“I know half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half". Daniel Jupp, the founder and managing director of PPC management consultancy Top Position, looks at how search portals monitor click fraud and how you can avoid.
Google have a team of specialists in place to investigate any claims of click fraud and deposit credits for clicks deemed illegal. They look for things like spikes in advert clicks and un-sustained click through rates over short periods of time. Whether it's for competitive advantage or financial gain, the leading search engine is notoriously reluctant to provide traffic data relating to refunded clicks.
For their part, Yahoo has previously been more willing to disclose data to user accounts falling victim to click fraud.
Aside from the search engine's efforts, hope for pay per click advertisers is bolstered by an upsurge in click fraud tracking software - cyber watchdogs guarding against robot clicks and sophisticated analysis programmes to detect and deter suspect clicks. Rather than depending on overall data reports from pay per click accounts, much of this specialist software tackles the problem on a per click basis, turning cyber detective to monitor visitor patterns and report sustained repeat clicks.
Before resorting to potentially expensive systems, it is possible to protect against wasted clicks at an account management level -
1. Look for patterns in PCC log data: If you see clicks from the same IP address using the same keyword in quick succession you can be pretty sure they're a result of click fraud. This information can then be stored and reported to the service provider to help secure a refund.
2. Spread the risk: Use the daily budgeting features of Google and Yahoo Search Marketing to spread your appearances and pay per click (PCC) budget throughout the day. This helps prevent a concerted attack on your AdWords expenditure over a short space of time.
3. Look at conversion rates: If you're receiving a large number of hits but very low conversion on your site, it could be an indicator that click fraud is a problem. On the other hand, it could also show that your site is very poor at selling… but it still needs monitoring.
4. Use analysis software: Website traffic analysis software can help identify what visitors are doing when they arrive at your site. If the software indicates that a large number of visitors are arriving at the home page, not going anywhere else and leaving the site very quickly, this is a good indicator that click fraud is taking place. Again, this data can be saved and reported to the search portal.