Block the Bots: Smart Ways to Protect Your Brand Against Online Traffic Fraud

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It’s an ordinary day…

You get to work, sit down at your computer and check the report from your latest PPC ad campaign.

You’ve been crushing it recently and expect the same solid returns.

But what’s that?! A Google Ads bill for $20,000?

Surely, a mistake. It makes no sense. You only expected to spend a thousand or so! What on earth happened?

Click fraud happened.

This scandalous practice is unfortunately becoming increasingly common in the marketing world.

The implications of it are no laughing matter. Some businesses are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPC advertising costs as a result of fake clicks.

Indeed, it’s said that digital fraud of this nature is responsible for one-third of all ad spend.

A few years ago, in 2016, online advertisers lost over $7 billion as a result of fraud. As the reliance on web advertising increases, we can only expect that figure to grow with it.

What can you do to protect your ad campaigns from such miscreant, damaging behavior?

Thankfully, there are certain ways to minimize the impact of click fraud and maybe prevent it from happening in the first place.

Keep reading to find out how.

What is Click Fraud?

Knowing what we mean by click fraud is a good first step to protecting your business. You have to know the enemy before you can protect yourself against it, right?

Let’s begin then.

Remember those pay per click (PPC) ads that you set up to drive traffic (and potential business) to your site? And you know how you pay a certain fee per click (the price of which varies depending on how competitive your chosen keyword is)?

Well, some companies have bigger budgets than others. Your major competitors may be willing and able to spend far more per click than you. When they pay more, they rank higher and get more business.

But imagine finding your competitor campaigns. You know that clicking on their ad will charge them money.

With enough clicks, you can effectively sabotage them by racking up a hefty Google bill.

Even better, imagine creating a bot that does it for you. It’s like setting the dogs on your competitor’s ad campaigns. With no effort at all, you can drive thousands of clicks to their campaigns.

They get a giant bill. There’s nothing like financial damage to turn away the competition. You win (so you think).

Unfortunately, they can do the same right back to you, and more often than not, when you poke the bear, or dogs in this example, that’s what happens.

dog attacking man in body suit

It goes even further than that though. In actuality, click fraud describes the practice of using illegitimate interactions with an ad campaign to make advertisers pay up.

That may be competitors sabotaging your campaign. Or it could be Joe Blogs down the road trying to earn a quick buck from the adverts on his site.

Who is Responsible for it?

Who actually does this stuff? Aren’t we all trying to make a success of our marketing?

Well, yes. And that’s part of the trouble.

There’s always somewhere to point the blame. The fake traffic and interactions don’t come out of no-where. Someone, or something, somewhere, is actively interfering with your campaigns.

We’ve already noted the usual culprits. Oftentimes you can trace the damage to over-eager competitors.

Their goal is to bully you out of the marketplace and take pole position. If it isn’t them, then it’s a third-party, or a bot, doing it on their behalf.

If it isn’t the competition, then it’s someone looking to make money. Publishers may try to leverage the ad setup and click through to get paid by the advertiser.

Heck, you might even experience blackmail: give me money or I’ll keep clicking your ads.

Why Should You Be Bothered?

There can be major implications of this practice on your business. The damage that’s done is varied, wide-ranging, and extensive.

Here are a few of the main issues:

Money, Money, Money

We’ve already mentioned this one.

But again, click fraud can cost you thousands of unwanted, and unnecessary, dollars.

Theoretically, there’s no limit to the number of times your ad gets clicked. After all, that’s why you put it up there.

But these are empty clicks, with no return on investment, which empty your pockets in the process.

Greater CPC

Another unhelpful implication of such massive clicking is the chance of the CPC going up.

Clicks rack up. Google senses it. The price goes up with it.

That price hike might mean you can no longer afford the same ad campaigns. It’s a double-whammy.

You get a hefty bill upfront, and then can’t afford to do another one.

Skewed Data

It’s estimated that 52% of all web traffic is from bots.

That’s an insane number. And it’s bad news for your ads.

