The Click Fraud Blog | ClickCease
click spam is another type of ad fraud

What is Click Spam and How Does it Affect Me?

As if there aren’t enough fraudulent practices to keep marketers awake at night, now you’ve got a new one to add to your list: click spam. OK, what is click spam exactly? 

Click spam, also known as click flooding, is a type of click fraud. This type of fraud affects mostly mobile apps and mobile ad traffic.  Affected apps or websites are designed to flood an ad with clicks on an app. This high volume spam clicking has the intention of poaching the credit for any eventual organic click or download that the user makes. 

With the growth of mobile internet traffic it is perhaps inevitable that this type of fraud is set to grow too. 

Being a type of click injection or organics poaching, it can also affect mobile web pages as well as apps… Yup sorry, more jargon, but don’t worry, we’ll explain what this means and how it affects you, the advertiser. 

How does click spam work?

Very simply, the user downloads an app, which can be anything from a utility app, such as a calculator or torch app, to a game or other tempting download. The app itself has features built in which conduct activity in the background on behalf of the user. This can include clicking on ads in the app, or converting impressions (views) on ads in the app into clicks.

Click spam can also be done in the form of install spoofing, or fake downloads on apps. How does this work?

  • The user downloads an app to their device
  • This app has a system built in which creates many clicks (spam clicking) normally on ads, or allows an external device to click within the app
  • All ad clicks are assigned to the developer or click spammer with the hope that, if there is an in-app purchase or ad click, the developer gets the payout
  • Besides defrauding marketers of their ad spend, click spam also distorts click data, often making certain platforms look much more effective than they are

When downloading an app that runs in the background, this could mean that an app is able to click spam ads almost constantly. For the user, this can just mean a depleted battery, such as with the DrainerBot malware.

But for the advertiser, it can mean that you see a lot of activity on your display ads but without the corresponding conversions. However, any conversions that are made may not be attributed correctly and chances are there will be a high amount of spoofed clicks before there is any type of conversion.

Click spam differs from botnet activity in that the app conducts clicks autonomously, rather than leveraging the power of multiple devices for maximum effect.

As this type of click fraud happens within an app, it is usually the app developer that is the fraudulent party. These apps tend to be in the Google Play store and can affect Google Ads and Facebook display ads too.

Click spam isn’t limited to apps though, with mobile landing pages and web pages also capable of generating ad clicking activity and impressions on behalf of visitors. 

Spotting click flooding on your ads

As an advertiser, an obvious giveaway that you’ve been a victim of click spam is always going to be higher traffic with less conversions. This applies to pretty much all forms of click fraud or ad fraud. However, it can be harder to spot the activity of click spam than with standard click fraud. 

The reason for this is that with an authentic device ID, it can look like a genuine session by a real live user. However there are some giveaways that can be used to identify spam clicking on your ads.

Check your analytics for the time between clicks and conversions. Often click spam results in delayed downloads 

Make sure that apps have been validated by the ad networks, which is often a good indicator that the apps in question are genuine. Bear in mind though that on Google’s Play store, you do not have to validate your app, and it can take some time for apps to be validated. App developers can sometimes be kinda secretive with their coding, so just because an app isn’t validated doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fraudulent.

However, what you can do is look at the analytics around specific app publishers. If you have a smaller app developer who seems to be delivering a high amount of traffic, dig into the stats a little to see what you can find. 

Click spam or click spoofing may show a high volume of traffic, but a relatively low amount of conversions. 

How to stop click spam

As a form of ad fraud, click spam is something that can be prevented using anti-click fraud software such as ClickCease. Using sophisticated algorithms to decode the fraudsters and help you understand what is really happening with your conversions is what ClickCease is about.

Yes, you can do it manually, of course. And yes, it does take quite a bit of time and guesswork. Using ClickCease is a time and cost effective way to spot fake clicks from unscrupulous app developers and put a stop to those nefarious click spamming ways.

Best of all, you can check it out for free for 7 days. If you’re paying for clicks online, we think you’ll find ClickCease a valuable addition to your PPC armoury.

Oli

Since working for ClickCease, Oli has become something of a click fraud nerd, and now bores people at parties with facts about click farms and internet traffic stats. When not writing about ad fraud, he helps companies to optimise their marketing content and strategy with his own content marketing business.

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