PPC advertising is one of the most popular forms of online marketing and most times it works incredibly well. Unfortunately, running pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns opens marketers up to the possibility of click fraud – a devious SEO technique that can deplete your marketing budget in a hurry. Fortunately, we’re here to offer some small business SEO tips that can help you avoid this pitfall. Here’s what you need to know to protect your company:
What is Click Fraud?
In simple terms, click fraud is a black-hat SEO technique that artificially inflates click numbers on pay-per-click ads without generating actual leads. Depending upon the motive of the SEO behind the fraudulent activity, click fraud generally serves one of the following two purposes:
- Click fraud can be perpetuated for the purpose of sabotaging a competitor by artificially inflating PPC costs and driving the marketer to his or her budget cap prematurely.
- Click fraud can be perpetuated by marketers who are trying to generate more revenue for their own ads by clicking on them.
How Common is Click Fraud?
While there’s little hard data about how often click fraud occurs and where it comes from, USA Today reported that, back in the first 3 months of 2010, roughly 17-29% of all online ad clicks were fraudulent. Microsoft has since called the click fraud problem “Rampant” and it’s clear that the problem is one that marketers are still dealing with today.
How Search Engines Respond to Click Fraud
For years, marketers have been calling on search engines like Google to get more proactive about click fraud. The calls haven’t fallen upon deaf ears and the majority of the forerunners in the advertising world have stepped in to put an end to click fraud.
Google, for example, has created a multifaceted anti-fraud program that uses automated filters to detect and reverse invalid clicks before advertisers are charged for them. To back up its automated approach, Google also uses a physical Ad Traffic Quality Team to run a manual analysis of an ad’s clicks and do away with the ones determined to be fraudulent.
Finally, Google responds to advertisers’ reports of fraudulent activity by launching personalized investigations. If the search engine detects fraudulent clicks, the clicks are labeled and a refund is issued to the advertiser.
While these approaches by Google certainly help weed out click fraud, the fact remains that click fraud is a troublesome problem for PPC advertisers everywhere. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure you’re minimizing click fraud on your PPC accounts.
Six Small Business SEM Tips to Prevent Click Fraud in PPC Advertising
To protect yourself and your advertising budget from click-prone Black Hats, follow these steps:
- Use Paid Social Networks for PPC Advertising
When you place your PPC ads on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, you cut out the third-party platforms and do away with a significant amount of click fraud. What’s more, click fraud perpetuated by jealous competitors is also less common on these networks due to the fact that social media networks take advanced targeting so seriously, meaning your ads only show up to specific audiences. Finally, PPC ads on paid social networks are tied into relevant keywords, which means it’s a bit more difficult for competitors to locate and prey upon your ads.
- Alter Your Targeting Campaign
If you’re using Google AdWords to run your PPC campaign, you can root out a great deal of click fraud by simply altering your targeting strategy. If you believe that you’re getting a high level of click fraud from a specific location (India, for example, is a popular location for so-called “Click Farms”) you can simply alter your AdWords settings to exclude these locations.
Alternately, you can program AdWords to limit the appearance of your ads for certain cities or zip codes. The important thing to remember, of course, is that eliminating a geographical location from your ad targeting also eliminates all of the valid traffic that may come from that location, so you should only take this step if you’re absolutely certain that most of the traffic coming from that location is invalid.
- Exclude Certain IP Addresses
If you’ve been able to narrow down which IP addresses fraudulent clicks are coming from, you can create IP exclusions in your AdWords account. To do this, head to your AdWords dashboard and locate the “IP Exclusions” tab in “Settings.” Input the IP addresses that are sending you fraudulent clicks and save your options. This will prevent your ad from being displayed to those IP addresses in the future.
- Adjust Your Prices
Who knew that preventing click fraud could be as easy as adjusting your bid prices? If you’re experiencing a high level of click fraud, consider limiting the risk associated with it by lowering the bid amount you pay per click. You can also mitigate risk by limiting the sites your ads appear on.
- Track everything
It’s impossible to detect and stop click fraud if you’re not tracking your metrics. If you’re using AdWords, it’s easy to monitor your Campaign Performance and Account Performance tabs to see if anything pops up that’s out of the ordinary. These metrics will also allow you access to Google’s interpretation of your clicks so you can see how many clicks they have marked as fraudulent.
- Stick with Reputable Sites
The lower-quality the sites your ads appear on are, the higher the risk of click fraud. To limit your exposure, target your PPC advertising to high-quality sites, which can go a long way toward limiting your click fraud risk and keeping your advertising budget safe.
While click fraud is certainly a widespread problem, these six small business SEO tips can help you ensure that your advertising budget isn’t being leeched dry by click fraud. To learn more about avoiding predatory black-hat tactics and improving the effectiveness of your digital ads, contact Strider today.