Click Fraud Cases: 5 Telltale Signs

January 27, 2015 Elias Terman

As marketers, we obsessively monitor the effectiveness of our Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. There are many levers we can pull to optimize search, display and native advertising campaigns, and reducing click fraud is certainly one of them.

Here are five telltale signs you might be a victim of click fraud:

  1. Spikes in click volume with little or no change in conversions
  2. Steep declines in conversions despite no change in keyword bids
  3. Spikes in clicks from a keyword in one search engine, but not the others
  4. Lower user engagement (e.g., higher bounce rates) during spikes in click volume
  5. Repetitive clicks from the same IP address

Wasted ad spend

Click fraud occurs when a person or bot imitates a legitimate user by clicking on an ad for the purpose of generating a charge.¹ There’s no actual interest in the advertiser’s company or offer. In the case of bot-driven clicks, the ad is never viewed by a human. Advertiser dollars are passed to the fraudsters who make money by collecting publisher fees through hits on the network. The ad spend is wasted.

How big of a problem is click fraud?

According to Steve Sullivan, vice president of advertising technology at Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB,) click fraud is getting worse. “Many believe that the industry has seen rapid growth in traffic fraud over the last couple of years, approaching 23% to 50% of all digital transactions, depending on whose report you read,” Sullivan notes.⁴

Shining a light on your bad bot ad clicks

Distil Networks fingerprints ad clicking bots, capturing their bad behavior across your PPC campaigns. Even if a bot initially clicks through your ad and lands on your site, Distil will retroactively incorporate its fraudulent clicks into your Click Fraud Report.

You’ll be able to clearly see “Human Ad Clicks” and “Bad Bot Ad Clicks,” as well as detailed reports on Daily Click Fraud Activity across all your advertising networks.

Distil Click Fraud Report

By shining a light on your Bad Bot Ad Clicks, you’ll be able to quickly shut off bot-laden ad networks, as well as add teeth to your click fraud refund requests (more on PPC refund requests in a future post).

How to set up your Click Fraud Report in your Distil Portal

Setting up bot detection for Click Fraud across your ad networks is easy because your Click Fraud Report is parsed based on standard UTM codes (aka query string parameters). Not currently using UTM codes? Not a problem. You can simply append “utm_distil” to your target URLs and we’ll take care of the rest.

Not currently a Distil Networks customer? Sign up for a free trial to find out how each of your ad networks and campaigns is performing in terms of delivering bona fide human traffic. As marketers, we need to place our hands on every lever possible to optimize our PPC campaigns.


¹ Adapted From Wikipedia:
² From the New York Times:
³ Also known as UTM parameters, UTM codes are little snippets of text added to the end of a URL to help track the success of content published on the web.
⁴  “Click Fraud Costs Marketers $11B, IAB Issues Key Report” by Gavin O’Malley, January 30, 2014, 3:00 PM


About the Author

Elias Terman

Elias Terman is VP of Marketing and is responsible for all aspects of the global marketing and communications strategy. Elias started his career as an entrepreneur, and now enjoys helping grow Silicon Valley startups into industry leaders. He built out the marketing and business development organizations at OneLogin leading to explosive growth, helped establish SnapLogic as the leading independent integration company, and led MindFire Studio to the Inc 500.

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