For as long as PPC advertising has been around there have been those looking to exploit the system in an effort to put their competitors out of business or make more money. Most are aware of click fraud, the most prevalent form of PPC fraud, but there are many other sneaky practices that you should know about as an advertiser.

You might assume that many of these fraudulent practices are relatively rare and only affect high profile companies or expensive keywords. In fact, many PPC fraud practices have become part of the digital advertising ecosystem and some marketers are already “baking” fraud into their ROI (not a great way to deal with fraud). In this article, we’ll have a look at the many forms of PPC fraud and the most effective way to prevent it. 

Impression Fraud

Impression fraud is a popular form of PPC fraud

Also known as a type of affiliate fraud, using affiliates can be very beneficial for a business as it is a great way to increase sales/sign-ups. However, sometimes the affiliates employ fraudulent practices to increase their commissions and hurt the company they are supposed to be helping.

Normally, affiliates enter an arrangement with the company where they are unable to submit bids for the brand name or its primary keywords. This stops them from competing with the brand and making their keywords cost go up.

When affiliates are committing impression fraud they are using the company’s brand to create an advantage that they otherwise would not have. People are more likely to click on ads that are from a known brand. Using the company’s brand gives the affiliate more validity. Users will click on the ad unaware that is is an impersonation and then be redirected to the company’s website. When they make a purchase it will be credited to the affiliate and they will receive a commission.

This type of affiliate fraud has several negative effects on the company costing lots of money. Not only does the company have an increased price of keywords but they also will be paying commission to someone who is scamming them. You may think this only applies to companies that use affiliate programs but, in fact, many large brands have been impersonated.

An example of this is if you clicked on an ad for Amazon and are directed to a different site. To combat this type of fraud you need to use a direct linking with an affiliate scheme to your site.

PPC Phishing Scams

phishing scams aren't just limited to emails

This next PPC fraud scam might even be worse than the last one. Fraudsters are constantly outdoing themselves creating more vicious and intricate ways to dupe people. Phishing is a common practice in email marketing. Users are sent fake emails in an effort to get personal identifying information or bank credentials. However, there is a new type of phishing that uses the PPC network.

PPC phishing offenders create fake versions of well-known companies and brands such as banks. They have a website that is very similar to the actual companies site. An example is if someone is trying to log onto the JP Morgan account and are directed to a JPP Morgan page. Most people will be unable to see the differences between the real site and the fraudulent site and may disclose confidential login information leaving them vulnerable to fraud. As a user or an actual business, it is important to make sure you are on the secure site before entering any identifying information.

Ad Hiding/Stacking

Ad Hiding/stacking is a very prevalent type of ad fraud that is commonly seen on networks that are less regulated. All ad networks have terms and conditions on how ads should be displayed. Unfortunately, there are people who do not abide by the rules.

With ad hiding/stacking web owners trick users into clicking on ads. This brings them more money since they are paid each time someone clicks on an ad. There are many ways that they hide and stack ads. The most used is having an invisible ad on part of a website which users may unknowing click on. Normally under the terms and conditions of the ad network this isn’t allowed, but it is very difficult to verify if the webmaster is hiding an ad.

Ad stacking is when the webmaster stacks multiple ads on top of each other. This works best on ads that are not pay per click, but pay out on cost per impression. This allows the website to generate lots of impressions and more money. Even if an ad is hidden underneath another one it will still count as an impression and the user will be paid. To combat this, ad networks need to be very vigilant and make sure that people are not breaking the terms and conditions.

Click Fraud

click fraud in action from a shady character

The most common type of PPC fraud we’ve saved for last.

Click fraud is what happens when a party that is uninterested in doing business with you knowingly clicks on your ads in order to spend your advertising budget. This is also the type of PPC Fraud that ClickCease helps advertisers combat.

This can be a few manual clicks per day or it can be an automated script (bot) that clicks on your ads chronically. The classic result of this type of PPC fraud is the advertiser spending his money on useless clicks and the offender getting the customers of that advertiser.

All of these are very common ways that fraudsters try to gain an unfair advantage and make money. It is important to keep an eye out for these practices. Having someone on your team who is always looking out for fraud is a very good way to keep yourself protected. I hope this article helps you understand the threats that are out there and how to combat them.