fraud, you have to start thinking about your digital marketing strategy in the same way. How can you keep fraudsters from clicking on the ads that you paid for when they’re not interested in becoming paying customers?  The aforementioned data shows that click fraud is unbridled.

The Emergence of Fraud Prevention Tools

With the rise in click fraud, it’s not a surprise that around 2013 many companies began to emerge with the purpose of creating click prevention tools. The eruption of these new companies produced a wide variety of click prevention tools. Generally, they appealed to the marketplace by promoting the notion that machine learning and artificial intelligence could create a magic formula that would automate the process of mitigating click fraud.

The majority of these vendors claim in much confidence to be leveraging Machine learning and AI to prevent click fraud.

Are these claims false?

Click fraud prevention vendors claim to leverage Machine Learning in order to prevent ad fraud; but how can they deliver on their promises when they don't provide transparent insights into their process?

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are great. Algorithms use numbers, words, images, and clicks as the basis for making adjustments. If you’re not a math whiz, an algorithm is a set of rules that you need to follow to do calculations or solve problems. The goal of using machine learning is to turn data into insight. 

The problem is that those tools that claim to leverage Machine Learning without providing data can't be trusted.

How can you trust a tool that doesn't provide insight and a paper trail?

Can click fraud detection tools that claim to use machine learning really protect your PPC Campaigns from fraudulent clicks?

AI and Machine learning are exceptional when the click fraud vendor can provide you data with a paper trail and insights into every single action executed on your behalf.

problems click fraud prevention

Problems with Click Fraud Prevention Tools Using Machine Learning

As a business owner, tech expert, or digital marketer you already know how your product can help someone or their business. Your goal is to get your product into the hands of as many of your target customers as possible, as quickly as possible, and with as little hassle and expense as possible.

While you know your product inside out and upside down, the technology behind how to streamline the process of marketing directly to your personas and your target market might be a bit foreign to you because it’s highly complex and technical. 

While it’s important to have a basic understanding of marketing technology, you don’t need to be a technical expert in all things. Your primary focus should be on building your business. 

Implementing the right technology allows you to free yourself so you have more time to manage other aspects of your business that demands your attention.

What is the right technology? The right technology is one that provides transparent insights and adapts to your business model

The right technology caters to your business’ unique threat levels, personas, and marketing channels. Ad fraud prevention tools provide true value when you can customize the parameters of your data so you have full control over the results. 

A magic box without a paper trail

Ad fraud prevention tools that use AI and Machine learning should align with: Transparency and proof. This being, can I fully prove that my “Magic system” is blocking malicious attacks and threats with its magic sauce? Now, if I can’t actually visualize the data or paper trail of such actions what substantial ground can I rely on, not knowing actually what has happened “behind the scenes”?

Results-driven marketers and business leaders, know the importance of accountability, not just of their team, but of their tools. A tool must execute a task (With or without machine learning) and show:

  1. Why it executed the task
  2. How it executed the task effectively 
  3. How this affects the output

If someone is selling a one-size-fits-all click fraud prevention tool for all industries and products using descriptions like “self-tuning” or “machine learning”, you have to question its claims that it will effectively prevent ad fraud.

Make sure that  your PPC fraud prevention vendor can tell you why their solution implements specific changes such as: 

  • IP address blocked. Can your vendor answer why the software assumes these IP addresses are fraudulent?
  • Malicious clicks. Can your vendor prove why their tool concludes that these clicks are malicious?
click fraud prevention tool driven by transparency

Why do you need the data?

Automation is an asset that can be leveraged in both extremely positive and negative ways. While part of the industry is pushing for increased levels of automation, it’s not prudent to put so much faith in automation that we’re blind to the actual data and paper trail behind “the automated decision making”. Google Ads expert and internet marketing consultant, Brad Geddes, emphasizes that it’s important to take an intelligent approach to automation that considers both platforms and advertisers. Geddes states, “I don’t actually want to automate everything.” 

Google has an algorithm that learns from your marketplace and your competitive landscape to make decisions. It works well because Google has massive amounts of information to draw from. One of the greatest things about Google smart campaigns is that they do everything automatically. For the most part, you just set up the campaign and let Google navigate the rest, including your budget and conversion goals.

In spite of the fact that smart campaigns work well, you have to ask yourself why the top-notch digital marketers aren’t using them. Here’s why.

Digital marketers do their best work when they have control.

They are the most familiar with their own knowledge and they have the expertise to apply their own algorithms to get the desired results. Good marketers know their competitive landscape and their personas better than Google and they desire to have more control than machine learning and artificial intelligence can provide alone. By getting more accurate data, marketers can use their tools to turn data into conversions.

ClickGUARD is a data-driven click fraud prevention tool, that is globally well known for providing crucial game-changing insights into your ad campaigns. This will allow you to make critical decisions and deploy resources effectively enabling faster growth.

Jason is a passionate data-driven specialist with extensive PPC & SEO experience. When not writing about SEM he can be found surfboarding the wildest ocean waves of the Argentinian coast.