90% of all Google Ads campaigns are affected by click fraud.

You’ve probably also wondered how much of your budget is „clicked away“ by competitors.

Digital marketing and especially pay-per-click have become the most popular methods of advertising for most companies. Everyone from small businesses to global corporations can take advantage of access to a huge online market. With this huge volume of traffic and advertising budget, it’s an obvious target for fraud. Especially when your competitors click you on Google Ads, it sucks.

What is click fraud?

Click fraud is the act of clicking on a paid link, such as an ad or sponsored search result, with malicious or fraudulent intent.

This can serve to deplete the advertiser’s marketing budget, as well as harm the performance or reach of the ad.

There is now a veritable industry specializing in pay-per-click ad click fraud.

The tactics of click fraudsters

The implementation of click fraud can be achieved using various methods. It can either be real people who are behind the clicks or automated systems that trigger the clicks.

Manual clicking of the ads

Manual clicking by Internet users involves a lot of effort for the scammers. Friends, employees or family can be hired to click the text ads.

Use of click farms

Engaging a click farm can help a company to gain the manual clicks faster and more effectively. Click farms hire employees to click ads, post comments, or share likes for their customers on a daily basis.
In fact, click farms are widely reported, many of which offer their services to inflate Likes and followers on social media. But the same technique can also be used for criminal purposes. Millions of dollars are at stake for enterprising gangs that know how to make click fraud worthwhile with complex technological solutions and malware.

Use of bots

The faster way to generate kicks is to use click robots called bots. The bots act on the Internet like human Internet users and act as multipliers on the network. This software is programmed through certain click scripts so that the ads are clicked automatically. If the bots are installed on different servers by hijacking, so-called botnets can be created with which clicks can be generated from many different IP addresses. If the impression is created that the clicks come from different devices, this makes evaluation and tracking more difficult.

How we prevent click fraud

How big is the click fraud problem really?

Actual fraud rates vary depending on:

Your industry
Geographic location
Time of year

Our 2020 study found that the average rate of click fraud for the campaigns we protect at UnitedAds is around 14%.

However, within this figure, there is a wide variation in fraudulent ad clicks by industry. For example, the industries with the highest volume of fraud are:

Photography – 65%
Pest control – 62 %
Locksmith – 53%
Plumbing – 46%
Garbage collection – 44%

Other industries affected by high levels of click fraud include real estate (31%), financial services (20%), and legal services (14%).

The truth is that click fraud affects almost every industry, with 90% of all campaigns on Google Ads affected in some way.

More on Google Ads

How does Google deal with the issue of click fraud?

For Google, there is first of all no direct click fraud, but only invalid click. Invalid clicks are clicks on ads classified by Google as not permissible, such as unintentional clicks or clicks caused by malware.

According to Google, every click on an ad is examined, invalid clicks and impressions are detected and removed from the account data. Google tries to automatically filter out invalid clicks from your reports and payments so that you are not billed for them.

If Google determines that invalid clicks were not captured by the automatic detection, you may receive a credit for those clicks. Such credits are called a correction for „invalid activity“.

Here are some examples of invalid clicks as defined by Google:

  • Manual clicks, where the purpose is to increase your advertising costs or make a higher profit with the sites where your ads are presented.
  • Clicks from automated click tools, robot programs, and other software used for fraudulent purposes.
  • Irrelevant clicks that have no value for the advertiser (e.g., the second click of a double-click)

Are there any refunds if I was the victim of fraudulent clicks?

If you suspect that Google has not filtered out all fraudulent clicks from your campaigns, then you can request a refund here.

However, the refund rate is well below 5%. This is another reason why it makes sense to additionally filter out fraudulent clicks.