Click fraud is an increasingly common problem for businesses who use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. It involves the pay-per-click ads (such as those on Google’s AdWords’ program) being abused, leading them to appear to have been clicked by far more users than they actually have. It is used most commonly for one of two reasons:

1. To increase the revenue of their websites, some internet publishers may participate in certain types of click fraud to encourage more clicks to be made on the ads on their site.
2. Competitors to a particular company using PPC may participate in certain types click fraud to deplete their competitor’s ad budgets. If their competitor’s daily ad budgets are exceeded, their ads cannot be displayed. Over time, this can be financially crippling for a company and can result in a dramatic drop in new business.

Three of the major types of click fraud you need to be aware of are:

Crowdsourcing

Click fraud by crowdsourcing is the most traditional, simplest and obvious type of click fraud. This is where the publisher of a site blatantly asks visitors to the site to click on the ads. They do this often by asking visitors to the site to ‘support this site by clicking these ads’, thus receiving an income for each click from Google’s Adsense program. Publishers who do this often cite that ‘everyone's a winner’ by doing this… they receive money from the clicks and they have driven people to click and view the ads, some of whom may be interested in the product/service. However this sort of behaviour is forbidden by Google as it represents poor value to advertisers who are paying for clicks that are done so not out of interest, but out of obligation, resulting in poorly targeted traffic.

Click Farms

One of the more extreme types of click fraud is utilising a click farm. This is where people are paid money in exchange for clicking on adverts all day. The people paid to do this are usually in third world or developing countries where there are large numbers of people without work and who are struggling for money and can be hired for a very low wage. Whilst there is an extra labour cost of using real people rather than bots to do this, they do have one significant advantage for the fraudsters. This is the fact that the people involved can be told how to click in a more natural way in an attempt to avoid detection. Click farms can be used by both internet publishers to increase their income as well as companies who want to employ them to click on their competitor’s ads and deplete their advertising budget.

Bot Networks

Botnets are another popular form of click fraud and are essentially an automated click farm. Here, criminals infect large networks of computers with malware. The owners of these computers and networks are unaware that malware is present and their computers silently carry out visits to certain sites, clicking on particular ads. This can be a particularly difficult type of click fraud to detect unless you have a system such as Click Guardian. This is because the clicks look unrelated having come from many different IP addresses.

If you’re concerned that your pay-per-click campaign could be the target of fraudulent clicks, get in touch today to discuss our Click Guardian service which can give you complete protection from such activities.

How To Protect Your AdWords From Click Fraud

Although the Invalid Click system inbuilt into Google does offer a certain level of protection, many advertisers are turning to 3rd party anti-click fraud providers such as Click Guardian to offer levels of user control that Google AdWords does not offer.  If you'd like to stop click fraud from damaging your AdWords account visit www.clickguardian.co.uk now.