PPC is one of the most powerful marketing tools any business can use online. However, it has one fundamental flaw: it’s impossible to tell if the ad clicks originated from a human or a bot.
See, click fraud and bots go hand in hand, and bots are an increasing problem not only for advertisers but for all websites. A well-coordinated bot attack can be orchestrated from anywhere and can do severe damage to any PPC campaign.
Let’s take a closer look at the frightening link between bots and click fraud.
What is Click Fraud, Exactly?
Click fraud, also commonly referred to as “ad fraud”, is when your ads are viewed or clicked on by a malicious agent. This can be a competitor looking to drive up your advertising costs, or simply someone trying to cause some disruption.
Note that click fraud is not limited to search. Click fraud can occur on display ads, video ads, and even ads on social media. As a matter of fact, Facebook sued a group of developers who used malware on one of their ads to falsify clicks. It is estimated that, by 2022, the total cost of digital ad fraud will reach a staggering $44 billion.
Who are the Culprits?
There are many methods used in the click fraud industry. Some acts are committed by publishers who are trying to ramp up their revenues or inflate their metrics. For many, ads are their only revenue source and some will try to click on their own ads. However, doing so puts them at risk of getting their accounts terminated.
Click farms are a big player in this multi-billion issue too. These are composed of human workers who will click on ads for a small fee. Click farms can be used for other things too. Some people use them to get fake likes on a post or video, for instance.
You then have bots, who are perhaps the scariest of them all. This is because these require very little resources, and one bot attack can cause more damage than any click farm could. These are also notoriously tough to trace.
Bot creators can also create fraudulent websites to host ads. The bots can then simulate activity and allow perpetrators to make thousands, and sometimes millions in revenue. One particular attack used over 500,000 different IPs to cover its tracks and made the perpetrators over £3,000,000 per day.
What Can Be Done About it?
The first step is making sure that you monitor your site’s and ads’ activity closely. Especially when it comes to invalid clicks. If you want to learn more about invalid clicks and click bots, we suggest you check out this page by ClickGUARD. It runs down exactly what they are and how Google handles them. The post also explains the differences between click bots and bot farms, some famous cases of click bot attacks, and provides a few tips on how to protect yourself.
Click bots are very real, and if you’re an advertiser, you have no choice but to inform yourself about them if you want to protect your online property. While it’s scary, there are some concrete steps you can take to prevent and counter the problem.