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Fraud in Pay-Per-Click World


Last week we told you about online fraud that occurs through Google Ads and Dynamic Word Insertion. Another fraudulent activity that can have a detrimental effect on your company’s bottom line is click fraud in the pay-per-click (PPC) world. We’ve asked our partner Michael Harbron with SEOHaus to speak on this for you:

It’s been a while since anyone has written about this seemly taboo subject in the online marketing industry; as if there’s an unspoken understanding between competitors – “I’ll step over my dead mother to take your business, but I won’t click on your Google ad.” Still, one wonders, “Does it still occur?”

Click fraud, as it is called, was quite common several years ago. For example, a vendor would search for a term they might be bidding on, see their competitor in the top spot and click on their ad. Each ‘click’ would cost the competitor money, so useless clicks by others would eventually blow their marketing budget, leaving the clicker as one of the remaining companies in the top spot. Google and the other search engines were quick to combat the problem by allowing companies to report ‘web logs’, which allowed companies to have list of the IP addresses (a computer’s actual address) that have been visiting their sites. If multiple visits from the same IP address are noted for one day, or around the time the campaign was run, that’s typically a guarantee that something was amiss. Search engines usually credit back any money that may have been lost during a click fraud offensive while they investigate the culprits further. As a defensive tactic, companies have the option to block specific IP addresses from being able to see campaigns or at a minimum, from being able to click through to the website again, resulting in a worry free campaign. Sort of.

In some cases, web logs take a while to be downloaded and/or delivered from a server company; therefore, prompt action is imperative if click fraud is suspected. Time not spent on monitoring the campaign can have a dramatic effect on your business. There is another less time consuming way to figure out if something is awry with your online campaign. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Did your marketing budget run out super quick that morning?
  2. Is your bounce rate very high for your paid visits?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, take a look at your Google Analytics account. Search under your paid section and take a look at ‘Locations’. From here you’ll be able to tell if increased activity has been coming from a specific location; then look at the bounce rate. Has there been a lot of clicks from one area with the bounce rate exceeding 70%? If so, someone is probably clicking on your ads in order to drain your marketing budget. You can then block the IP address from your PPC campaign until you can review the web logs.

It’s apparent that our competitors may not always be trustworthy in their business methodology. We must be proactive in our due diligence to make sure we operate with transparency and forthrightness to protect our own companies as well as our industry. The standards to which our profession is upheld will be determined by the high degree of integrity we demand from ourselves and our colleagues.

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