Hackers May Be Chipping Away at Your PPC Budget: Learn All About Click Fraud Detection and Prevention

The internet offers a unique marketing opportunity for businesses of all kinds. Tech companies like Google, Bing, Facebook, and Twitter collect a lot of data from their users, including behavior, likes, and desires. They package the data for entrepreneurs and businesses to laser target their preferred demographics when selling products and services online.

Let’s say for instance you run a wedding gift shop targeting 20-something year olds looking for themed weddings. The tech companies provide you with tools and data you can use to target this demographic only. Compared to traditional advertising, web advertising is in a league of its own.

However, it’s not all roses. Hackers upped their game after realizing there’s money to be made by clicking on ads. That ad you placed target couples looking for themed weddings may eat into your advertising budget if hackers devote their attention to your ads. So how do hackers make money by nefariously clicking on your ads?

Your PPC Campaign Might be Bleeding

Well, there are lots of ways hackers can make money through click fraud. One particularly underhanded method is when your competitor pays hackers to click on your ads. By clicking on your ads without buying anything, your competitor drives up your advertising costs, which for small businesses can be fatal.

In 2015 alone, click fraud cost online entrepreneurs $18.5 billion, after they spent $27.5 billion on online ads. That’s approximately half of the entire digital ad spending for that year alone. The implications those losses are not to be taken lightly. For most businesses that took out ads in 2015, a large chuck of their investment went to waste. Only the sites hosting the ads made money, at the expense of the investors.

In a nutshell, click fraud drives up the cost of advertising, and significantly reduces the success of an ad campaign. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be investing in online advertisements. You can still reach your targeted demographic by taking steps to stop hackers and their bots from clicking on your ads. Here’s how you can detect and prevent click fraud.

Detecting Click Fraud

Detecting fraudulent clicks is easy if you know what to look for. In fact, you just follow these steps to check if there are any malicious clicks draining your ad account right now. But, you have to invest time and resources into detecting click fraud. The more time and resources you have, the better you’ll be at detecting PPC fraud. We know the ins and outs of operating an online business take up a lot of your time, that’s why we have a team at your disposal ready to detect and prevent click fraud on your account.

You can, however, take the initiative and check out if you are a victim of fraudulent clicks following this DIY guide.

Set Up an Internal Reporting System

Having an internal reporting system is a must, regardless of whether you are looking into PPC fraud or not. Google and other PPC providers only tell you when a click becomes a lead. With an internal reporting system, you know if the lead transforms into a sale. An internal reporting system arms you with data you can leverage to adjust your PPC bidding to drive up more sales.

In your internal reporting system, make sure you track the following things. These will help you with click fraud detection:

•    User agent

•    Click timestamp

•    IP address

•    Action timestamp

Tracking the IP addresses clicking on your ads is pretty much a no-brainer, but you want to track the other three metrics to tell you when clicks are coming in, and whether they are converting or not. If an IP address keeps on clicking on your ads without converting, that might be a sign of click fraud.

What Do You Do After Identifying Possible Click Fraud?

From the data you gathered with your internal reporting system, pick out the suspicious IP addresses and check who owns them. There are numerous services you can use to identify the owner of an IP address like www.whatismyip.com and www.ip2location.com.

However, you may want to factor in the fact that the clicks are coming from a proxy server, like the ones used in public places like airports, coffee shops or colleges. If you detect the IP address belongs to a proxy server, then most likely legit users are clicking on your ads. One way you can know if you are looking at a proxy server is by checking which searches came from the IP address. If you see different searches, then you are dealing with a proxy server. However, if the clicks come from a pool of similar searches over a short period, they are fraudulent.

Preventing Click Fraud

You have several options here. Google, for instance, claims to have teams of people checking for click fraud in real time. However, even with the team in place, cases of PPC fraud surface all the time. Therefore, report to Google, but at the same time, take matters into your own hands.

The easiest click fraud prevention method you can do right on your account is blacklisting the offending IP addresses. AdWords has a nice feature that allows you to exclude certain IP addresses. Another way you can stop click fraud is by tweaking the keywords you are targeting. This helps invalidate IP addresses running multiple similar queries from getting to your add.

There are lots of other ways to prevent click fraud, but they require a lot of time and resources. If you have an elaborate and easier process that helped you eradicate malicious clicks, let us know!