Click fraud is estimated to have cost advertisers as much as $19 billion in 2018 and is expected to rocket to $44 billion by 2022. However, the problem with click fraud is it often slips under the radar and what does get discovered is normally the tip of a much larger iceberg.
This is why when running an ecommerce business, it is absolutely crucial that you are not only remaining vigilant to this but also know what to do when it happens to you.
Luckily here at Do Dropshipping, we are going to show you the telltale signs to look for and what you can do to prevent this from swallowing up your advertising spend.
So, what is click fraud?
Before we go any further, it is worth noting that Google uses a looser term for click fraud, which they call ‘invalid clicks'.
For myself, this is something I have heard of in passing but never really paid too much attention to it. However, the more I looked into my own Google Ads data, the more I realized this was actually a real problem.
Luckily, I run a fairly small campaign, so it is not blowing a hole in my budget, but if the below data is showing that 2.2% of my clicks are invalid, then what isn't getting picked up by Google Ads?
Click fraud will usually come from one of these three different places:
- Ad publishers
- And unintentional multiple clicks
Let's go over them in more detail below:
Competitors may use this as a means of drying up your advertising spend per day with fewer conversions. This could start as simple as them spam-clicking your ads but could also be as sophisticated as them employing a click farm to do this for them.
The larger problem with this is that it drives the CPC (cost per click) up, especially when the competition is already high.
If you are using Google display ads, then an ad publisher also has an incentive to be doing like the above and repeatedly clicking on your ads, as they also get paid per click.
With display ads, An advertiser will make 68% of the money that is paid to Google.
Unintentional multiple clicks
It is also a possibility that a visitor clicked on your store multiple times by accident.
Google clarified here that the advertiser, in this case, will not be charged more than two clicks per impression; this is to account for ‘comparison shopping'.
What is Google doing against click fraud?
I tried to use my recent conversation which I had with a Google Ads rep to ask this very question. I was simply reassured that Google picks ‘most of them' up yet fell short of being able to provide any kind of figure.
This was somewhat expected as Google Ads reps are generally spend driven, so this is where their expertise lies.
Google runs constant checks on traffic being delivered to your store through their platform. These include manual reviewers, automated filters, deep research, and a global team of scientists and engineers continually looking for new behavioral triggers.
They will then not charge you for the invalid clicks which they detect, this will lessen the problem to some extent but won't stop it altogether.
If any clicks have escaped their initial detection filters, then you may be eligible to receive a credit for them. You can find this in your Google Ads platform's billing section.
These are known as ‘invalid activity credit adjustments', and they may prop up on your bill from time to time if they get picked up further along the detection process if you have been charged for them.
How to reduce Google Ads click fraud?
You will also have a role to play in keeping click fraud to a minimum. There are a few things you can do without the need for a great deal of technical know-how.
Let's go over them below:
The first step is to identify the problem. This can be done by observing the invalid clicks at your campaign level in your Google ads platform. The invalid stats are not available on the default columns, so this is something you will have to add yourself:
Next, you can further hone in on where the lack of interaction lies; using the ‘bounce rate' metric on Google Analytics is a good place to find this. This is where someone comes to your site and immediately leaves.
This can be checked against both countries and keywords, anything over 60% doesn't necessarily represent invalid clicks however, it is an indication of poor quality traffic.
If you are able to at the very least trim out the poor interacting visitors, there's a chance you may be able to at least filter out a few invalid clicks with them as there may likely be a correlation between the two.
If you have an ecommerce store, it is expected for you to understand basic Google Analytics data. Adding these few extra metrics into your dashboard shouldn't be too hard to do.
If you do happen to pick up any anomalies in your data, then the first thing you should do is reach out to Google and express your concern. Give them as much information as you can, they may ask you for more which you should try and get for them.
They will then be passed onto their specialists who will investigate further to identify any patterns in the invalid activity. This process can take up to a week to complete, largely.
Their team of specialists will use a range of click and impression tools to identify invalid activity. This can take several days to complete because of the amount of data that they have to go through.
Reporting invalid activity to Google also contributes to the overall prevention effort against this type of traffic as it hurts the industry as a whole.
3. Employ a PPC protection service
For ecommerce businesses with a larger ad spend budget, outsourcing this problem to a PPC protection service may be the best solution.
There are many different companies to chose from with a wide range of services included. Similar to picking a mobile phone contract, you will choose which is most suited to your own needs.
Click Cease offers protection for up to 5,000 clicks, automatic IP blocking, and session recordings, which are all very useful features for only $50 per month.
Traffic Guard has flexible pricing, which charges you 2% of your Google Ads spend for unlimited clicks. This includes click fraud prevention, IP blocking. It also provides conversion tracking, which is a nice added feature.
Traffic Guard also provides a free service which provides some basic analytical tools to identify click fraud however on this plan doesn't assist with the actual prevention of the clicks, this will be down to you to manage.
Lunio helps you with real-time click monitoring, which ensures every click is analyzed and protected as it happens.
There are, of course, many more PPC protection services, however, the above are just a few of the largest ones out there.
It is worth noting that most of these PPC Protection services offer anything from 7 to 28 days trial, so from an advertiser's perspective, there is no initial cost to determine if this solution is for you.
You really need to look at this as an insurance policy on your ad spend. Should you be spending thousands every month, it makes perfect business sense to take on this kind of service, especially if you are losing more than their service fee cost to click fraud monthly.
A PPC protection service will use machine learning to monitor ads by analyzing each click, using the data of millions to determine whether a click is legitimate or fraudulent.
Larger PPC companies typically collate the most data, and so their accuracy is much higher.
Identifying click fraud initially may be difficult as poor quality traffic can often also show similar traits on your Google Analytics, however poor quality traffic is also something that needs attending to.
Google Ads identify some of the invalid clicks however the metric they present on their platform is often just an indication of a potentially larger problem as not all of the invalid clicks get identified. It is for this reason why we do not know the true cost of click fraud to advertisers.
The most you can realistically do is keep an eye on your invalid clicks and try to find out where they are coming from. Should the data become more conclusive, present it to Google for them to look into the matter further. This may also result in a credit being made to your account.
Click fraud is, unfortunately, part and parcel of advertisement with any PPC platform, and it normally becomes more apparent as you begin scaling. You will not be able to eradicate this all together, however monitoring and trimming off the poor quality traffic is always a good start.
If you're not sure about using Google Ads anymore, don't forget to check out these 12 reasons why Google Ads is great. Or check out these 15 great Google Ad examples!
Want to learn more about Google Ads?
Ready to move your Google Ads skills to the next level? Check out the articles below:
- Should You Use Google Ads for Your Dropshipping Store?
- How to Set up Google Ads Conversion Tracking on Shopify?
- How to Set the Right Google Ads Budget for Ecommerce Stores?
Plus, don't forget to check out our in-depth beginner's guide here!