How To Eliminate Click Fraud
First, let me say that this article is focusing on campaigns running only on Google & Bing Ads. Google offers very sophisticated tools that allow you to create very high detailed campaigns with an enormous amount of features such as scheduling which ads should run when, a click to call function for mobile users, linking your ads with your places account, and much more, the list is really long indeed!
But what Google lacks and this must be intentional is the clarity and tools you need to control your budget properly against hostile users! Yes, I said hostile, cause the environment Google has created for their advertisers is nothing but a bloody battle, a battle to beat the others by increasing bids higher and higher, causing the rest to increase them as well, or wave a white flag. It’s a battle where many are willing to get dirty just to defeat their competitors. Google presents Adwords to us in bright colors (mostly white) and very simple to follow instructions, pretending it’s a perfect world where the term click fraud is unheard of.
Big G generated a completely automated campaign and running it with your hard-earned dollars. Google is asking for your trust and lots of it if you ask me, and the weird thing is that so many people and companies blindly trust them. Would you give $1000 to a Wall Street broker who would offer nothing but tell you “trust me”? If you’re like me, I hope you said no. You want to know how he plans to invest your money, how he plans on dividing it, showing you exactly on the dime how much you earned and how much you lost and why, and better yet, in real-time!
what is Click fraud?
Running any type of campaign on Adwords doesn’t allow you much information on how your budget is spent. If you’re reading this and don’t know what click fraud is (lucky you), then here is a short explanation: click fraud is when someone intentionally clicks your ads on Google to increase your expenses and hopefully deplete your budget as well. Google claims they have a genius system that detects these types of clicks and assures you they will render all these clicks invalid and you will be credited back if charged at all. But how good is their system really? Logically, you can’t detect every click which is fraudulent.
My guess is that the invalid clicks Google detects are mostly clicks that are from a returning IP, frequently and with a high bounce rate. But an IP address is something you can change so that already kills one method of detection.
Let’s assume whoever is clicking your ads is not using different IPs, how frequently is too frequent? Is once a day considered frequent? Probably not; or is it? Let’s assume you’re running a campaign with an average click of $10; once a day, every day, for a month, someone will click your ad, costing you $10 a day, $300 a month. Do you think Google’s system can detect that? I can tell you for a fact they can’t (won’t). Now imagine you get 2 clicks every day from 2 different IP’s, that’s already $600 a month down the drain, now imagine 3 clicks, you get the idea. Honestly, I can’t blame Google, they are asked to police themselves; in other words, they are asked to give up on a ton of clicks (money) and pretend to be saints.
If you suspect you’re a victim of click fraud. Google allows you to block certain IP addresses from seeing your ads using their IP exclusion tool hidden at the bottom of the Networks tab. Which IP to block from seeing your ads is something you’ll have to figure out yourself. You can try to contact Google with your suspicions, they will of course let you know they take this matter very seriously and will look into it. After a day or two, you will be notified there was no irregular activity. The truth is, you’ll have to do the hard work yourself, you can’t rely on Google to detect these clicks and IP addresses for you.
I’m sure Google can offer their advertisers a tool showing them what IP has clicked which ad and when, but this would make things too easy for you. What you’ll need to do is use a script that shows you among many other details, what IP addresses have visited your website, how often, what they searched for, etc.
Using this information you can compile of list of suspicious IPs you would want to block. In addition, you can generate a report and email it to Google along with your suspicions, showing them you’ve done your homework and you are not asking them to see if you received invalid clicks, but you’re asking for your money back! How much money? It’s not very simple to calculate the damage caused by fraudulent clicks since the cost per click varies for each keyword at each given time. But just to get a rough idea of how much damage these clicks may have cost you, use the average cost per click on the keywords they triggered as a method to estimate the total cost.
Always, Google’s automatic click fraud detection system don t pick up on these fraudulent clicks! Things get harder when you decide to run a mobile campaign, the IP address on these devices such as iPhones and Ipads can be changed very easily. All the user needs to do is reset their device and they are assigned a new IP. If you insist on running a mobile campaign, then you will need to look for patterns rather than just repeating IP addresses. Find out if there is a specific keyword that keeps triggering your ads. Let’s say one of your popular keywords is “Locksmith Philadelphia”, and you see that it has triggered your mobile ad 100 times the past week.
See if you notice patterns such as the same device, same operating system, browser, length of visit, frequency, network, etc. If you see that every day you received 10 clicks for the same keyword from an iPhone running iOS 13.5.1 only 1 minute apart from each other running on the Verizon network, you might just have spotted a “clicker”. Now you can try blocking this suspected “clicker”, you can do this by temporarily blocking any users from Verizon from seeing your ad for that specific keyword.
If your suspicions were right, the next day you should have 10 fewer clicks (on average of course). This isn’t the best solution since you not only blocked the parasite but also any potential customers using Verizon. That and also your parasite might realize you blocked him and try searching for other keywords that trigger your ads, or better yet, just click your ads from a different device.
While with Adwords you have the option of figuring out if you have a parasite and block their IP from seeing your ads; with Adwords, you have no such tool, in fact, you have no tools at all. Adwords lets you do only one thing – set a monthly budget – that’s it. If 30% of that budget is spent on fraudulent clicks, you can’t do anything about it except consider shutting down the campaign altogether.
Should We Consider Click to Call Option
With the amazing click to call feature! you can create a campaign for mobile devices and then using the new extensions tab, you can select the call extension; this will allow you to add a phone number to your ad, the number can be clicked and from there, your potential customer can dial to you right away. Great, isn’t it? Especially for parasites! Unlike clicks from Search, Display, Shopping Video, or App campaigns, which send the user to your website (maybe your Google Places page) or your desired target Url, with the click to call feature you are not sending anyone to your website, you’re simply giving them your phone number. The main difference here is that while traffic to your website can be tracked, giving users your phone number cannot be tracked at all.
Someone can click your phone number and not call you, but this would still be counted as a click. Hypothetically speaking, you can receive 100 fraudulent clicks a day, from the same device, same IP, the same everything; yet you will rely only on Google to detect these clicks because you can’t. Google offers you a tracking number instead of your own phone number, but this doesn’t really solve anything as far as fraudulent clicks are concerned. The only suggestion I have for you if you plan on using this feature is to get a separate phone line for this campaign and compare the number of received calls to the number of clicks you were charged if the numbers don’t add up, you should consider removing the campaign.
Chances are the majority of people clicking your phone number clicked your number because they had the intention of actually calling. If you notice that you had a total of 100 calls and were charged for 150 clicks, I would strongly suggest removing your campaign or at least the click-to-call feature, which can easily become a click-to-fraud feature.
Clickcease is the solution
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