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Google AdWords & Fake Clicks. How To Protect Your Campaign

For companies utilizing Google AdWords, you know that you pay for the ad when someone clicks on it. That is an excellent benefit because it means you are not paying the same amount if your ads are not working. Yet, many people see some weird spikes without increased revenue and wonder what exactly they’re paying for. If you’re running a Google AdWords campaign (aka PPC campaign), you have likely wondered, “Are fake clicks an actual thing?”

What Is AdWords Click Fraud?

Google AdWords click fraud is a real problem, and it could be a threat to your current campaign. Google calls these invalid clicks. This suspicious activity can occur by accident, such as someone clicks the wrong ad and ends up on a page they don’t have any interest in. Other times, the clicks come from the use of malicious software.

For example, Google considers manual clicks that are made to increase your advertising costs as fraudulent. This could be done, for example, to increase profits for the owner of the website hosting the ad. It could also be set up by automated tools that are deceptive in their function. Either way, it’s invalid traffic to your site that can cost you.

Facts About Click Fraud

Click fraud is a significant problem (and a costly one for your advertising campaign if you fall victim to it). Click Guardian did some research to find that $7.2 billion in loss from click fraud occurred between 2016 and 2018, and that’s money that comes straight out of paid search advertising budgets.

When it comes to global PPC click fraud, a report from Search Engine Journal found 11% of search ad clicks are invalid clicks or at least suspicious clicks. They also found that 26% of display ad clicks were fraudulent in 2021. From their research, they found the average small to average business loses $14,900 each year to click fraud while larger companies stand to lose more, averaging $705,000 each year.

What is Google Doing To Prevent Click Fraud?

You’re probably a bit worried about our own campaign at this point. Are you paying money for ads that you should not be? What is Google doing to eliminate or reduce Google Ad clicks like this?

First, it is important to monitor and audit all of the ad spendings you are doing. Utilizing your Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see more of where you are spending money. Beyond that, fully auditing your spending will show areas of potential fraud or costly mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes people make when running these campaigns is that they don’t carefully look at where their money is going.

Google recognizes that this is happening (that’s a good thing), and they do provide you with a way to request refunds for these fraudulent clicks. The problem with this process is that you have to have documentation and proof to show this. That’s hard to do, especially when you are busy running your campaign and building your business. That’s why it helps to have a trusted third party managing this important part of your marketing mix for you.

The ideal situation is to keep detailed records of all of the clicks that you receive. You also want to track that traffic carefully to determine what happens when they arrive at your site. That’s the only way to determine if the clicks are likely fraudulent activity. The key here is that when you request a refund from Google, they do not want to see your full click history (that’s just going to make the individual reviewing your information less likely to help you). Instead, you’ll need to provide more detail.

This often means providing Google with specific clicks that you believe are suspicious. It is tedious work, but doing this at least one time every 60 days ensures you do not suffer the significant financial losses that often come with invalid clicks.

Using Software To Help Prevent Click Fraud

Often, the better solution for those who do not have time to spend on this process is to use click fraud software. Like any other type of software product, you’ll want to review the options and consider the costs based on the potential losses that the software is saving you from (this will depend on the amount of suspected fraud you expect). ClickCease and Click Guard are two examples of this type of service.

Consider it another one of the tools that you need to use to keep your marketing on point. Typically, these tools work to pick up on the fraudulent activity and will block the fake impressions from occurring. That ends up saving you money over time.

Is Click Fraud a Thing on Facebook Ads Too?

There’s no doubt Google AdWords click fraud is a real problem, but there are other areas of concern as well, including with Facebook. Like Google, Facebook recognizes that this is a concern. Facebook considers two types of clicks invalid:

  • Clicks from repetitive or accident clicks and visits from the Facebook corporate network. This could include situations where people do not have a noted interest in the ad or have any signs of ad testing.
  • The use of fake accounts, scrapers, bots, or add-ons to the browser are also considered invalid clicks.

Facebook will detect and alert you of any type of activity it finds. A manual review of this can help to provide more insight into the process. You can report these clicks to Facebook for a manual review as well. Software that you’re using for Google AdWords may also work for Facebook, depending on the product itself.

What You Can Protect Your Campaign

It’s always wise to be proactive. Our digital marketing agency wants to ensure you always have a keen eye on what’s happening. Prevention, like in the use of software programs, is a solid start. There are plenty of options out there. It’s also wise to pay attention to your clicks and audit them to ensure you’re not overpaying.

It is worth reporting fraudulent clicks like this for many reasons, but most importantly, because doing so saves you money. Any investment you make into search engine optimization, ad campaigns, and other marketing needs to pull in the best ROI for you.

Make It Loud wants to help you. If your campaign isn’t doing well and producing the leads you need, reach out to us today to learn how we can help you see a better ROI.

Cliff Tillery, MBA is the Chief Operating Officer at Make It Loud which is a digital marketing firm located outside of Atlanta Georgia. He is also the Director of SEO. More than 14 years ago, he started search engine optimization at this agency and has taught digital marketing skills to business owners at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center and other groups.

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