How to Detect and Prevent Click Fraud in 2024

Learn how to Detect and Prevent Click Fraud. Understand its impact and discover practical ways to safeguard your Google Ads with Spider AF's Click Fraud Prevention tools.
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How to Detect and Prevent Click Fraud

84 billion dollars. That is the estimated global cost of ad fraud in 2023. 

Click fraud is a threat to all companies that rely on online advertisements. Every year, SMEs lose thousands of dollars to click fraud, and the numbers are expected to grow over the next few years.

If you are concerned about the performance of your PPC ads, you are in the right place. Today, we are going to dive into the key aspects of this cyber threat:

  • What is click fraud;
  • How many types of click fraud are there;
  • How to detect click fraud;
  • How to protect your digital advertisement from click fraud. 

What is Click Fraud?

Click fraud is a subcategory of ad fraud that involves clicking on PPC ads to boost a website's search rankings or drain the advertiser’s budget. A classic example of click fraud is when someone sets up a computer program to click repeatedly on a competitor’s ads. 

There are several types of click fraud, but bot networks are the leading cause of concern among marketers since many enterprises have reported having up to 90% of all clicks turning out to be bots. 

This type of invalid traffic has costly consequences for businesses that depend on digital ads to promote their services:

  • Budget Drainage: click fraud siphons away your advertising budget through fabricated clicks that fail to generate genuine engagement and sales. 
  • ROI Concerns: click fraud distorted your metrics, creating an illusion of improved ad performance. While you observe a surge in clicks, the fact is that they fail to translate into sales. And the last thing you need is to invest money without getting the desired outcome, right?
  • Inefficient Future Ad Spend: click fraud harms not only current campaigns but also future ones. By distorting data, failing to target audiences, and not collecting feedback, it becomes impossible to improve future PPC ads. 

Different Types of Click Fraud 

Let’s dive into the most prominent types of click fraud going around at the moment. 

Bots

These are automated programs designed to click on ads repeatedly, making it seem like real users are interested. These bots range from simple scripts to advanced software that mimics human behavior. Fraudsters can develop botnets, which are networks of thousands - sometimes millions - of computers that run click fraud software. 

Click farms

Imagine a large field full of vegetables. Now replace the vegetables with people in front of devices like computers or smartphones clicking on ads repeatedly: that is a click farm. They are similar to botnets, but there are severely underpaid people manually clicking on the ads. 

Proxy server traffic

Proxy servers route your traffic through their servers before sending it to the destination website. Since these servers act like masks, they hide the location and identity of the user who visited the ad. That interferes with marketers’ jobs of gathering data about potential customers to optimize ad campaigns. 

Competitor abusive clicking 

In the competitive world of advertising, it is common to find competitors who click on your ads to deplete your budget or skew your performance metrics and make it seem like your campaigns are not working, damaging your work and reputation. 

Data centers

A data center is like a ghost town. It comprises a vast network of computers clicking and extracting information from ads, but there are no people. The clicks appear real, but there is no user browsing. Although data centers are not always malicious, they will harm your ads by inflating ad costs.

Incentivized clicks

Another type of click fraud is offering people rewards, like money or points, in exchange for clicking on an ad. That might seem like a standard marketing strategy, but these users have no interest in the ad's content. That means they are not valuable for the advertiser and are, thus, harming ad performance.

Ad stacking 

Ad stacking is a sneaky way to drain your budget. Fraudsters stack various ads behind a visible one. When a user clicks on the visible ad, it might register as a click on the hidden ads as well, charging you with clicks that never reached an interested user. 

How to Detect Click Fraud

Click fraud is a complex enemy, but it is not unbeatable. Let’s talk about ten practical ways you can identify the problem.

  1. Analyze Traffic Patterns: check user patterns, like seasonality, trends, and spikes in clicks within specific timeframes and regions. Sudden surges in clicks that do not fit the pattern can be an indicator of click fraud. 
  2. Compare Check Click-Through-Rates (CTRs) with Conversion Rates: an abnormally high CTR combined with a low conversion rate can indicate fraudulent activity. Monitor both metrics and investigate campaigns that show a blatant discrepancy. 
  3. Monitor IP Addresses: paying attention to activity related to IP addresses can be helpful because it allows you to detect suspicious activity, from several clicks from the same IP address to a narrow IP range that suggests a click farm or botnets.
  4. Exclude Fraudulent IP Addresses: once you identify malicious IPs, you can exclude those addresses on Google Ads to prevent further click fraud activity. 
  5. Segment your Data: segmenting your data by device type, location, time of day, and source allows you to pinpoint anomalies more accurately. For example, this step can help you detect a surge in clicks on mobile devices during off-peak hours. Segmenting by device type helps identify low-quality mobile apps known for click fraud. 
  6. Click Quality Score Monitoring: if you use an ad platform that provides a quality score feature, use it to your advantage. Usually, a consistently low click quality score is an indicator of fraud. If you detect a low score, investigate user behavior associated with those clicks. 
  7. Inconsistent Device Types: it is frequent to see a sudden influx of clicks from a single device type not typical for your audience in cases of click fraud. Know your audience and do regular analyses of the pattern. 
  8. Check your Ad Placements: monitoring your ad placements allows you to detect clicks from low-quality, irrelevant websites that bring invalid traffic to your ads. Additionally, it helps you limit your ad spend to reputable websites that are meaningful to your target audience. 
  9. Analyze the Geographical Source of Clicks: keep an eye out for a surge of clicks from a region outside your target area. It is probably the work of a click farm or botnet. Analyze your clicks by location and compare them to your settings. 
  10. Use Ad Fraud Detection Tools: automated, specialized tools leverage machine learning to analyze vast amounts of click data. They can help you reduce the impact of click fraud more effectively.

How to Protect Your Ads from Click Fraud

Click frauds are a growing threat to online advertisements, so it is paramount to find solutions that proactively safeguard your online campaigns and maximize your ROI.

At Spider AF, we use the best automated solutions to detect fraudulent activity. With the Spider AF Tracker, we identify and prevent various forms of invalid traffic, from accidental to malicious.

Here’s a breakdown to understand how we detect different types of click fraud efficiently: 

Bots: we use automated tools to detect suspicious activity, such as repeated traffic from the same IP address. Then, we block the address to prevent further activity. 

Fake User Agent: Many bots rely on fake user agents to mask their activity and seem more legitimate, which is why we put effort into detecting them. We look at relevant details to find these fake agents, like if the user agent and the platform data match.

Repeated clicks from the same user: it is common to find repeated clicks when competitors check the content of your ads. These actions will exhaust your budget and harm your ads’ performance, so we look for repeated traffic from the IP or browser to identify and block fraudulent users.

Invalid IP addresses: invalid IP addresses do not necessarily mean there is fraudulent activity. However, they are categorized as invalid traffic, be it due to a technical error or malicious activity, such as proxy servers. At Spider AF, we analyze the IP addresses to identify potential threats.

Data centers: data centers do not use the same IP addresses as regular users, so we use our own list of IP addresses to identify and block the fraudsters.

The Spider AF Tracker is integrated into websites and provides comprehensive traffic insights. Once implemented, the tracker conducts thorough scans and analyses of device and session-level metrics, including page locations, referrers, IP addresses, and user agents. 

Thanks to the use of sophisticated algorithms, the Spider AF Tracker identifies signs of bot behavior, thus enhancing the capabilities for detecting ad fraud. 

Ensure your ads are safe and successful with the best automated solutions from Spider AF!

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