Human beings are competitive by nature, and nowhere is that more apparent than the Internet. Online competition is absolutely brutal, and though I think most people are basically good-natured, there are some real scoundrels lurking around the Internet who want to get ahead by any means necessary. One of those means is clicked fraud, which you may not be aware of if you’re new to PPC marketing.

What Is Click Fraud?

Click fraud is a way for malicious organizations and individuals to discourage other businesses from advertising on the same keywords while simultaneously wasting ads and marketing budgets. Instead of a genuinely interested Google user clicking on your ad, a fraudulent clicker – or even a bot – clicks on your link multiple times.

The idea is that when a competing business sees their skyrocketing PPC costs and diminishing ROI, they’ll either be discouraged or incapable of continuing their PPC campaign. It’s a real dirty trick, and it can waste thousands and thousands of dollars. If you’re a small business, every dime of a scant marketing budget is precious and needs to be protected.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways you can protect your campaign against fraudulent clicks.

Use a Third-Party Click Protection Software

The first option is to use a third-party that specializes in click protection. This option is the least hands-on, though it does cost money. A service like Clixtell (among others) offers software that inserts a tracking javascript tool. Alternatively, some tools come with a WordPress plugin. If you’re unsure about the software, you can try it before you buy it with a 14-day free trial.

The amount of information these tools analyze is impressive, including IP addresses, unique device ID’s, network service providers, proxy servers and VPN servers, keywords, time spent on a page, geolocation, and more. While the software monitors your campaign, it can actively detect fraudulent activity in real-time and block click fraud attempts.

They can even send you real-time alerts to warn you of malicious activity. If you suspect you’ve been the victim of click fraud or spend significant portions of your marketing budget on PPC ads, I would recommend seeking this type of protection.

Stick to Mainstream PPC Channels

Most digital marketers stick to the main PPC channels, such as Google and Bing, when running ads. Some bolder and riskier marketers choose to run PPC ads on websites off the beaten path. However, I would advise against doing this unless you personally know who you’re dealing with. Some shady hucksters perform click fraud against their advertising clients to inflate the amount of money they get from PPC ads. Sticking to well-known, reputable, trusted marketing channels eliminates this risk.

Only Run Ads In Countries You Trust

Generally speaking, it’s best to run ads in first-world countries. Believe it or not, some countries with weaker economies and high unemployment will pay people to do nothing but click on ads. This type of click fraud is called a click farm and is more or less a digital sweatshop of low paid workers. Click farms aren’t only detrimental to your ads, however; they are also used to elevate the number of views content gets to make it go viral.

Look for Abnormalities

If you notice your numbers are looking a little strange, they could indicate click fraud.

First off, if you spot a click-through-rate that’s higher than you’ve ever seen, you should be suspicious. In addition, if you don’t see a relationship between your advertising costs and conversions, or you see an especially low ROI, the fraudsters may have pulled one over on you.

Another key indicator is traffic spike oddities. This indication is even stronger if you notice the traffic spikes surface at strange hours when you normally wouldn’t receive much traffic.

Last but not least, note that low engagement, short time spent on page, and unusually high bounce rates are also key indicators. If you have one or more of these symptoms, it might be time to put the brakes on your PPC campaign until you get protection.

Use Google Ads IP Exclusions

Did you know you can prevent your Google ads from being seen by individual IP addresses as well as ranges?

If you didn’t already know, an IP address is a unique identifier that essentially gives an Internet-connected device a name so it can have conversations with other systems. If you, or your software, have identified the IP addresses of fraudsters, you should use IP exclusions to bar the offenders from clicking on your links in the future.

Diversify Ads with Social Media Marketing Channels

Instead of only spending your ad budget on Google and Bing PPC ads, you can diversify your ad campaign with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. These platforms aren’t as easily subjected to click fraud for several reasons. The ads are highly targeted to specific demographics, which makes it more difficult for fraudsters to find. In addition, note that there aren’t any third-party publishers on these platforms.

Because you can create a custom audience, your ads aren’t as easy to find as they are on Google. To be fair, Google does provide ways to target and filter different market segments. Nevertheless, Google ads are much easier to find because they can be located with a keyword. By diversifying across multiple marketing platforms, you can mitigate the risk of click fraud.

Final Thoughts

Digital marketing isn’t as easy as most people think it is, and PPC campaigns can be downright tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. Click fraud is both real and dangerous, and small business owners usually don’t have the time or skills to monitor their marketing campaigns as well as they should.

Instead of leaving yourself open to digital threats and failing to monitor your digital marketing campaigns, reach out for the help of a qualified professional to grow your business and generate leads.