Studies depict the widespread prevalence of click bots and fake traffic. However, Google has yet to take any action.
The pay-per-click advertising industry depends on a functioning traffic. However, bots to “click” PPC advertising and manipulate the system have existed for almost as long as there have been PPC ads. This issue is well-known, and it affects many more digital marketers than they might realize. According to some estimates, false users account for over 40% of all web traffic.
PPC Fraud – A Giant Business
According to a University of Baltimore study conducted in 2020, ad fraud costs firms $35 billion worldwide. The most popular method of committing PPC fraud is by using an automated clicker, or click bot, to target Google Display, YouTube, or responsive text advertising on one’s own website.
The fraudster receives the money from the advertiser for each click if they are not flagged as fake, which they frequently are not. In addition to exaggerating the effectiveness of advertisements, this drains marketers’ digital advertising budgets to pay for fictitious traffic.
Reactivity, performance anxiety, and embarrassment fears could spread the bots. Google has the tools necessary to identify and restrict bot traffic. Users can direct the search engine to “exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” by using the automated filter in Google Analytics.
However, this raises the question: Why doesn’t Google automatically prohibit click bots? A publisher who requested anonymity expressed the following opinion:
“Google has a long history of being reactive and not proactive against fake clicks. Google evolved rules against fake clicks in reaction to schemes created by publishers to exploit the advertising platform.
For example, until it was prohibited, publishers were able to style their ads with colors and fonts that caused them to blend with the webpage layout, blurring the difference between advertising content and regular content, resulting in clickthrough rates as high as 50% and the revenue was paid to the publisher, meaning the advertiser was charged.
Another example of how Google was reactive is that there was a person in the early days who was known for their click bots who partnered with people to revenue share ad clicks. This person got away with it for quite some time.”
Due to this reactive strategy, click bots are always coming up with new tactics and loopholes, leaving Google racing to catch up. Currently, servers are unable to precisely track what a browser actually sees due to privacy policies and technical limitations. In a sense, servers are flying blind.
Regarding the advertisers that are being scammed by fraudulent clicks, it appears that many of them are more concerned with maintaining artificially high traffic figures or are ashamed to confess they bought ad space that resulted in fake clicks.
Musk’s Failed Twitter Deal is Linked to Fake Accounts
Elon Musk, the current richest man in the world, gave the number of spam accounts on the social media site as a reason for stopping his acquisition of Twitter in May.
According to Musk, Twitter undercounted the number of fraudulent accounts on its network by millions. Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security, testified that executive pay was based on daily user counts, lending validity to Musk’s assertion.
Twitter’s response was to sue the CEO of Tesla, claiming that fewer than 5% of all Twitter accounts were automated. The Delaware Chancery Court has set the case for trial on October 17. Musk would have to pay $4 billion to acquire Twitter if he were to lose.
Avoid Click Bots to Protect Your Ad Budget
While it is impossible to completely protect your ad campaigns from bots, there are a few easy actions you can do to lessen your risk.
- In Google Ads, configure IP exclusions for known click farms.
- Adapt your ad targeting to exclude the regions where fraudulent clicks frequently occur.
- To prevent your advertisement from showing up on shady or dubious websites, use placement exclusion lists.
Implementing an elimination procedure may initially affect your performance metrics, but it will ultimately save you money as the fight against click fraud is an ongoing activity.