Clicks are the cornerstone of online PPC advertising. Many marketers try to master their targeting for the most cost-efficient ad budget. Yet despite all that effort, you might still see your clicks increase without conversions increasing.
Not only does that cost you money by quickly depleting your ad budget, but it’s frustrating to see your efforts have little payoff. There’s a strong likelihood that you’re not even doing anything wrong, which is why PPC fraud protection is so essential.
PPC fraud or click fraud costs marketers billions of dollars every year. It shuts out the competition and prevents your business from hitting your desired ROAS.. Not to mention how it messes up your metrics so that your geo-targeting data is insufficient.
This article goes over the absolute essentials you need to know about PPC fraud and PPC fraud protection, such as ways to protect yourself and signs that you may be a victim of PPC fraud.
What is PPC Fraud?
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s cover what PPC fraud is in the first place.
Given how big PPC advertising has gotten, it’s no surprise that it attracts its fair share of pirates and fraudsters. PPC fraud is a catch-all term that covers various fraudulent practices, including:
- Click Fraud
- Ad Fraud
- Click Spoofing and Spamming
In practical terms, PPC fraud is the fraudulent clicks meant to increase your ad budget and shut down your ads to make way for your competitors. It can be done both manually (where you have someone at a computer clicking all your ads) or automatically (using bots that sweep the web and rack up clicks). No type of ad is safe, whether it’s paid search ads, video ads, banner ads, or native content.
Why is PPC Fraud Even a Thing?
Understanding PPC fraud might be a bit confusing, considering it seems like a bizarre form of crime. The usual perpetrators are competitors trying to run up your ad spend, as well as organized criminals operating either a click farm or automated botnet.
The purpose of PPC fraud is usually to clear the path for the competition, though other reasons, like getting back at an old employer or company do happen. PPC fraud occurs most commonly in highly competitive industries, and it’s most common in:
- The finance industry
- Family industries
- Food service and hospitality
The extensive competition in these industries makes it difficult for companies to get their name out. Certain malicious figures often turn to PPC fraud as a way of stemming their competition. In fact, your competitors are the most likely culprits behind the PPC fraud affecting you.
Once your ad budget is hit for the day, your ad goes down, making it more likely for your competitor’s ad to be spotted instead. That way, the competitor attracts customers while your business goes unnoticed.
Disgruntled employees or customers have also taken to running up your ad-spend by clicking on all your ads. Fortunately, this is much less likely and a lot less harmful, due to its significantly smaller scale. Having a competitor either instructing its employees to click on your ads or hiring a PPC-fraud-as-a-service organization is a much larger threat.
Web owners or hosts acting in bad faith are also potential perpetrators. Any site that hosts an ad gets its own revenue when an ad is clicked. It’s in their interest to increase ad traffic through their site.
Organized PPC fraud rings mainly target larger corporations by targeting the most expensive keywords. If you’re a smaller company, they’re a smaller threat to you than your immediate competitors.
Why You Need PPC Fraud Protection
It’s tempting to think that Google Ads or Bing Ads take sufficient measures to protect you from PPC fraud, but the reality is that they don’t. And you shouldn’t be very surprised about this, sadly.
While Google does refund you for ads spent on invalid clicks, their response is too reactionary to be helpful. It usually takes up to 2 weeks before you get your refund. If it’s a constant problem, then that’s 2 weeks (or more) without your ads being up.
PPC fraud protection proactively protects your ads or at least audits your data to track fraudulent activity. It stops fraudulent clicks so that you don’t get charged for them and your metric data stays accurate.
Things You Should Know About Choosing Your PPC Fraud Protection
Before choosing your PPC protection software, it’s best to understand how it works. ClickGUARD quickly gathers information from each click, like IP address, location, and device information, then analyzes and compares it to the known suspicious activity of fraudsters. It tracks click behavior and provides an assessment, flagging suspicious or outright fraudulent activity.
1. Why Google Ads’ PPC Fraud Protection Isn’t Enough
Google launched the earliest iteration of AdWords in 2000 when the company was still young and little known. It’s since grown into the largest PPC platform.
