PPC Click Fraud

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from our Sales Department with a link to the latest internet article spelling out the appallingly high rate of PPC click fraud on the internet. The article used the often quoted “50% of clicks are fraud” and painted a truly dismal picture. The e-mail came with a request to write an article to let our readers know what they can do to combat this well-reported problem.

A day after that, I received an urgent e-mail from one of our new PPC clients. The client was most concerned after looking at recent Overture click activity. They felt they might be the victims of click fraud. We checked it out thoroughly, and they weren’t. Our return e-mail gave us an opportunity to let the customer know how glad we were that they are tracking PPC – and an opportunity to share some useful PPC click-fraud information.

Yes, there is PPC click fraud on the internet – and yes, there is click fraud for advertisers at both Overture and Google. But there are a few simple steps that you can take to substantially reduce your company’s risk of PPC click fraud:

Start by understanding what PPC click fraud is and then find out how you can limit your risks.

What is PPC click fraud? Even as you read this article, there are villains devising new forms of PPC click fraud, but at this moment in time, there appears to be 3 main types of click fraud:

1) Individuals who host ads on their sites from PPC providers (often via contextual matching) click on the ads they are displaying in order to get their share of the cost per click charged to the advertiser. This has gone well beyond one fellow with a sore finger to a whole cottage industry with alias IPs and multiple entries.

2) Competitors who click on another business’s ads to drive costs up.

3) Competitors who turn off their own ad campaigns and then flood a PPC provider with searches on key terms and no click-throughs, driving their competition’s CTR down and resulting in ads being removed from bidding (this is a strategy usually associated Google AdWords).

The PPC providers continue to make great strides in reducing the occurrences of click fraud. Both Overture and Google are excellent at refunding victims of click fraud.

How to reduce your risks – 3 steps:

Avoid contextual matching. Contextual matching is where a number of sites “sign up” with a PPC provider to run PPC ads that match the content on their site and are then paid for each ad clicked on their site. The structure of this type of advertising is just too tempting for the bad guys.

Avoid second tier PPC providers. Over 90% of all internet searches on keywords that are being bid upon, will end up displaying either an Overture or a Google PPC ad. Overture and Google are considered first tier PPC providers – everyone else is second tier. Our experience with second tier providers has tended to show very strong click action and extremely poor conversion action, resulting in dismal ROI for advertisers. Note: There are always exceptions, and if your industry is one where second tier PPC advertising results in strong ROI and profits then we suggest you stay with them.

Monitor your website logs / invest in PPC click-fraud software. If you don’t know how to view your logs, speak to your webmaster. Records are automatically kept for every visit to your site. Depending on your service, this information may not be kept for a long period of time so you should find out exactly how far back your log information is available and make suitable arrangements. By making sure that the URLs you use for your PPC ads can clearly show who the PPC provider is and what keyword is clicked on, your logs will quickly be able to show you if you have received unnaturally high activity from a specific IP. This information will provide you with the back up you need to contact your PPC provider for a refund, if warranted. If you are still uncomfortable, or you doubt you have the time to monitor your logs, find and use reliable PPC click-fraud software.

A guarantee? Are these steps a guarantee that you will never be the victim of click fraud? No, but they should help you sleep better at night.

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