Click Fraud can happen when you advertise through any Pay-per-click system like Google AdWords. Especially an automated (rather than monitored) service. It’s when competitors click on your ads with the intention of exhausting your budget.

Click Fraud

A way to stop click fraud

You put up your ad up and your competitor clicks on it wit the intention of depleting your daily ad budget. It works. No more competitor.

The click fraud industry is worth billions. Because of this a lot of Google Adwords users have defected to Facebook Advertising as a result.

If your competitor clicks your ads enough (or outsources someone else in another country to do the fraudulent job – say, “India” – Read my article about outsourcing web work to cheap overseas providers here) you can lose hundreds of dollars.

It’s highly illegal and to my mind – a bit childish. If you are found guilty of click-fraud, Google will remove you from search results.

What Does Google Do to stop Click Fraud?

If you do a search for “Google Adwords click fraud,” you’ll be tearing your hair out. There are very few actual solutions and a small “click-fraud help” industry is emerging. Lots of frustrated people are posting about fraudulent ad clicking on forums, but there are not many fixes.

“Why not, Ed?”

Well. Firstly, I’d like thank you for your wonderful question. Your mind is sharp. Have another coffee.

Let’s look at click fraud from Google’s perspective . . .

Click Fraud from Google’s Perspective

Here’s what actually happens in point form;

  1. A competitor clicks on your Ad.
  2. You lose $3.50
  3. Google gets $3.50

/– End Google’s POV

You basically gave $3.50 to Google.

Google’s do nothing approach works fine

Google says it does all it can to prevent click fraud, but there’s not much evidence of that. And why should they? With their supercomputers and tracking abilities you’d think this sort of thing would be automated. Banning fraudsters should be easy. Think of the customer and all that.

The plain hard fact is – investigating click fraud is also not going to make Google more cash. In fact, it would mean admitting to the problem. Investigation might make things worse. Customers will turn to Facebook and other pay-per-click schemes.

This is what Google does about click fraud …

They clearly leave the entire investigation up to you. They are effectively saying: “Sorry guys, it’s not our problem – it’s yours.”

I really need to quote my favourite comedy duo (Tim & Eric) here . . .

Great Job, Google AdWords!

The internet is rife with people lifting a buck or two from your back pocket. It happens when you’re asleep. Think about that for a minute.

Click fraud often happens while you’re not looking

Click fraud theft doesn’t always happen when you’re running a PPC or Adwords campaign. Thankfully, when it does happen, it’s pretty obvious – if you get to see it that is. You have to be there daily. Trawling through your server logs is the more onerous aspect of click fraud. Tweaking your Adword Campaigns every day, like we do (Psst! Here’s our AdWords Price list) will reveal the issue if you have one..

The secret is in your server logs

Okay, so if you don’t want us t do it for you, here’s a point by point instruction on what to look for in your server logs and what to do about it.

  1. Identify suspicious behaviour in Adwords (strange search phrases)
  2. Download your latest server log file (done via Cpanel)
  3. Identify suspicious behaviour in your server log file (repeated searches from the same IP)
  4. Can’t do this because you’re on Wix, Squarespace? (Get off these terribly limited cheap services, get a real website and go to #1)
  5. Unzip and then scan through your logs (I use Notepad++). You’re looking for something like “?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3uzAwqmy2gIVB5a9Ch3JOwYJEAAYAiAAEgIuyfD_BwE“. The “?gclid=” is a parameter that Google adds to track the ad. The long string of letters and numbers will appear next to your landing page URL. Look along the line. Further. Further. Further now. You will see the date, some browser info and finally an IP address. I saw 93.152.195.169. That’s what you want.
  6. Do an IP Lookup of the domain to see where it is
  7. My IP address appeared several times. This one was located in Bulgaria. Which was interesting because I specifically told Google to serve ads in one specific Australian location. I can see the ISP addresses as indicated by the IP address and most of them were in India.
  8. Gather all the suspicious IP addresses (I found about 7 – mostly from India) and go into Adwords > Settings > Additional Settings
  9. There you will see “IP Exclusions”. Paste the IPs into this field and Voila! MOST of your issues are gone.
  10. You can also exclude a bunch of countries in the Locations > Advanced Locations tab.

If you don’t know how to do any of the following things, you probably shouldn’t be running your own Google Ad campaign.

  • Remove negative keywords (daily)
  • Add and remove relevant keywords (daily)
  • Looking up an IP address?
  • Display ads to people who live in a specific area?

You can automate a lot of the above, but I like to check campaigns daily. Only a human can really give it a good go.

Setting up an Ad campaign seems too complicated?

Get us to do it. Here are Our very reasonable prices for Google Adword campaigns.

Enjoy yourself. It’s a cruel world.