Click fraud - four steps to protecting your business

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With digital at the forefront of marketing strategies for many businesses, delivering measurable and meaningful results has never been easier. But what happens when these results are subject to fraud? How can that impact on a business’ bottom line? And what can be done to prevent it?

Neil Andrew, founder of PPC Protect explains:

Click fraud - a growing problem

Pay per click networks such as Google Ads are often invaluable these days for businesses looking to advertise their service. And this is where fraudulent clicks are targeted.

The phenomenon, also known as click fraud, has always been around but has become much more prevalent in recent years, growing 50 per cent year on year. Some industries, such as finance, suffer more than others with over half of companies reporting bot traffic levels in excess of 22 per cent. Fraudulent clicks can come from disgruntled customers, hackers, competitors, click farms and bots, all causing financial damage to the company who is being targeted.

In 2017, one in five clicks on adverts were fraudulent, with approximately $16.4 billion lost to click fraud every year. It’s impossible to know exactly how much click fraud is costing a business, but we do know that it’s driving up digital advertising costs for businesses and skewing vital analytical data.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent click fraud.

1.Understand click fraud

It goes without saying that, in order to combat a problem, you need to understand it first.

Since the dawn of PPC networks, click fraud has been an increasing issue for many advertisers. Considering advertisers are charged for every click they received, they have the right to be worried about the legitimacy of their clicks.

Since competition can be extremely tough in PPC networks, some companies, competitors and disgruntled customers will often click their competitor’s ads in order to waste their budget. Not only does this decrease the effectiveness and ROI of their competitor’s campaign, but in some cases, it can stop the campaign from running altogether, entirely exhausting the advertisers budget.

Take some time out to learn about why and how your ads are the subject of click fraud, and you can start fighting back in a successful way. We have created a handy guide for businesses that is regularly updated and can be found here.

2. Check for bots

If you’ve noticed an increase in page load times, a higher bounce rate or lower average time on page, then you could have bots visiting your site. While not all bots should be blocked (for example, we still want Google to be able to crawl the site), there are plenty out there that could be doing malicious things to your site.

To explain bots simply, they can be defined as: software applications written to perform specific repetitive tasks. This could be anything from checking the prices on a website every minute to posting a new comment every hour. The whole aim of a bot is to take a repetitive task and automate it. The type of task the robot does can help define if the bot is good or bad.

The first way to check your website for bots is to keep a close eye on your Google Analytics stats for any inconsistencies. By paying attention to the number of page views, average session duration and referrers, you can quickly work out if bots are visiting you, and how frequently.

3. Use device fingerprinting

Every time a computer visits a website, they leave clues behind about what device they are using. These clues can be collected and used to create a profile of the user and their device.  This is helpful in a number of scenarios such as when there are multiple devices connected to the same IP address, or when you need to determine what type of website to load for a specific device.

With this information, businesses can also track what kind of users are visiting their site and use the data to improve their marketing efforts, website design, and security.

Device fingerprinting is a crucial tool when it comes to fighting online fraud. Without device fingerprinting, it’s incredibly hard to track users and determine if they are unique or the same person.

Fortunately, there are tools available to combat the issue. Installing a framework that installs detection techniques directly into your software will help you to identify fraudulent users.

4. Install a reputable system and leave it to the experts...

Not everyone is, or can be, an expert in click fraud and how to prevent it, and with fraudsters coming up with more and more sophisticated ways to beat the system on a regular basis, it simply becomes an overwhelming task for smaller businesses.

We created PPC Protect while we were running a digital marketing agency because we had a number of paid media clients who were experiencing obvious click fraud and we found that none of the existing solutions provided adequate protection or an algorithm-driven approach to solving the problem.

Building on Google’s existing systems, our unique algorithm is able to monitor over 100 pieces of unique data, including IP address, device ID, resolution, user agent, location and more. This is then cross-referenced with our bank of fraudulent devices and activity, as well as learning new fraudulent activity. With every click, the system and algorithms become smarter. Any fraudulent users are then blacklisted from seeing the ads.

We make it much easier for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to get the most from their Google Ads spend, saving up to 30 per cent of their spend.

Neil Andrew, founder, PPC Protect