So, you’ve heard the term click fraud, or invalid traffic. You’ve looked at your Google Ads dashboard and you’re wondering what the hell is going on? All these ad clicks, and very little conversions, is this right?

Running a search for ‘click fraud’ you find a load of options for fraud prevention, click monitoring and in depth guides. But, who has time to read those complete guides to click fraud? And do you really need to protect your clicks from fraud?

You just want to know what is causing these huge volumes of traffic and all that ad clicking but with barely any extra conversions. 

We hear ya. So this quick guide to click fraud will answer your questions with the bare minimum of filler. On that note.

What is click fraud?

Any non-genuine click on your paid ads costs you money. This is referred to by a number of terms which can include:

  • Click fraud
  • Ad fraud
  • Invalid clicks
  • Invalid traffic (IVT)
  • PPC fraud

Put simply, these are all different names for a very similar practice: Clicks on your paid ads that have no chance of converting to a sale.

The ad clicks can be on your display ads, paid search links (in Google search results for example), or video ad impressions on YouTube or other apps.

Basically, wherever you’re paying for a programmatic ad or sponsored search result.

Who is clicking on my ads?

Hacker clicking on laptop doing click fraud.
Robot clicking on laptop and doing click fraud.
Wold in sheepskin clicking on laptop and doing click fraud.

When it comes to click fraud, there can be a number of sources of fake ad clicks or invalid traffic.

1. Accidental clicks from humans

If you’ve ever clicked accidentally on a banner ad or even clicked the wrong search result, this can be a source of IVT or invalid traffic. Poor ad placement, pop ups or finger slips can all be to blame for these genuine click mistakes.

2. Business rivals

Competitors know how much you’re paying per click, and they also know that you probably have a daily budget similar to theirs. By clicking your paid ad, competitors can run down your PPC ad budget and potentially get their ad on top (if your ad budget is exhausted).

3. Malicious clickers (brand haters)

Any ex-employees out there? Maybe an ex-partner who would love to kick you right where it hurts? (We mean in the wallet.) Or maybe your ads just pop up all over the place and people know that clicking them unnecessarily costs you money. Hey, we’re not going to judge you. But this can be a common source of fraudulent ad clicking.

4. Bots and automated traffic

Did you know that over half of all internet traffic is non-human? Bots and web scrapers are everywhere, and most of them are not malicious. Google, for example, uses bots to map the internet, as do thousands of other software companies. And, unfortunately, from time to time, these click bots can click on your paid ads.

5. Fraudulent networks

The term ‘fraud’ conjures up images of shady boiler-rooms full of fraudulent people stealing your money. Right? Well, there is an infrastructure set up to defraud pay per click advertisers, usually using click farms or sophisticated bot networks. There are some incredibly sophisticated bot clickers out there, some of which are thought to be making millions of dollars a year. 

6. Paid clickers

Did you know you can pay to click pretty much anything on the internet? You can buy traffic to inflate your social status, or to ‘improve’ your website traffic. And you can also buy traffic to click on links such as ads hosted on your website (so you collect an inflated payout). There is also a growing industry of apps that pay people money for ad clicking – often seen as part of the gig economy. 

7. Infected software

In recent years there has been a growing trend of clicks coming from software infected with clickers, known as malware. This can be either from apps, or browser extensions. Malware is a common source of click fraud. 

Click fraud statistics 2021

Whats the truth behind the ad clicking on your PPC campaigns? Check for click fraud

Our research shows that the majority, around 90%, of all pay per click ads are affected, to some degree, by click fraud.

Of these ads the average rate of invalid or fraudulent clicks across the board is around 14%. 

However, the actual rate of fraudulent clicks varies greatly depending on your industry, location and even the time of year.

For example, we found that the top industries affected by click fraud (with percentage of fraudulent clicks) include:

  • Photography 65%
  • Pest Control 62%
  • Locksmiths 53%
  • Plumbing 46%
  • Waste Removal 44%

Industries such as retail, law and financial services saw average fraud levels between 14-20% worldwide.

Interestingly, the Covid-19 pandemic saw a surge of click fraud during the initial lockdowns, with fraudulent clicks surging by 21% in April and May 2020.

Read the full report about click fraud in 2020 here. 

We also found that the super shopping seasons in 2020, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, saw an increase of around 180% in invalid and fraudulent ad clicking. 

This is through a mixture of competitor clicks, bot attacks and genuine accidental clicks by potential customers. 

In fact, it has been estimated that click fraud and ad fraud made in the region of $377 million during the 2020 US elections. Big news events, such as elections or Coronavirus, and the ads around them, can drive high volumes of ad traffic and in turn be ripe for exploitation by click fraudsters. 

We’ve found that although click fraud is consistent throughout the year, there are peaks and troughs, as in all things. 

What can you do to stop click fraud?

Whatever your ad budget, you probably don’t want to be paying something around 14% of it to fake ad clicks. And if you’re paying several dollars per click, you most likely want to be assured that each time you pay per click, you are paying for a genuinely interested human being (and potential customer).

So to stop click fraud, here are our tips:

  1. Keep an eye on your ad traffic and watch out for unexpected surges in traffic, high bounce rates, and low conversions.
  2. If you find that there is a lot of strange activity on your ads, you can try changing some of your keyword biddings. For example, removing bids on keywords that attract high traffic and low conversions. You can also add IP addresses to your blacklist and experiment with the timing of your ads.
  3. Use negative keywords to avoid your ad being triggered by high-volume and low-converting search terms.
  4. Sign up for ClickCease and run a diagnostic using our free trial. You’ll be able to see the volume of click fraud on your ads and see if it would be worthwhile for you to use it in the long run.

With your paid search campaigns, make sure that ad clicking is from genuine sources. Automate your click fraud prevention with the industry-leading anti-click fraud software.

Check out our Complete Guide To Click Fraud here.