In Case you did not already know, click fraud is a big problem on the Internet for pay-per-click (PPC) online advertisers. Click fraud occurs when a person or computer program impersonates a potential customer and clicks on an ad. The advertiser pays for this ad even though there is no possibility that this click will convert into any type of profit or desired interaction.
If you are interested in learning more about what click fraud is, check out our previous post on “The Faces Behind Click Fraud Practices”. In this post we are going to concentrate on the clues you should look for that may indicate suspicious activity.
These reasons seem pretty obvious at a glance. But let’s face it, things are always more complicated than they seem. In order to better understand the larger issues that lead someone to commit click fraud, let’s take a look at how it all started for us.
The Team at ClickFrauds did not just wake up one day and decide to create a fraud detection tool. In fact, the story goes much deeper, as we were once victims of a fraudster.
Here’s What Happened…
A few years ago, one of our team members, we’ll call him Dan, owned and operated a small business selling t-shirts online. Customers would go on Dan’s site, design a custom t-shirt and have their orders shipped to their home. Like most business owners, Dan set up a PPC account through Google Adwords to advertise to his customers online and grow his business. Things started out ok, Dan was seeing good Click Through Rates and high Conversion Rates. Then, everything changed and Dan started spending more and more money but wasn’t seeing any progress. It turned out that a competitor was committing click fraud to try and put Dan out of business. It almost worked.
But How Could He Tell?
Dan saw a huge spike in the number of clicks, but basically no change in the conversion rates. While this is a sign that bots may be involved, it’s not exactly a smoking gun. Suspicious? For sure, so Dan checked all of the account settings. He reviewed his bid strategy, location settings, and even checked all of his landing pages to make sure there was nothing that needed to be fixed. Everything looked fine but problems kept popping up.
Then, Dan noticed an increase in “customers” that were clicking on ads, filling up shopping carts with dozens of t-shirts and then just disappearing. You see, bots are not yet capable of completing a purchase order, so this is a pretty good indicator that there is some foul play involved.
Eventually, things got really bad. Dan would check his campaigns and see that the account’s budget was used up almost immediately. He would set his daily budgets, and when he would check back an hour later, they were completely depleted.
What This Means…
It turns out that a competitor, let’s call him Steve, had set up a bot to really hurt the competition. This bot made sure that Dan used up his entire daily budget early in the morning. Steve would then run his ads later in the day, ensuring that his ads were the only ads to show up.
Sadly, Dan decided to close his business. But the t-shirt world loss is our gain. Dan joined our team and is using his experience to help make sure that what happened to him does not happen anymore. Thankfully there is hope! Our story is not uncommon. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Had we not learned these signs early on and discovered the larger world of click fraud, we would not be fighting the good fight today. Bottom line, If you have noticed any of the scenarios that we discussed above, there is a good chance that you are a pawn in this game of online advertising fraud.
Like What You Read? Be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming posts where we will discuss the laws and penalties for committing click fraud, mobile devices vs. desktops and much more. And, learn more details about how to check if you are a victim of click fraud.