In the world of digital marketing, competition is just as if not more fierce than it is traditionally. The increased accuracy, interactivity and adaptation of digital marketing messages have meant that each audience is more highly targeted than ever before.
This has encouraged aggressive competition between businesses that occupy the same corner of the internet marketplace like advertising on Google. While competition is part of a healthy economy, many businesses will use shady and dishonest tactics to get ahead of their competitors.
In the digital marketplace, one of these dishonest tactics is known as ‘click fraud’, shown on Google as invalid clicks. This strategy is used to thwart the PPC (pay per click) advertising of a website by giving it fraudulent clicks via some kind of software.
What is click fraud and how do you prevent it?
Click fraud can be quite a scary prospect, especially if you don’t understand how to avoid it. It can be easy for click fraud to completely ruin a PPC campaign that isn’t protected against it.
Let’s take a look at how click fraud works and what you can do to protect your campaigns from it.
Click fraud 101
In order to understand click fraud, we need to understand what PPC (pay per click) advertising is. PPC is a simple yet effective means of digital marketing that is used in different capacities by different businesses.
As the name suggests, pay per click adverts are hosted with a certain budget attached to them, when someone clicks on the ad, the budget is charged a predefined amount. Each click is worth a certain amount of money, when the entire budget is used up then the campaign ends.
The cost per click will vary greatly depending on the desired reach of the ad, the competitiveness of the keywords it is targeting as well as any additional features like images. Generally, advertisers will want to get the best value for their money by attracting a high volume of low cost clicks.
Now that we understand what click based advertising is, we can understand what click based fraud is. Essentially, click fraud means deliberately using up the budget of a PPC campaign by flooding it will fake clicks.
If a PPC campaign is drained of its budget because of fraudulent clicks, then it means that little to no actual people clicked through to the website. This means that entire advertising budgets can be consumed overnight by one malicious click fraud attack.
Click fraud is essentially comparable to someone taking down all of your leaflets and throwing them in the garbage. Your advertising budget gets spent while someone else makes sure that it reaches as few people as possible.
Who’s doing it?
When asking who’s responsible for click fraud, you need only look at who stands to gain the most from it. Obviously, your direct competitors have the biggest financial incentive to carry out click fraud.
Other groups like disgruntled customers or former employees who want revenge might also be culprits. One common perpetrator is webmasters who get paid for the ads they host on their own domains.
How do you fight click fraud?
The best way to fight against fraudulent software is with anti-fraudulent software, and this is exactly what a leading digital marketing firm in Sydney, Australia has done. In November 2017, the Australian firm, SEO Shark, developed its own anti-click fraud software in order to protect the PPC campaigns it runs on behalf of its clients.
The software works by analysing the source of clicks and tracking them as they interact with the PPC advert. It uses advanced algorithms in order to distinguish between fake clicks and clicks from a real internet user.
When a fake clicker is detected, the software automatically blocks the fraudulent operator so that the advertisement in questions is no longer displayed. This tricks the fraudsters into thinking that the ad no longer exists while serving it to real people instead.
This service is great because it protects PPC campaigns without revealing to the fraudster that there are any safeguards in place. While Google does have its own means of protecting PPC ads from fraudulent clicks, this system is far from as good as it should be.
Ultimately, the best way to protect against click fraud is to use digital services that have anti-fraud software like SEO Shark. This technology is the best way to make sure your PPC campaigns achieve their maximum potential.