Does it also make you happy to see your Google search ad on the top position of the bided keyword? You’re not alone. It’s the marketer’s equivalent of hitting the jackpot – watching those click and impression numbers climb, traffic streaming in, and increased ROI.
But, let’s face it, your competitors are aiming for that prime spot too. And in the battle for that prime spot, many competitors are “playing dirty.” Competitors clicking on your Google ads is not something new. In fact, it falls under one of the most significant click fraud threats, constituting 17% of all click fraud.
In this blog article, we’re pulling back the curtain on the mysterious world of competitors clicking on your Google ads. Why they’re doing it and, most crucially, what you can do to steer your ad budget toward genuine users.
What is competitor click fraud?
The definition of competitor click fraud can clearly explain why competitors click on your Google ads. Competitor click fraud is the practice of competitors clicking repeatedly on your Google ads.
These competitors might be the business’ employees, hired individuals, or even (and most often) automated bots on a mission to hurt the performance of your ads. Later in the article, we will review the methods they use and who’s involved in delivering these clicks.
Now, let’s focus on what motivates them to cause damage to your ads.
Why are competitors clicking on your Google ads?
The end goal of the competitors clicking on your Google ads is simple. They aim to improve their ad performance and effectiveness in one way or another, by any means possible.
As we mentioned earlier, every marketer’s goal is to see their search ad in the top position, receive more impressions and clicks, or boost website traffic from display ads. Clicking on your ads helps them achieve this in two ways:
By gathering information about your ads
Competitors might click on your ads to gather valuable insights about your advertising strategy. By analyzing your ad copy, targeting options, and keywords, they can adjust and improve their own campaigns.
These type of clicks can be considered as a “fair-play” competitive analysis and is not actually fraudulent. However, you should be aware that your ad performance data may indirectly contribute to improving their advertising efforts.
By draining your ad budget
And this is the malicious intent behind competitors clicking on your ads that you should be worried about.
It’s an unethical and unfair strategy where your competitors aim to outperform your ad for the same keywords. And to do this, they don’t just click once or twice a day on your ad. Instead, they repeatedly click on it and can do this for the same or different keywords.
This practice can rapidly use up your budget, and boom, out of nowhere, their ad will gain an advantage over yours. They can rank better for the same keyword/s and have a higher potential to reach the targeted audience.
If you want to avoid being that kind of a competitor, read this guide on how to create your perfect (and non-malicious) PPC strategy.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what happens when your ads are targeted with malicious competitors’ clicks.
How does it impact your advertising budget and campaign performance?
The number one rule in PPC advertising is that every time someone clicks on your ad, you end up paying for it. You know this, your competitors know this, and when they click on your ad, they know that part of your budget is spent for… nothing.
Click by click, your campaign budget is gone, and the lifetime of your ad is shortened. And it should be all good as long as this budget is allocated toward potential customers.
But unfortunately, competitors (or the bad bots they’ve hired) are landing on your website or ads. These aren’t the types of ad clicks that bring value. They are not here to learn more about your business or purchase your product or service. Their task is finished as soon as they click your ad.
You’re not just spending your ad budget faster due to these clicks. Your overall campaign performance is decreasing, your ad exposure to real potential customers is limited, and your return on investment (ROI) is decreased.
Moreover, the fake clicks delivered by competitors pollute your analytics. If you don’t detect this skewed data in time, it will impact your long-term decision-making for both marketing and broader business strategies.
To summarize, here are the negative effects you’re likely to experience from malicious competitor clicks:
- Wasted ad budget
- Shortened ad lifespan
- Decreased campaign performance
- Lower ROI (return on investment)
- Polluted analytics
- Affected long-term decision-making
The methods they use
In general, there are two main methods of how competitors deliver clicks on your Google ads.
- Manual human clicks
The first thing that might come to your mind is your competitors or their employees sitting at their desks and deviously clicking on your Google ads. And you’re right; in its most basic form, competitor click form happens when competitors or their employees simply click on your ads manually.
Another variation involves competitors hiring people (usually workers in click farms) paid to click on ads. This advanced form of manual competitor click fraud is more challenging to detect, as these clickers and click farms employ a combination of techniques, such as VPNs and proxies, to hide their location and IP addresses, making detection more difficult.
- Bot clicks
The next and more advanced form of competitor click fraud is delivered through bots. Bots are software programs that can be used, among others, to click on ads automatically. For example, your competitor can simply purchase a certain number of clicks from a bot farm. Bot farms are places with a lot of devices, like smartphones or computers, installed with the software scripts (the bot), which are used to deliver these clicks in bulk.
Bot clicks are the most advanced form of this fraud for a few reasons. They are designed to mimic human behavior, and they also use techniques to mask their location, IP, and nature. It’s the most challenging form of fake clicks and the hardest to identify. Consequently, they are often employed for high-value keywords, where the potential impact on your advertising budget is most significant.
How to recognize if competitors are clicking on your ads?
Monitoring your Google ads campaign data, as well as website analytics, is everything. Here, you can spot some patterns that usually represent fake traffic. And if you do this regularly, you’ll be able to recognize early signs indicating that competitors are clicking on your Google ads.
Common signs of competitor clicks on Google ads include:
- Unusual spikes in click-through rates (CTRs) that deviate from historical patterns
- Sudden surges in clicks originating from specific locations or IP addresses
- Consistent high click volumes without a corresponding increase in genuine conversions or website engagement
- Click patterns occurring during non-business hours or times when your target audience is typically inactive
- Unexplained fluctuations in bounce rates
- Increases in clicks not accompanied by a proportional rise in the time visitors spend on your site
The sooner you identify such activities, the more efficiently you can implement protective strategies to mitigate potential damage to your campaigns.
How can you avoid their clicks?
Stopping this sneaky clicking is not just about saving money; it’s about keeping your ads on the right track by reaching out to a genuine audience and delivering real traffic that has the potential to convert.
Here are some protective measures you can take:
- Block suspicious IP addresses: Implement filters to block IP addresses showing suspicious click behavior. If you spot multiple clicks from the same IP address, for example, it might be a result of manual clicks from your competitors’ employees.
- Set daily budget limits: Set daily budget limits for your ad campaigns. While this won’t prevent fraudulent competitor clicks, it can help limit the financial impact by capping the amount that can be spent in a single day.
- Enable click tracking: Google ads provide this feature to set up click trackers. They allow you to see how many people are clicking on your ads and how many clicks lead to desired actions, such as purchases or sign-ups. If you have this data, it’s easier to detect if competitors are clicking on your ads.
- Use geo-targeting: Narrow down your ad audience to specific geographic regions. This will reduce the exposure to irrelevant clicks from people or bots hired to deliver clicks.
- Regularly update negative keywords: Refine your negative keywords list to filter out unrelated search queries.
While these are helpful tactics to minimize competitor clicks on your Google ads, it’s important to acknowledge their limitations. For example, bots and manual clickers can easily change their IP addresses frequently or change their actual location.
If that’s the case, IP address blocking won’t help much, will it? Let’s see what you can do next.
The easy way to protect your ads from competitors’ clicks
Clearly, a click fraud protection tool is the only way to ensure complete and accurate protection of your ads.
These tools overcome the limitations that come with manual protective measures. They can precisely spot malicious competitors’ clicks and stop them before they affect your budget.
If you also want to block competitors from clicking on your Google ads and make the most out of your ad budget, check ClickCease for free.