One of the most onerous problems with PPC campaigns is click fraud. Click fraud happens when a person, group of people, or automated script “clicks” on PPC advertisements. Because the concept of PPC is that advertisers pay each time someone clicks on their ads, this drives the cost of ads higher and higher without resulting in any conversions.
Click fraud happens for many reasons, the most common being that a competitor is trying to drive competition out of the market. By arranging for a competitor’s ads to be clicked on repeatedly without any intention of making a purchase or completing whatever goal conversion the competitor has established, the overall cost of the advertisement can be inflated, while the average conversions and the value per visit are deflated.
Some advertisers also believe that PPC providers commit (or encourage) click fraud because they benefit from the additional clicks. In fact, there have been several court cases that resulted in settlements when PPC providers like Google and Yahoo! were sued for contributing to or allowing click fraud to happen.
One of the most frustrating aspects of click fraud is that unless all the clicks come from the same IP address, it’s hard to prove that click fraud is actually happening. Some criminals have created programs, called click bots, that can create clicks from what appear to be different IP addresses. In other cases, people are paid to read and click advertisements. In some cases, there are indicators of click fraud: an inflated number of clicks without conversions, clicks that all occur from the same computer or even the same city, and a large number of clicks within a short period of time, especially if the pattern of clicks is unusual.
If you suspect that you’re being targeted by click fraud, immediately contact the fraud department of your PPC provider. And if you don’t receive satisfactory results from reporting the activity, you should consider pursuing legal action. Click fraud can cost your company thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. Worse, click fraud can destroy your PPC advertising campaign. Monitor your stats closely for any signs that you may be falling victim to click fraud.