The Benzinga website ran a piece in early January 2023 explaining why online advertisers should invest in click fraud detection services. The post was actually a press release from a German company known as Polygraph. Yet ad fraud is not a German-only problem. It is a worldwide problem affecting advertisers and publishers of all sizes.
Here in the U.S., Fraud Blocker does much the same thing as Polygraph. They say the number one reason to invest in click fraud protection is money. Simply put, click fraud is little more than a sophisticated way for scammers to steal from advertisers and publishers. Without some sort of click fraud protection in place, a business could suffer immeasurable losses that kill both the marketing budget and the bottom line.
Too Easy to Pull Off
Whether it is done by way of click bots, click farms, or generating fake leads, criminals pull off click fraud as easily as advertisers create and place their ads. They get away with it because it’s too easy to pull off. Click fraud is hard to identify if you are not purposely looking for it. And unfortunately, far too many advertisers are guilty of just that.
It is easy to buy ads on Google, Facebook, or one of the other big publishing platforms. It is easy to sign up with a lesser-known publisher and trust them to create ads for you. But how do you know that every click is a legitimate one if you are not paying attention to the data?
Scammers and rogue publishers know that a lot of advertisers are not paying attention. They know that advertisers are not using click fraud monitoring or a specialized click fraud prevention software package. They are simply paying for ads and hoping for the best.
Click Bots Are a Killer
The easiest way to pull off click fraud is by deploying click bots. A click bot is nothing more than a piece of software residing in a hijacked computer that automatically finds ads and clicks on them. A single click bot can generate billions of clicks throughout its useful life.
Click bots can be a financial killer because they run up the bill without delivering paying customers. Remember that in the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, every click costs money. That is what click fraud is about. It is about generating as many links as possible through any and all means.
The only saving grace here is that a good click fraud protection service can identify click bot activity just by paying attention to IP addresses and timestamps. The bad news is that click bots can be deployed in such a way as to camouflage their activities. The more sophisticated fraudsters get, the more advertisers need to either subscribe to a service or invest in a click fraud software package.
Lots of Ways to Do It
Click bots are just one tool scammers use to steal from advertisers and publishers. But truth be told, click fraud takes many forms. There are lots of ways to do it depending on a fraudster’s skill level and knowledge. Here are just a few more possibilities:
1. Click Farms
A click farm is the human equivalent of a click bot. It is a physical location where dozens of employees sit behind computers clicking ads all day. Click farms are easy to detect as well, but there is no need to camouflage them. As soon as a click farm is discovered, its owner simply moves it to a new location.
2. Ad Stacking
Another tactic is to create digital ads so small they cannot be seen by the human eye. Then those ads are stacked on top of a legitimate ad. Every time the legitimate ad gets clicked, so do the ones stacked underneath it. Ad stacking is a devious way to turn legitimate clicks into click fraud.
A similar strategy is to place tiny ads in mobile apps and websites, very near to locations users are likely to tap. A tap only has to be slightly off for a user’s finger to land on the unseen ad. This generates what are known as accidental clicks. They are clicks, nonetheless.
3. Competitor Clicks
Some forms of click fraud are not perpetrated by fraudsters looking to steal. Rather, the culprits are campaigning businesses hoping to deplete the company’s marketing budget by endlessly clicking until there is no more money left for PPC campaigns. Even though the competitor isn’t stealing directly, they are doing so indirectly. It is just as wrong.
The three strategies described here by no means constitute a complete list. There are still more ways to perpetrate this particular crime. That takes us back to the number one reason for investing in a click fraud protection service or a software platform: money.
4. You Can’t Afford Click Fraud
You cannot afford click fraud. That is the bottom line. Every penny you spend on digital advertising needs to be spent on actually generating new customers. You need every digital ad campaign to turn casual visitors into paying customers. You cannot do that if fraudsters are stealing from you.
Think of it this way: your marketing budget is an investment in your business. It’s different from overhead in the sense that it is designed to generate revenue. Click fraud ends up being a double-edged sword. Not only does it steal funds from your marketing budget, but it also prevents those funds from helping generate revenues. You lose on both sides of the equation.
5. Losses Add Up Quickly
One last thing to consider is that letting click fraud go undetected can mean huge losses. Those losses add up very quickly. How much would you ultimately lose if every ad campaign you ran this year suffered 50% losses due to click fraud? Only you can answer that because only you know your budget.
Money is the number one reason for investing in click fraud protection software or subscribing to a service. And since money is the whole reason for running a business, why would you ignore click fraud?