Wherever you have groups of people competing for resources, you also have fraud. Perpetrating fraud is part of the human condition. In the online world, it takes many forms including what is known as ‘click fraud’. This particular type of fraud drains marketing budgets and hampers digital marketing campaigns. But there are things publishers can do to help stop click fraud in its tracks.
Click fraud is perpetrated mainly in the pay-per-click (PPC) arena. Companies with the financial resources can hire firms with the expertise to run, maintain, and secure pay-per-click ad campaigns. They can also invest in click fraud protection software from organizations like Fraud Block.
In the absence of resources to hire professionals, publishers can help stop click fraud by learning to identify its signs and then cutting ties with fraudsters when they are discovered. To that end, there are four types of information publishers should pay special attention to:
1. IP Addresses
Every visit to a website generates a record of the IP address the visit originated from. Sometimes IP addresses are faked. But even so, operators of click farms and other fraudulent platforms cannot completely overcome the IP address issue.
Publishers can compare IP addresses on all traffic generated by their PPC ads. If a cluster of similar IP addresses from the same general region show up within a comparatively short time frame, the chances are pretty good that click fraud is being perpetrated.
2. Click and Action Timestamps
Whenever a visitor clicks a PPC ad that redirects their browser to your website, that redirection is given a timestamp. It shows the exact date and time the link was clicked. Likewise, when PPC ads are accessed through mobile apps, tapping an ad generates an action timestamp.
This information gives you the opportunity to see exactly when and how quickly ads are being clicked. A click bot may continually click your ad over and over again for hours. You might see hundreds of clicks that would be impossible for a human to pull off at the same rate. You just discovered a click bot.
3. Conversion Rates
Conversion rates are representation of the frequency at which website visitors actually make purchases. Theoretically, a successful PPC campaign should increase your conversion rate enough to be noticeable. It is not ideal if the rate remains flat after launching a new PPC campaign, but the rate certainly shouldn’t fall.
By its nature, click fraud produces what appears to be a lot of traffic. But that traffic does not translate into actual visitors going to your site to buy. Therefore, the most successful click fraud operations actually cause a significant reduction in conversion rates.
4. User Agent Information
One last piece of information that could help you stop click fraud is user agent information. When connected devices attempt to make contact with other devices or websites, information about the device, operating system, etc. is exchanged with the target. This information is known as user agent information.
It is possible in the mobile app world to modify user agent information so that someone looking at the data wouldn’t be able to tell anything about a device used to click an ad. It is not so easy in a desktop scenario. User agent information can still be modified, but modifications are a bit easier to detect.
There is no guaranteed way to stop click fraud entirely. It will always exist to some degree. However, with a bit of diligence, the right kind of information, and a willingness to dig through the data, click fraud can be identified and addressed.