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Detecting Click Fraud

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Some telltale signs of click fraud are quite obvious, while others take a little more tracking and analysis to identify.

Many PPC search engines have programs in place to audit for click fraud, but it is a good policy to periodically took at your traffic logs, or perhaps consider using a third-party tool to analyze the data further.

The main things to look for in your ad campaign’s statistics are:

1. Keyword performance-if you notice that some specific keywords in your ad campaign that normally do not do well suddenly become top performers, investigate. If you suspect click fraud, begin by changing the setup of your ad campaigns so that you can track each keyword by search engine and then keep all eye on the statistics of each (now) separate campaign.

In this way, you can see more clearly if one specific search engine is involved. As well, the data is broken down in more manageable portions, so that repeated visits by the same IP address may stand out more clearly than if you kept all your keyword campaigns in one log file.

Likewise, a sudden increase in the total number of clicks on all of your keywords, without there being a seasonal relationship or a special promotional campaign ill progress, could indicate click fraud.

2. An abnormal number of clicks from the same IP address-although this is the most obvious and easily identified form of click fraud, it is amazing how many fraudsters still use this method, particularly for quick attacks.

They may choose a to strike over a long weekend when they figure you may not be watching your log files carefully, clicking on your ad repeatedly so that when you return to work on Tuesday, your account is significantly depleted.

3. Decline in the number of conversions-if your conversion rate is normally positive (that is, you are making a profit on your ad), and all of a sudden, conversion dives into negative numbers, this could be a sign of click fraud in action.

Click fraud causes extra clicks on your ad with no actual purchases, and your conversion rate will fall accordingly.

4. Large numbers of visitors who leave your site quickly-another indication of click fraud can be a pattern of visitors clicking on your ad, spending the minimum amount of time on your site required by your PPC search engine to establish it as a valid click (usually 30 seconds or more), and then leaving without having left the landing page at all.
5. A large number of impressions, without the accompanying click on your ad-if you notice that there are a lot more impressions (views) of your website.

This could indicate the impression fraud we discussed earlier. As we saw, artificial inflation of your ad impressions may cause your clickthrough rates to drop below the Google minimum of 0.5% and your ad will be disabled.

Until you realize this, your competitors have free reign to use your keywords, sometimes at bargain prices.

As well, your relevancy ratings for search engines may drop as they record numerous impressions, but no interest shown via visits to other parts of your website, which could lead to a shutdown of your campaign.

6. Abnormally high clicks and impressions on affiliate websites-although affiliates themselves are sometimes involved in conducting click fraud schemes.

They can be victims of click fraud themselves. If one of their competitors uses this same method of excessive clicks and impressions on an affiliate’s site, the PPC search engine will soon notice an abnormally high payment to a certain affiliate and perhaps go as far as canceling that affiliate’s account, even though he or she was not engaging in any form of click fraud.

7. A large number of clicks coming from countries outside of your normal market area-using online resources such as www.dnsstuff.com and other free online sites, you can identify which country an IP address is probably coming from.

8. Accidental click fraud-there are, in fact, some cases that may be seen as click fraud, although they are actually not intentional.

However, they do have the effect of depleting your ad account. Although some individuals may accidentally click on your ad, most accidental clicks are caused by link-checking software or search engine robots clicking on the ad as they run their routines.

If you suspect this is occurring, regular checking of your logs may be all you need to get a refund from your PPC search engine.

With spider-driven extra clicks, if you have a high-cost keyword in your campaign, even a few extra clicks a day can make a dent in your account.

There are other means of click fraud that individuals use, but most fall into the above categories.

Most people believe that the majority of the real damage is done by robot driven software, but it is impossible to adequately determine what percentage of click fraud is caused by humans themselves and what percentage is caused by robots humans developed.

One of the main reasons that robot/software click fraud is so prevalent is that there actually legitimate pieces of software that can be used to commit click fraud, although that was not the original intent for their creation.

For example, a click fraud artist may claim that he is just stress testing his analytics software program to ensure that it will catch click fraud.

Part of the problem with click fraud is that there are not yet any laws on the books dealing with the problem.

The Federal Trade Commission claims that they cannot really do anything about the problem because they are tasked with investigating consumer fraud, and cannot fit click fraud into this category.

However, the Department of Justice in the United States does have a rapidly growing division that deals with cases of cybercrime, and click fraud will likely eventually come under their review.

The difficulty is that, even if you suspect you arc a victim of click fraud, the onus generally falls on you to prove that it exists and to find those responsible.

This must happen before any action will be taken by your PPC search engine, especially those that already have some form of click fraud detection operating on their engines.

Keywords: Click Fraud, ad campaign, fraudsters, ad impressions, cybercrime,

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