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Click fraud is a big problem for some online advertisers. Here, we explain what click fraud is and what is being done to prevent it.

So, what is click fraud?

Click fraud is the action of clicking on an ad with a motive other than having a genuine interest in the sites content. Clicks carried out with the intent of click fraud are called invalid clicks.

What’s the point?

If two competitors are both advertising through PPC, one company may choose to click on their competitors ads to waste their budget away. Once your budget has depleted, your ads will stop showing, thus leaving the online marketplace open for your competitors. (The online equivalent of secretly putting a ‘closed’ sign on your competitors shop door to deter customers.)

Alternatively, some users may wish to ‘frame’ ad publishers. Ad publishers own a website that is part of an advertising program (E.g. Google Adsense). These publishers then get paid every time a user clicks on their adverts. If a publishing website clicks on their competitor publishers ads, their competitor may be accused of clicking on their own ads for money and be penalised.

How do I prevent click fraud?

In short, there is no simple, complete way to prevent click fraud. In the case of Google Adwords PPC ads, Google refund the advertiser if they have reason to believe that click fraud (or invalid clicks) has occurred on their ads. This will appear under the Billing tab as  ‘service adjustment’ as below.

Google identifies invalid clicks through suspicious behaviour, such as the user (identified via IP address) repeatedly clicking on the same ad. Future impressions and clicks from these users will be discarded automatically. Service Adjustments are paid when invalid clicks manage to slip through Google’s click fraud net.

If you employ a PPC Management company, they will be able to have a look in your account and tell you how much you have been refunded for click fraud. You will usually find that these service adjustments are paid in frequent, small installments equal to the value of a couple of clicks.

Advertisers/Publishers committing click fraud are subject to prosecution – this is not just a ‘Google crime’, this is widely regarded as being illegal.

If you don’t trust Google to monitor this effectively, there is software available out there that will identify your ‘clickers’ by IP address. If you see an IP address that is clicking repeatedly then you can exclude this user from seeing your ads through the settings in your Adwords account.

If you are manually excluding IP addresses, please note that some internet service providers allocate a selection of IP addresses to their users, hence when you exclude one of these IP addresses, you could be excluding alot of innocent clickers as well so beware! (Incidentally, this is also the reason why ads targeted to Yorkshire for example, may receive impressions from London – The ISP’s IP addresses will count as Yorkshire territory but the user is actually sitting in their living room in London.)

If you have reason to suspect click fraud has been carried out on your account do not turn into a click fraud vigilante and decide to click on all your competitors ads. You could find you’ve just had a busier online day with a low conversion rate so leave it to the pros – contact Google and ask them to look into it.

Simply put, it is good to be aware of click fraud but don’t worry about it too much because, as mentioned, there isn’t a way to completely stop it. Google are doing their best to filter these invalid clicks out and are developing new prevention methods all the time so stick with it and if in doubt, ring the lovely people at Google.