According to Click Guardian $7.2 billion was lost to click fraud between 2016 and 2018. That’s a staggering amount that millions of advertisers are losing to fraudsters and click errors.

So what is click fraud?

According to Google it is an illegitimate action such as an unintentional click or a click resulting from malicious software.

In fact, Google chooses not to call it click fraud and calls it ‘invalid clicks’ instead. That’s understandable considering the confusion surrounding this topic and the various reasons why some clicks may be legitimate or an error.

Google uses a number of methods to fight click fraud. These include manual reviewers, automated filters, deep research and a global team of scientists and engineers.

Common types of click fraud?

Manual clicks intended to increase your advertising costs

This click fraud is one advertisers’ fear most. And some estimates report that it’s the most prevalent type of click fraud.

This is when other businesses that compete on your keywords deliberately click on your ads to drive up your costs.

Whatever keywords you’re bidding on, it’s almost likely you’re not the only one bidding on it. So that can often turn into a serious battle for clicks, customers and traffic.

Manual clicks intended to increase profits for website owners hosting your ads

This type of click fraud is only applicable to advertisers that use the Google Display Network. So, if you run ads on this network your ads will appear on third party websites owned by webmasters.

For a webmaster to be able to display your ads on their website, they need to first join the GoogleAdSense program. And for every person that clicks your ad on their website, the webmaster earns 68% of the amount paid to Google.

So, if the cost per click is $3, then the webmaster will earn $2.04. Multiply that by a hundred clicks and that could be a healthy sum of $204 for a webmaster.

Clicks by automated clicking tools, robots or other deceptive software

These are automated programs that run on internet servers or hijacked computers that are used for click fraud. They are programmed to create a large number of invalid clicks, impressions and traffic and are made to appear like real users.

Google uses automated filters to capture such activity but its manual reviews are usually more effective. They have a dedicated team of specialists hunt and stop botnets from harming advertisers, publishers and searchers.

Protecting the Consumer

Google has a set of strict policies for what types of ads they allow, and in 2016, they took down 1.7 billion ads that violated those policies.

This includes ads for illegal products or activities (such as pharmaceuticals and gambling), ads that mislead or deceive users, and “self-clicking” ads that can automatically force mobile devices to begin downloading apps.

Google also noted a prevalence of ads for payday loans, which are not allowed in AdWords, and “trick to click” ads that disguise themselves as warnings or error messages in order to trick users into clicking them and downloading malware.

What to do if you suspect click fraud

The first step is to optimize your ads and keywords to ensure you only target relevant searches. Conversion rate is one of the best indicators of success and identifying and correcting a low conversion rate will help identify potential invalid activity.

Setup Google Analytics to monitor any suspicious activity. Analytics provides powerful reporting and helps you to track the performance of your keywords and assess any suspicious clicks from specific locations.

Check your Google Ads account for any invalid interactions that you have been credited for. You can do this by logging into your account and then clicking the Tools link in the top right section.

Short conclusion

Google continues to improve its fraud detection capabilities and with help from advertisers this problem can be minimized.