The process of Google Adwords is simple for advertisers and highly profitable for Google. The pay per click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) advertising plan means that website owners are willing to pay each time a visitor clicks on an advertisement which will lead them directly to their site. By creating personalized advertisements using specific keywords, businesses are able to create ads to target customers directly. However, online advertisers who use Google Adwords as part of their marketing plan, should be aware that a percentage of the clicks for which they pay for may be fraudulent.
The percentage of fraud which occurs in the Adwords PPC program is highly speculative although Google, in an effort to protect a $20billion industry, has advanced techniques in place to monitor these occurrences.
The Google Fraud Squad
Just how does Google detect invalid or fraudulent clicks? Google adopts a number of detection and filtering techniques specifically designed to catch the invalid pay-per- clicks before they reach the advertiser’s account. As soon as someone clicks on an Adwords advertisement, the click is analyzed to detect several factors including the IP address of the source, the time of the click, duplicate clicks and any other patterns that may be indicators of fraudulent activity. Real-time filters have been designed to identify and filter-out these invalid clicks. The invalid Adwords clicks are then examined by staff at Google in order to extract the relevant information and locate the source. As well as the filter and detection process, Google also works proactively employing a team of engineers to constantly improve the monitoring technology and enhance the filters.
Pay Per Click Occurrences
But where do these clicks come from and why do they occur? There are two main reasons for the fraudulent occurrences. Firstly competitive businesses or other PPC advertisers may try to raise the advertising cost of their competitors by clicking on their advertisements. By doing so, it not only raises the cost of the advertising campaign for the organization in question, but it also may result in the company hitting their daily budget disabling the advertisement position on that particular day. As an example, if payment per click is charged at $2 and the company has allocated a $20 a day budget, then 10 clicks from an outside source will cause the advertisement program to cease until the superseding day.
The second method of concern involves Adsense, an aligned program in which Google pays a third party website owner for PPCs received on the advertisements featured on their site. If an Adsense publisher or website owner clicks on an advertisement featured on their site then they are potentially being rewarded for each click. The creator of the initial Adword advertisement is ultimately paying money for clicks which will prove to be unsuccessful in terms of profit for their business and the advertisement is not drawing potential customers or clientele as they would hope.
Click Farms and Click Bots
The fraud can occur by combining a number of methods, the easiest of which to achieve is manual clicking. The manual clicking process however has developed into a more serious issue leading to the creation of click farms. Neil Matthews of Fraudulent Clicks defines click farms as follows (http://www.scamtypes.com/what-is-a-click-farm.html):
“The click farm is made up of armies of low paid workers whose job it is to click on links, surf around the target website for a period of time, perhaps signing up for newsletters and then moving on to another link.”
Click farms are then able to inflate the advertising costs of their competitors and/or earn dollars by clicking on advertisements featured on their own websites through the Adsense program as discussed above.
Gaining a similar result to click farms are the aptly named click bots. A type of web-bot, a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet, click bots are designed specifically to fraudulently click on ads in an effort to once again earn money or disable the competitor’s Adsense program.
While the click fraud issue may initially detract from websites opting for a pay per click advertising program, it can still prove worthwhile if the organization is meeting their target ROI (Return On Investment). As Google are actively working to keep on top of the issue, then the tools which accompany Adsense such as Google Analytics can also provide a wealth of information which users can tap into to create a more effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plan.