How to Prevent Google Ads Click Fraud and Maximize Your ROI
Cyber Risks & Threats | July 24, 2023
It’s no secret that Google Ads click fraud is an existing danger for every Google ads campaign.
Like most businesses, you likely also rely on Google Ads as your go-to ad platform. And with its 4.3 billion active users globally, it’s no wonder why it’s the first choice to most advertisers.
The effectiveness of the platform itself is non-debatable, of course. In fact, in one research, Google estimated that the average ROI advertisers get is 800%. According to Google:
“for every $1 a business spends on Google Ads, they receive $8 in profit through Google Search and Ads”
Who wouldn’t want to achieve such remarkable results with their advertising efforts?
Unfortunately, the vast amount of money allocated to Google ads also attracts fraudsters looking to get a slice of the advertising cake. In 2022 alone, an average of 14% of PPC budgets was lost due to click fraud.
If you want to ensure every penny of your ad spend is maximized in Google ads, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we explain the general issue of click fraud and provide actionable steps you can take to make your Google ads strategy click fraud resistant.
What is click fraud?
So, what exactly is click fraud? Essentially, it involves fake clicks on various types of online ads, such as display ads or search ads. It happens when an ad is clicked, but there’s no intention to purchase the product or the service promoted in that ad.
Fake clicks can occur intentionally with fraudulent intent (most of the time) or non-intentionally with accidental clicks. Both ways lead to the same result – lost advertising budgets.
Let’s break it down further. When you run a pay-per-click (PPC) ad, you pay every time someone clicks on your ad. That makes sense, right? Naturally, you expect those clicks to lead to conversions if your ad campaign is performing well.
But here’s the catch: when bots or users deliver fake clicks on your ads, you end up paying for clicks that simply have no chance to convert.
What is click fraud on Google ads?
Google ads click fraud involves fake clicks on any type of paid campaign on Google, whether it’s search campaigns, display ads, shopping ads, and more.
Every time someone delivers a fake click on your ad, they’re reducing your daily budget. But click fraud on Google Ads not only costs you money. Each fake click reduces the likelihood of your ad being shown to a genuine user from your intended target audience.
Once your campaign hits the daily budget limit, Google stops displaying it. As a result, instead of reaching real humans that might be interested in your product or service, your ad generates fake interactions that have no chance of conversion and hurts your campaign’s Return on Investment (ROI).
In a nutshell, Google ads click fraud drains your advertising budget by making you pay for clicks that offer no real value. It’s like throwing money down the drain.
How does click fraud work?
There are a few different methods used to carry out click fraud. It can involve either automated processes or real humans that can be hired to click on PPC ads in scale.
In the case of automation, a bot, which is basically a script or computer program mimics the actions of a genuine user, clicking on an ad as if it were a real person. The goal here is to trick the platform into believing that actual users are engaging with a webpage, ad, or app.
In the case of human-driven click fraud, people are either by accident or intentionally clicking on paid ads.
To digest this better, let’s talk about some common sources of click fraud.
A click farm is a place with many devices whose purpose is to generate fake clicks in bulk. They can perform click fraud automatically through software codes or hire people to click on the targeted ads.
Anyone that wants to cause damage to your online advertising, or is simply aiming to profit from it in one way or another, can purchase a certain number of fake clicks through a click farm and generate an extensive amount of deceptive clicks.
Want to know more about click farms and learn how to protect your business from them? Head to this article where we explore in depth the intriguing world of click farms.
Bots and botnet attacks
Bots, which are automated software programs, can carry out click fraud either individually or in a coordinated network known as a botnet.
These programs can infect computers and mobile devices, controlling them remotely. By mimicking real users, they deceive advertisers, skew ad metrics and analytics, and take money away from ad campaigns.
Manual clicking on your ads
Manual click fraud can occur in two main ways: intentional and accidental.
In most cases, it happens intentionally when either people employed by click farms or your competitors purposely click on your ads. Their motive is clear: competitors want to bring down your ad quickly, drain your ad budget, and prevent it from reaching your target audience. Click farms, on the other hand, may generate fake clicks as part of a service purchased by either your competitor or a publisher looking to profit from displaying your ad.
Accidental click fraud occurs when people click on your ad without any genuine interest in it or your business. Have you ever wondered how you ended up clicking that teeny-tiny ad pop-up while casually scrolling through the news? You’re not alone. This is a common scenario on third-party websites or apps. Publishers strategically position the ads to encourage unintentional clicks by users like you and me. And that’s just one click fraud tactic publishers use to increase their earnings.
However, not all accidental clicks are driven by publishers with hidden intentions. Sometimes, they really happen by chance, without any hidden motives.
