Pay Per Click,
What is Click Fraud? Top 5 Software to Detect & Prevent Click Fraud?
January 13, 2020
Click fraud is a black hat technique that is deployed to inflate the number of clicks on a pay-per-click (PPC) advertisement. Most click fraud are motivated by one of the below-mentioned reasons:
- A Competitor wants to exhaust your PPC budget
- A Publisher wants to earn more from the advertisements on their platforms
As such fraudulent clicks do not lead to conversion, the advertiser of the ad ends up forking out money without generating qualified traffic. At times, advertiser’s competitors hire individuals to click on their ads. Such competitors and even some publishers use an automated script or computer program that imitates a legitimate user and clicks on ads. Such individuals and bots search for the keywords and phrases used by their competitors and click their ads each time they come up.
While a publisher can, most likely, commit fraud on its digital properties such as a website, a competitor can commit a click fraud either on the search engine results page as well as on a publisher website. For example, the competitor of this Life Insurance company (refer to Fig 1 and 2) can exhaust this company’s PPC budget by clicking ads in the search network and the display network as shown below.
2. An example of an ad on the Google Search Network such as Ads on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
While the competitor of this Life Insurance company would specifically click on this Life Insurance Ads on various platforms to exhaust the Insurer’s PPC budget, the publisher can click on any of the ads (refer to Fig 3) on this or other pages of the website to increase Adsense revenue.
3. An example of a webpage displaying ads by different advertisers
How to detect Click Fraud on Your PPC Ads
Diligently placed Google Ads with optimal filters show a constant number of clicks. When you relax the filter, you see an incremental increase in the number of clicks. However, sometimes the clicks show unusual peaks. And if there is no increase in conversion despite such peaks in the number of clicks over a period of time, then you might be the victim of fraudulent clicks or click fraud. As soon as you detect such unusual patterns, you should drill down a bit more. You can begin with the click fraud detection right from your Google Analytics account. Google Analytics offers a number of directional indicators that can point to click fraud on your site. Some of these directional indicators are:
- Unusual increase in the number of impressions on a search results page
- A sudden increase in the number of clicks
- No significant increase in conversions
- Average Session Duration reaching as low as zero seconds during the peak in clicks
- Bounce rate reaching as high as 100% during the peak in clicks
4. An example of a Google Analytics Account showing normal statistics
5. An example of a Google Analytics Account showing unusual average session duration and bounce rate due to click fraud
Please note that Google Analytics will show a 100% bounce rate and 0-second average session duration only at the time when the fraudulent clicks are made. The above numbers take into account genuine clicks as well.
Whereas you get a good idea about the click fraud from the above-mentioned indicators on Google Analytics, you can be fully sure of any such fraud by logging into your Google Ads account and checking the performance tab. You would need to enable the Invalid click rate and Invalid clicks by ticking the boxes as mentioned below.
How to Eliminate Click Fraud on Google Adwords?
Google says, “they have created a sophisticated detection system that starts with automated filters. Advanced algorithms detect and filter out invalid clicks in real-time before advertisers are even charged.” They further point out that “their specialists carefully monitor clicks and impressions on Google ads in order to protect the interests of publishers as well as advertisers. To do this, they use both automated systems and human reviews, analyzing all ad clicks and impressions for any invalid traffic that may artificially drive up an advertiser’s costs or a publisher’s earnings.”
Despite the efforts of Google and other search engine platforms such as Yahoo or Bing, click frauds do happen. And this is always a good idea that advertisers do not depend solely on search engines and find ways to eliminate click frauds on their own.
Before I mention some of the ways to minimize click frauds, it would be important to note that we can’t completely prevent or eliminate click frauds.
The following are the ways to reduce the probability of being affected by click frauds.
1. Limit your exposure
As mentioned earlier, the probability of click frauds can’t be completely eliminated from Google search or display networks. Hence it is important that your PPC advertising budget is split across multiple search engines and key social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These social media platforms have PPC programs that can be very nicely targeted. These platforms do not work on the Publisher model. Hence a large chunk of click frauds can be eliminated here.
2. Set up IP exclusion
It is very easy to set up IP exclusion in Google Ads account. There is an option under the settings tab to set up IP exclusions. You may enter all the IP addresses here that you feel are suspicious or fraudulent.
3. Deploy Geo-targeting very carefully
It has been seen that most click farms are located in small developing countries where labor rates are very low. Hence it is advisable that your locations filters do not include such countries. You can also restrict ads from being displayed in specific cities or even zip codes.
4. Show your ads only on the high-quality publisher websites
It is easy to exclude your ads from appearing on low-quality publishers’ sites. Google Ads allows you to see the exact pages or high-level domains where your ads are being shown. If you are not sure about the quality of a particular website where your ads are being displayed, you can check their domain authority and do a bit of research about their overall reputation. If the website is not trustworthy, then stop Google Ads from showing your ads on those platforms. Some marketers advise you to run only remarketing campaigns to stop click frauds on display networks. However, this is not a great idea to limit your reach and ignore a large chunk of your target audience.
