A CMO’s Guide to Google Click Fraud in Less Than 5 Minutes
What happens when the clicks on your digital ads are not from interested people but from bad actors trying to take you down? What if that click is from a competitor trying to drain your budget? CMOs take note: This is click fraud and it’s still a concern.
According to one study by the University of Baltimore, invalid clicks will cost advertisers an estimated $23.7 billion globally by the end of 2020.
Bots are a big contributor to click fraud. And it’s estimated that bad bots made up about 24 percent of all web traffic last year.
Google says it tries to stop click fraud. The company uses a mix of automated detection and manual review to tackle this problem:
Our global team of over a hundred PhDs, data scientists, engineers, and researchers constantly monitors and analyzes traffic to prevent advertisers from paying for invalid clicks, impressions, views, or interactions, and stops publishers from generating invalid activity from receiving undeserved advertising income.
But the one click per day from differing incognito IP numbers at random times can easily fly under the radar. Does it matter? Maybe only if your pay-per-click keyword exceeds $900 per click as some do in the legal industry.
However, Google has said in the past that invalid clicks make up less than 10% of clicks, with only 0.02% negatively impacting advertisers.
Google makes money on clicks. Their goal is not to prevent clicks at all but rather to remove click billing until people stop complaining. It is all about stopping the worst and hoping nobody complains about the rest.
But many disagree. As a result, Google has seen its fair share of litigation over click fraud. At one point, it was estimated that Google had not refunded advertisers up to $75 million due to click fraud.
And it’s not just Google facing litigation over click fraud. Consider the litigation from one company against another. In 2017, a court awarded digital advertising company Wickfire $2.3 million in a click fraud case in which its competitor was found guilty of multiple schemes, including:
… Defendants clicked on Wickfire’s online advertisements for 12 to 14 hours a day over a period of months for the sole purpose of forcing Wickfire to pay for the clicks, and this clicking, which ultimately resulted in 4,080 clicks, could have run Wickfire out of business.
Google makes money on clicks, and I could easily argue that even though they have detection software, the goal is not to prevent clicks at all but rather to remove click billing until people stop complaining. It is all about stopping the worst and hoping nobody complains about the rest.
So what are the takeaways for CMOs?
- Click fraud is still alive and well in PPC advertising.
- Google continues to stop invalid clicks, but it’s not perfect.
- Many businesses are suing Google and their competitors over click fraud.
- Advertisers must take extra measures to help prevent it.
If you’re interested in tackling click fraud:
- Read Google’s help on troubleshooting invalid clicks.
- Here’s a more comprehensive guide from Google on click fraud.
- Explore third-party tools to combat click fraud.
This article is part of a series to summarize digital marketing topics in less than five minutes. If it helped you, please share it and subscribe to our blog.