click fraud vs invalid clicks

The world of advertisement and marketing is a tricky one. The relationship between search engines and advertisers is based on trust. Nowadays, advertisers are often exploiting that trust by committing click fraud and abusing invalid clicks.  In this post, we shall share some detailed insights on click fraud and invalid clicks. 

What Are Invalid Clicks and Click Fraud? Advertisers pay a handsome sum of money to market their websites on different platforms. Most of the websites opt to choose a medium of advertisement that follows the pay-per-click (PPC) model. Here, the advertiser has to pay a certain amount to the host every time a customer clicks on the advertisement posted on the host’s website. 

In this form of marketing, the website owners often have a budget cap on the amount of money they can spend on advertisement for a specific period. In recent years, these websites showed growing concern when they met their budget caps too quickly, without having any sort of impact on their reach. 

This issue was a result of people committing click fraud and exploiting invalid clicks. In simple terms, people use these two mediums to cheat the paying advertisers by mounting illegitimate clicks on their published ads, which compels the advertisers to pay for clicks that aren’t doing any good for their business. 

The Difference between Invalid Clicks and Click Fraud

Over the years, people have been using the terms interchangeably. This is because both click fraud and invalid clicks have the same negative end product for a website owner. They both force the advertisers to pay the cost for illegitimate clicks that are not bringing any positive development for their websites. 

Keeping all this in mind, it isn’t surprising that many people think both these terms have the same practical meaning. But in truth, they have a few different characteristics that you should be aware of. 

The main purpose behind Click Fraud is to inflate the cost of your advertising campaign through illegitimate clicks on your ads. This is a technique that your competitors may use to sabotage your growth. People often use automated tools and bots to carry out Click Fraud. 

It is important to note that people can commit click fraud on various levels. It can be a low-level attempt where only a single person clicks on your ads as many times as possible. It can also be a more complex attempt where your competitors pay third-party teams and systems to commit click fraud.

Invalid clicks, on the other hand, can be purely accidental. Google AdWords is responsible for differentiating between valid and invalid clicks. It uses an algorithm to cherry-pick the clicks it deems genuine and throws out the clicks which it decides are irregular, extraneous, or inflated. Something as simple as an accidental double click on your advertisement will also qualify as an invalid click.

The algorithm that Google AdWords uses to determine invalid clicks is still unclear to most of the experts. Google decided not to make the algorithm public to ensure that people don’t further exploit it for their gain. 

The primary difference between the two, thus, lies in the intention of the users that commit either click fraud or invalid clicks. The sole purpose of click fraud is to destabilize one’s competition by sabotaging their advertising strategy. Invalid clicks, on the other hand, may be accidental. This, however, does not stop advertisers from being suspicious of people who could try to exploit invalid clicks for their gain. 

Some in-built invalid click systems look to abuse Google AdWords’ algorithm to gain an edge over their competitors. However, website owners don’t have a lot to worry about as there are plenty of counter-measurements for such issues as well. 

Whom to be Afraid of?

Now that we know that there are ways to exploit both click fraud and invalid clicks to sabotage someone’s advertising campaign, we should be aware of the personal motivators behind such attacks. 

For the most part, you should expect such attacks from your fiercest competitors. By ruining your marketing campaign, they get an invaluable edge over you in the market. Too many illegitimate clicks on your advertisements will mean that you suffer great losses in terms of revenue. 

But what are the main motivations behind committing click fraud and exploiting invalid clicks? Let’s find out.

  • Sabotaging key competitors by inflating the amount of money they spend on PPC (pay per click) ad campaigns. 
  • Crippling competitors by forcing them to meet their budget cap early on, making their overall plans ineffective. 
  • Ad publishers themselves might commit such attacks to maximize the profits that they get out of the victims. 

So, there you go: you need not only worry about your competitors but the platforms where you are hosting your ads as well! Just think about it, wouldn’t it be so easy for them to generate unbelievable revenue by using such malicious tricks? This is a call for you to start selecting your advertising partners after careful consideration. 

Are the Prevention Methods Same for Click Fraud and Invalid Clicks?

Now that we know everything there is to know about click fraud and invalid clicks, we must talk about the counter-measures we can take to avoid them. It is apparent that both of them are bad for business, and website owners should arm themselves with the necessary knowledge to fight them. 

But do we have to follow similar steps to avoid both click fraud and invalid clicks? We iterated earlier that both of these terms are not entirely the same. There are a few defining differences between the two that we must keep in mind. 

1.) How to Prevent Invalid Clicks:

  • Avoid clicking on your ads. Even if you want to test the ads out, use a third-party tool to run live tests. Clicking on your ads might lead to generating false impressions, which Google will flag as illegitimate. 
  • Stop encouraging your close friends, family, and other connections to click on your ads. Too many clicks from the same device will lead to Google flagging such engagement. 
  • Do not ask your supporters to click on your ads in exchange for other commodities. This will not work out in favour of your business. 
  • Make sure the layout of your advertisement will not lead to accidental and extraneous clicks. 
  • Choose your advertising partners carefully.

2.) How to Prevent Click Fraud:

  • The primary suspect for click fraud should be your competitors. Keep a close watch on them. Once you identify your biggest competitors, you can use tools like AdWatcher to track the number of clicks that come from your competitors. 
  • Limit the scope of your advertisement. By this, we mean that you should only target audiences in specific regions. Many countries are on the top of the chart for committing click frauds on the internet, and you should be wary of them. 
  • This goes without saying – keep a steady eye on your ad campaigns. Using analytics tools like Google AdWords will help you monitor the details of your campaigns. This will help you identify if you are facing any fraudulent activities. 
  • Partner with high-end and popular websites. Do not let unknown websites host your advertisement banners at any cost. They are most likely to engage in fraudulent activities to get the better of you. 
  • Finally, if you are really apprehensive of such issues, you should invest in anti-fraud software. There are many available on the internet, and the best one for you will depend on your specific requirements. 

Conclusion

While click fraud and invalid clicks are terms that people use loosely, you should never confuse both of them as being the same. They are two different issues with separate prevention tactics. In recent years, both of them have caused significant damage to several website owners. Fortunately, fighting such fraudulent activities isn’t a Herculean task. There are many ways to manage and prevent click frauds and invalid clicks, as mentioned in this guide. 

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