How To Detect and Prevent Click Fraud in 5 Simple Steps

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Click fraud is a billion-dollar problem for advertisers. As digital marketing ad spending increases, so does the impact of click fraud, which cost businesses a whopping $61 billion in 2022.

While ad networks have measures in place to detect invalid clicks and reimburse advertisers for them, it’s not always enough. There are still millions of dollars owed to advertisers as a result of click fraud.

In this article, we will cover how to detect and prevent click fraud in 5 steps.

  • How To Detect Click Fraud
  • How To Prevent Click Fraud
  • FAQ: How can I prevent click fraud and protect my ad budget?
  • How To Detect Click Fraud

    Detecting click fraud can be easy or challenging, depending on the type of click fraud you’re experiencing. First, understand that click fraud can come in many different forms:

    • Bad actors, including your competitors, for example, can click on ads to drive up your ad costs.
    • The third-party websites your ads are on in the display network can engage in click fraud because the publishers make a cut for each click.
    • Sophisticated software such as malicious click bots is another form of automated click fraud.
    • Mobile click fraud includes click injection, where a bad actor wrongly gets credit for an app download.

    If you spend the time looking into your ad account, you can likely spot click fraud if you have:

    • Consistent ad traffic from certain IP addresses without conversions
    • Performance data anomalies, such as higher bounce rates, a sudden increase in ad spend or lower time on site
    • An increase in ad clicks or impressions without conversions
    • More ad traffic but less subsequent page views on the site

    While ad networks like Google Ads do what they can to stop this activity, it’s not a perfect approach.

    How To Prevent Click Fraud

    Click fraud is, unfortunately, the risk that advertisers take as they reap the rewards of digital advertising. That said, there are ways to mitigate this risk. Here are five things you can do to prevent click fraud:

    1. Monitor Activity

    Look for anomalies, as mentioned in the previous section, and try to follow the data back to the culprits.

    For example, you can use data like the IP address. IP addresses can be retrieved from server logs. The server log will also have a timestamp for the visit on the page, and some web analyzer software will let you see if the IP visited subsequent pages. This may indicate a real user instead of a fraudulent one or a bot. Fraud usually involves clicking the ad, then leaving immediately. Once you identify IP addresses that are suspect, you can use sites like to see where the IP originated from. Note that tools used by bad actors can deploy more sophisticated methods such as IP hopping, which makes this harder to detect.

    2. Implement IP Exclusions

    If you think a certain IP address is causing click fraud on your account, you can exclude it. Excluding the IP will block ads from being served to the person at that IP address moving forward. This is a tough decision in some cases because you don’t want to cut off showing your ad to your target audience in a location that is important to you. Ad networks like Google have a way to get support with click quality if you need some help figuring it out.

    3. Adjust Location Targeting

    You may notice that click fraud occurs from a certain geographic location. And that location may not be where your audience is.

    For example, click farms often exist in certain parts of the world where labor is cheap. Or the click fraud may be coming from a certain ZIP code in the U.S. Adjusting your location targeting to exclude those areas from seeing your ads can help.

    4. Confirm Budgets

    You want to be sure that your budget caps are in place so you don’t get charged more than you can handle if bad actors try to run up your bill. Ad networks like Google should reimburse you for invalid or fraudulent clicks. You can see how Google tracks invalid clicks by heading to your “campaigns” tab while you are signed into your Google Ads account. If you don’t see this data, you can set it up by going to campaigns > modify columns > invalid clicks.

    5. Invest in Third-Party Software

    The reality for many is they simply don’t have time to dig into click fraud manually. That’s where a nice click fraud tool comes in handy. This can be especially helpful when dealing with some of the more sophisticated methods of click fraud. ClickCease, Fraud Blocker and ClickGUARD are just some of the tools available.

    Detecting and preventing click fraud takes diligence, but the effort will safeguard your digital advertising investment.

    At Bruce Clay Inc., we provide pay-per-click advertising management services for search and social. Find out more about our PPC services or contact us for a free quote today if you’d like to talk about how we can help you improve your ad performance.

    FAQ: How can I prevent click fraud and protect my ad budget?

    Click fraud poses a significant threat to businesses, potentially draining their ad budgets and diminishing the return on investment (ROI). Here is what you can do to prevent click fraud and fortify your ad campaigns.

    Understanding Click Fraud

    To combat click fraud effectively, it’s crucial to understand what it is. Click fraud occurs when individuals or automated bots maliciously click on your online advertisements. This inflates your advertising costs, skews data and hinders genuine engagement. Monitoring your ad campaigns closely is the first step to detecting click fraud.

    Identifying Click Fraud

    To protect your ad budget, you must become adept at recognizing click fraud patterns. Tools like Google Ads’ Click Fraud Report can help you spot irregularities in your click-through rates. Analyze IP addresses, time patterns and user behavior to identify fraudulent clicks. The more you understand the enemy, the better you can combat it.

    Preventive Measures

    Preventing click fraud requires a multi-pronged approach. First, implement strong filters to block known malicious IP addresses. Secondly, consider using click fraud prevention software that can identify and block suspicious clicks in real time. Lastly, geo-target your ads to focus on genuine potential customers rather than casting a wide net.

    Optimizing Your Ad Campaigns

    A well-optimized ad campaign is less susceptible to click fraud. Regularly review and refine your keyword list to target the right audience. Use negative keywords to filter out irrelevant traffic. Employ ad scheduling to target your audience during peak hours when real customers are more likely to engage.

    Preventing click fraud is essential to protecting your ad budget and ensuring a healthy ROI. By understanding click fraud, identifying fraudulent activity, implementing preventive measures and optimizing your ad campaigns, you can fortify your digital marketing efforts and safeguard your hard-earned money.

    Step-by-Step Procedure for Click Fraud Prevention:

    1. Familiarize yourself with click fraud and its potential impact on your ad budget.
    2. Monitor your ad campaigns closely to detect irregular click-through rates.
    3. Utilize tools like Google Ads’ Click Fraud Report to identify patterns of suspicious activity.
    4. Analyze IP addresses, time patterns and user behavior to spot fraudulent clicks.
    5. Implement strong filters to block known malicious IP addresses.
    6. Consider using click fraud prevention software for real-time detection and blocking.
    7. Geo-target your ads to focus on genuine potential customers.
    8. Review and refine your keyword list to target the right audience.
    9. Use negative keywords to filter out irrelevant traffic.
    10. Employ ad scheduling to target your audience during peak hours.
    11. Stay updated on industry best practices and evolving click fraud tactics.
    12. Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your preventive measures.
    13. Adjust your ad campaigns to adapt to changing click fraud patterns.
    14. Educate your team about click fraud and the importance of vigilance.
    15. Maintain open communication with your ad platform provider and ask for their assistance in identifying and preventing click fraud.
    16. Keep detailed records of suspicious activity and report them to the appropriate authorities or your ad platform provider.
    17. Regularly assess the ROI of your ad campaigns to ensure that preventive measures are working effectively.
    18. Fine-tune your ad budget allocation based on the insights gained from monitoring and analysis.
    19. Consider consulting with experts in click fraud prevention for additional guidance.
    20. Stay proactive and adaptive in your approach to click fraud prevention as new threats may emerge over time.

    Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

    See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

    Comments (1)
    Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent PPC/Pay-Per-Click posts is better than the last!

    One Reply to “How To Detect and Prevent Click Fraud in 5 Simple Steps”

    Some advertisers have automated detection programs in place to block clicks that are probably from bots – Google, for instance, uses machine learning to filter out ads-related activity from bots, along with a manual review process. Cloudflare Bot Management also uses machine learning to detect and mitigate click fraud.


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