The good thing about Google ads is that the platform can refund your ad spend consumed by click fraud. We’ll explore this a bit later in the article.
Google’s measures against click fraud
In the battle against click fraud, advertising platforms are stepping up their game, and Google is no exception.
As a platform, it’s committed to delivering top-quality outcomes for its advertisers. After all, it’s in Google’s interest to ensure advertiser satisfaction, maintain their loyalty, and keep them spending their budgets on Google ads.
So yes, they have a robust program that prevents invalid activity and protects you as their user from click fraud on Google ads. Let’s see how they do this.
Google has over 200 filters that are regularly monitored and updated. With their help, Google automatically identifies the majority of invalid traffic.
Filtering in real-time
These advanced filters stop invalid traffic as soon as it’s detected, and traffic coming from some sources can be blocked before it affects your ad budget. As Google claims:
“If the activity is associated with a denylist user agent or IP address, for example, or if the publisher has a suspiciously high clickthrough rate or traffic from a single user, our filters will catch it before it’s ever charged to the advertiser.”
Filtering in near real-time
Unfortunately, besides the sophisticated filters, some invalid traffic can’t be detected in real-time. In some cases, it may take up to several weeks to recognize a suspicious pattern and take appropriate measures against it.
Manual detection and review
Google has a whole dedicated team that manually keeps track of some patterns flagged as suspicious. With this process, they separate non-human traffic from normal activity and update their filters regularly.
Research and botnet hunting
Additionally, Google’s team actively researches and investigates new forms of invalid traffic that slip through their existing filters. They do this by analyzing sample codes commonly used in non-human traffic sources.
Suspending and disabling accounts
Another way Google protects its advertisers is by suspending fraudulent publishers’ accounts. If they detect an excessive amount of invalid traffic from a specific publisher, they suspend or disable their account, ensuring that your ads will be displayed only on publishers’ websites or apps that guarantee legitimate traffic only.
Refunds for Google Ads click fraud
This is another action that Google takes to minimize the impact of fake activity on your Google ads campaigns.
In the event that Google fails to detect and block harmful traffic in time to protect your ads, they provide an option to request a refund. This way, the platform ensures that advertisers won’t be charged for fraudulent clicks and gives them peace of mind.
We have prepared a detailed guide on this topic that you can check here.
In addition, here’s a brief breakdown of the steps on how to request a refund for invalid clicks:
- Fill out the Google Ads Click Quality Form
- Provide information about your Google Ads account as well as the affected ad campaign/s
- Attach the files and screenshots as evidence of invalid traffic and explain your concern in a detailed manner
- After you’ve completed the form, provide your email address for contact and click “Submit”
Refunds typically take up to two weeks for Google to process, and it can take an additional 10 business days for your bank or credit card company to credit the refund to your account.
How to stop fake clicks in Google ads?
Due to the advanced techniques that fraudsters use, it is very difficult to spot and fully stop Google ads’ click fraud. However, there are some actions that you can take to keep fraudulent clicks away as much as possible.
Here are some good safety practices that you can implement:
- IP exclusions. If you’ve noticed traffic from certain IP addresses that are clicking frequently but take no action or simply seem fraudulent, exclude them. While it’s not easy to manually detect some sophisticated bots, you can still protect your ads by spotting more obvious traffic patterns.
- Narrowed targeting. The more specific your ad targeting is, the more successful it is. Moreover, this approach has been demonstrated to reduce the likelihood of fraudulent clicks effectively. So make sure to focus on regions where your target audience is concentrated and where you’ve seen actual results.
- Ad Schedule Optimization. Analyze the timing of the clicks to identify any non-usual patterns or recurring time frames. Adjust your ad schedule to display ads only during specific hours when real user activity is more likely.
- Regularly monitoring in Google Analytics. Regularly review and analyze campaign metrics, such as click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates. Sudden spikes or abnormalities can be easily spotted in Google Analytics, often indicating fraudulent activity.
Advanced Google ads click fraud protection
While these tactics can help you reduce the impact of fake clicks, it may not be possible to eliminate them entirely.
When it comes to full and efficient protection against click fraud on Google ads, here at CHEQ Essentials, we’re proud to say we have the leading click fraud detection and prevention software.
Our advanced algorithms and smart software are able to pick up on any fraudulent traffic that slips through Google’s filters. Moreover, it can save you a lot of time as it automates all the measures mentioned above.
CHEQ Essentials’ solution is designed to ensure that you receive genuine clicks only, which will reduce the bounce rate and increase your conversions and ROI. Take a look at the Paid marketing protection plan and see how it can provide full protection against Google ads click fraud.