5. Use Click Fraud Software
Sometimes it becomes too much for a marketer to manually detect and prevent click frauds. This is particularly true for small organizations where a single marketing manager juggles with too many things and there is no dedicated staff to manage PPC Ads. On the contrary, larger organizations have different sets of challenges. Very large organizations have too many campaigns going on simultaneously. And managing click fraud for so many ads become a lot to handle. In both scenarios, it is advisable to use a SaaS-based Click Fraud software. Click fraud software detects and/or protects against fraudulent clicks related to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. These tools are used by advertisers to detect manual or automated efforts to inflate click numbers. There are several dedicated companies in this domain and most of them do a good job of managing click frauds.
Top 5 Software to Detect & Prevent Click Fraud
We have researched the leading 10-12 Click fraud software and after referencing the top software comparison site’s rankings, we came up with our own list of the top 5 click fraud software. We referenced Capterra, G2, GetApp, and Software suggest. This is how the leading click software platforms have been ranked on these platforms.
We assigned these platforms a weight based on their rank on the four above-mentioned software comparison sites. The ones with the least weight ranked highest and vice versa. 4 platforms made it to the top 15 list on all 4 comparison sites and 4 other platforms made it to the top 15 list on 4 of the 4 comparison sites.
In our research, Clixtell had the least weight and hence it stood at rank 1 on our list of top 5 software platforms. Clixtell’s net weight was 12 (2+5+3+2). It’s score coincided with the score of Clickcease. So, we can consider both these companies to be on spot 1. ClickGuard was ranked at number 1 by Capterra, G2, and GetApp. However, its ranking came down in our list because SoftwareSuggest ranked it too low at the 13th position.
Although these platforms are ranked 1 to 5, it doesn’t really mean that the one at the number 1 position would suit every buyer or the one placed at number 5 is not at all good. In fact, any of these 5 platforms can be selected by a buyer based on their specific criteria such as budget, specific feature or location. Here is a deep dive into the key features of the top 5 click fraud software platforms.
Key features of the top 5 Click fraud Software Platforms as mentioned on their respective websites
This list highlights all the available features. Some features may be missing in the lower versions.
24/7 Website Click Monitoring
Google Ads Integration
PPC Campaign & Keyword Tracking
Video Session Recorder
Service Provider Analyzer
Visitor Time On Page
Video Session Recorder
Web Conversion Intelligence
Daily / Weekly Email Reports
Mobile App iPhone & Android
Automated Click Fraud Protection
Immediate PPC Invalid Activity Blocker
Click Fraud Machine Learning
Custom Security ProfileService Provider Blocker
Advanced IP Range Blocker
VPNs & Proxies Blocker
Device ID Blocker
IPv6 BlockerEnhanced Bot Protection
Aggressive Defence Mode
Cross Domains Protection
Detailed Refund Claim Report
Mobile App Click Fraud Blocking Alert
Email notifications of Fraudulent Clicks
IPv6 SupportAdSpy – Competitor Ad Intel
Refund Claims Manager Account Sharing
Dedicated Account Manager
Analytics Detected IP Reason
World Click Fraud Heatmap
Top Fraudulent Keywords
Top Fraudulent IP Ranges
Top Fraudulent Devices
Top Fraudulent Campaigns
Click Fraud Attack Indicator
Session Recording & Analysis
Weekly Email Reports
View Competitor Ads
View Competitor Ad Position
ClickCease™ Bot Detection
Device Detection JS-disabled Browser Detection
VPN & Proxy Detection
Automatic IP Blocking
Campaign Level Blocking Rules
Block IP Ranges
VPN & Proxy Blocking
Account & Campaign Level Blocking
30 Days Free Trial
Full MCC Account Support
Real-Time IP Blocking
Unlimited Clicks Protected
Unlimited Account Users
Priority Email & Chat Support
Dedicated Phone Support
Personal Account Manager
Manual Fraud Risk Reviews
99.997% Uptime SLA
Reports and Analytics
ISP & Range Forensics
Ad Placement Forensics
Landing Page Forensics
On-Demand Log Exports
Click fraud protection
On-Demand Log Exports
CLICK FRAUD PROTECTION
Manual BlockingIP Whitelist
Automated IP Blocking
Proactive Device Blocking
Campaign Level Rules
AdGroup Level Rules
Landing Page Level Rules
Domain Level RulesKeyword Level Rules
Match Type Level Rules
Device Type Level Rules
Continent Level Rules
Country Level Rules
Threat Level Level Rules
Proxy Level Rules
Other value features
Configurable Email Reports
Premium Offender Warnings
Landing Page Monitoring
Custom Warning HTML
Advanced Beta Features
Ad Fraud Protection
PPC Protection for Google Ads
Full coverage over Google Ads campaigns
Automated IP blocking in Google Ads
Superior fraud mitigation
Detailed reporting and analytics
Automated IP Range Blocking
Single user and team options
Single and multi-domain/property protection
Click fraud has been a concern for most online advertisers. A significant chunk of Ad budget gets wiped out due to click frauds globally. These clock frauds are committed mostly by competitors and small publishers. In a number of cases disgruntled employees and customers have also been found involved in click frauds. Although search engines are doing their best to eliminate click frauds, it’s important that advertisers do not count on them completely. It is easy to detect and eliminate click frauds manually. However, in some cases, it becomes a bit too much for the advertisers to handle this manually. In such cases, advertisers should use a reputed click fraud software. There are a number of good click fraud software platforms that can be used by advertisers to fight such frauds proactively.