Click fraud has been a popular topic of discussion for a number of years, and it doesn’t appear the issue will fade away anytime soon. The industry is full of various numbers thrown around putting the click fraud rate anywhere from .02 percent (claimed by Google) to 30 percent or more. Who should you believe about click fraud, and how much should you be worried?
First of all, it’s important to understand the real rate of click fraud can vary significantly from one company to another; thus, you should take any click-fraud rate numbers with a grain of salt. The percentage of click fraud will depend on a dozen different factors, such as ad position, bid price and specific industry type. The more competitive the industry and the more you pay per click, the more incentive there is for others to try to defraud you.
Second, it’s very important to understand that click fraud by itself is not the determining factor in whether your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is a success. I have seen many clients afraid of trying PPC because of fraud concerns. However, the truth is click fraud only affects your campaign to some degree. Unless you have razor-thin profit margins, your campaign’s success depends much more on the quality of your ads, the targeting of your landing pages and the overall campaign effort. Granted, nobody wants to lose 10 percent to 15 percent (or more) of his/her advertising budget to useless clicks (and remember there are ways to minimize them).
Third, it’s important to be aware of the role of search engines and other companies involved in the whole issue. Search engines, in general, are very protective of their anti-fraud technology and don’t divulge information about it; thus, people turn to third-party services for assistance in detecting and preventing fraudulent activity. If search engines were willing to share some basic information about what they charge an advertiser for, with a breakdown of each click along with the IP address and the referrer (somewhat like a phone bill), it would be much easier to detect fraud and receive refunds. Hopefully, we will see changes along this line in the near future.
Ultimately, you should be aware of the issue, take action in order to detect it and prevent it, and ensure that you’re billed accordingly. But click fraud shouldn’t scare you off from advertising on PPC search engines altogether. That would be a much bigger mistake.