How can you accurately assess the ROI of your campaigns when the majority of clicks are fake?

Your data becomes almost meaningless. You’ve paid a ton of money for data you can’t rely upon.

Those are just a few of the main issues with click fraud.

Want to know the best part?

There’s currently no way to 100% prevent it happening. It just isn’t possible.

However, there are certain things you can do to make it far less likely. Or, at the very least, limit the damage that gets done.

More on this next.

How Can You Stop It From Happening? 3 Clever Click Fraud Solutions

Click fraud can have a major negative impact on your marketing campaigns. It’s in your interest to stay on top of it.

Here are 3 ways to protect yourself from this online traffic fraud:

1. Spot the Bots Early

Think about how you protect yourself from intruders in your home.

You have alarms, CCTV and spotlights to alert you to the danger, right?

Treat your ad campaigns in the same way. You need to know as early as possible if there’s an issue. Then you need to fix it.

Choose not to and you open yourself up to more problems. Remember, click fraud is a fact of life. It’s happening every day. You can’t afford to not address the issue.

You have numerous options.

Start by monitoring your campaigns as they run. Keep a tab on how much you’re spending.

Watch for surprisingly high numbers of clicks, and see how they compare to your other ongoing campaigns. Another key indicator would be a spike in clicks at unexpected times of the day.

Likewise, take into account other metrics too. How’s your bounce rate and dwell time?

Significant alterations from the norm (high bounce rate, minimal time on page, etcetera) could mean you have a problem.

It’s hard doing it alone. You could spend your whole day tracking everything. Thankfully, there are certain programs you can use to help.

Google Ads itself offers ways to do it, but hey’re often insufficient.

Paid software is often better. They operate as detection tools and do the legwork, monitoring your campaigns for anything suspicious.

2. Run Sensible Campaigns

There are good campaigns and bad campaigns.

Bad campaigns present easier targets for bots and malicious individuals. By running a good campaign we mean adhering to certain principles that make it more difficult to commit fraud.

One part of this is to advertise on high-quality websites only. The smaller, lower-quality websites are a haven for fraud. Limit your campaigns to large, reputable sites that you can guarantee are teeming with potential customers.

Another way to limit such fraud is to avoid advertising in certain countries. Poorer countries with high unemployment often find favor in click fraud circles. Advertising in specific countries, relevant to your business, may reduce the potential for problems.

You need to monitor what’s going on, too. It’s the only way to spot problems early.

Sensible campaigns are tracking their metrics at every turn. Only trust ad tech providers that offer complete transparency. Knowing how the tech works will help you partner with the right people.

Oh, and consider changing what you’re paying for. Many advertisers struggle with the lack of data their advertising network offers. It becomes harder to decipher fake traffic.

Try paying for a particular action that provides a measurable value, instead of just traffic.

3. Use Special Fraud Prevention Software

Finally, put fraud prevention software at the top of your shopping list.

Such software is designed specifically to combat this issue. You can’t guarantee you’ll face zero fraud. But it’s an extra level of protection that is likely to pay for itself in the long-run.

Each tool might work in different ways. However, a useful tool to look for is one that provides search reports. These reports highlight the websites that are sending unusual amounts of traffic to your website.

Time to Get Protected

There you have it: everything to know about click fraud. Plus, how to protect yourself against it in 3 steps.

This type of digital fraud is a growing problem in the industry. It’s costing companies billions of dollars every year.

Your competition may play dirty, or someone might try to get some money from you. Regardless of the source, knowing how to protect yourself against it is crucial.

Doing so will save you money and preserve your data.

Get ahead of the problem by spotting the issue early. Be vigilant with your campaigns and employ software to raise the alarm.

Run sensible campaigns that reduce the potential for harm. Finally, purchase specific click-fraud prevention software to safeguard against attacks.

Keep this knowledge in mind and you’ll be far less likely to suffer at the hands of fraudsters. Good luck!

Want support with your fraud prevention endeavors? Be sure to contact us today.