In 2020, Google was responsible for 95% of paid clicks on mobile search ads. It’s the bulk of Google’s revenue, which makes them incredibly invested in running a smooth service that doesn’t cost its advertisers excess money.
However, Google also has a conflict of interest, since it makes money from all clicks made through its site. They gain revenue regardless of who is making the click and aren’t looking out for your company specifically. So, as you can see, this problem will only get bigger if you don’t act now.
2. Google’s PPC Fraud Protection (Doesn’t) Protect(s) Your Budget
Even though Google has one of the most robust PPC fraud protection systems, they enact it broadly. When ad clients file a claim about fraudulent clicks, Google reviews it and reimburses their payment. That doesn’t help you keep your ads up and puts you at a loss until your money has been returned.
A PPC fraud protection service, like ClickGUARD, will address your fraudulent clicks in real-time and prevent them from overwhelming your site or budget. Their algorithm is also constantly analyzing your data so that your metrics won’t be skewed incorrectly, allowing you to target your audience with confidence.
3. How to Interact with Your PPC Fraud Protection Software?
Most PPC fraud protection software comes in tiers that offer different levels of protection. Within each tier, you’ll have a dashboard that lets you adjust settings for gathering data and blocking users. It allows you to customize the way your data is tracked so that you can adjust it to work best for your business and industry. It allows you to:
- Set click caps on your ads. Users who click on your ad after so many times are blocked so they no longer affect your ad ranking.
- Monitors organic traffic to see how visitors are interacting with your site. This analyzes whether users spend time on your page and mouse movement to determine the click’s validity.
- Pause your campaign when you’re hit with a severe onslaught of fraudulent clicks.
- Allows you to whitelist and blacklist IP addresses to protect valid users and suspicious activity simultaneously.
In addition to protecting clients from PPC fraud, good PPC fraud protection software also helps optimize clicks by blocking invalid, but not fraudulent traffic to your site.
4. The Best PPC Fraud Protection Learns and Adapts to Your Campaign
Our PPC fraud protection algorithm is constantly taking in new information and adapting to the changing strategies of bots and fraudsters. As their technology gets more sophisticated, they become harder to detect. ClickGUARD, for example, is able to track their changing behavior and give you the most accurate and up-to-date assessment of your ad performance.
5. Stopping PPC Fraud Is Not Something You Can Do All on Your Own
You can implement ways to cut down on PPC fraud yourself as you establish your ads, these methods include:
- Combing through timestamps and IP addresses, then blocking them manually.
- Setting your ads to only run during the daytime hours where you’re located.
- Block ad targeting outside your immediate location.
- Include negative keywords in your PPC campaign to further specify the traffic to your site.
- Avoiding Google Ads and relying solely on other forms of advertising.
Some of these methods are easier than others, like adjusting the timing and geo-targeting of your ads. However, they run a huge risk of blocking legitimate, potential customers who will then have no chance of learning about your business.
Taking a DIY route to PPC fraud protection is time-consuming and incredibly prone to errors. Even if you don’t invest in the full PPC protection package, ClickGUARD’s Audit Guard takes the legwork out of analyzing your data. You won’t have to track data yourself and will get a more accurate picture of your issue. Plus, you decide how to deal with suspicious activity and can block accounts as you see fit.
So, Where to Go with Your PPC Fraud Protection?
PPC fraud costs advertisers billions of dollars every year. It’s estimated that 25% of your web traffic at least is from bots who have no capacity to purchase anything from your site. Increasing improvements in bot technology make botnets better able to mimic human behavior online.
That makes it even more important to invest in PPC fraud protection for your business. It doesn’t take much for click fraud to drive up your ad budget with fraudulent clicks, especially in more competitive industries with expensive keywords.
Investing in PPC fraud protection software will protect your ad budget in real-time and responds to fraud as it occurs. Not only will that help you spend your funds as they’re meant to be spent, but your data will be more accurate. You’ll get a better sense of who your audience is and where they are to target your ads most efficiently.