Who is REALLY Clicking on My Ads?!

Who's clicking on my banner?!

Who's clicking on my Ads?!

17.1% of all clickthroughs on web advertising are the result of click fraud – the act of clicking on a web ad to artificially increase its click-through rate – according to the latest report from Click Forensics, a company that specializes in monitoring and preventing internet crime. The level of clickfraud is the highest the company has seen since it started monitoring for it in 2006, dashing our hopes that it might hold steady in 2008. The company recorded a rate of 16.3% in Q1 2008. >>Full Story

Thoughts// As the economy sours and marketers pour their limited dollars into search marketing, this study from Click Forensics gives us pause.   Perhaps even more disturbing is that these rates aren’t just driven up by an unscrupulous competitor clicking surreptitiously on your ads; fraud committed by “bots” appear to be at an all time high—responsible for 31.4 percent of the fraud—making detection extremely difficult.

To get further insight into how to maximize the effectiveness of search advertising and to best monitor for click fraud, I recently talked to John McPhee, “search guru in travel verticals” for Anvil Media, a Portland based search engine marketing agency.

In Anvil’s experience working with travel industry clients, how prevalent is click fraud in this industry?
From Anvil’s experience, we haven’t seen any more click fraud in the travel industry than other industries. The numbers on click fraud don’t lie, it’s happening, but honestly, it’s not something that we lose sleep over as we constantly monitor PPC data via AdWords reports and Google Analytics for all of our clients. If we see that something is out of whack, we dig deeper to determine the cause and if click fraud is a likely candidate, we follow up (with Google, Yahoo or MSN) appropriately.

If almost a third of clicks on content networks such as AdSense are fraudulent, is it worth my investment?
In order to determine if advertising on Google’s Content Network is worth your investment, you need to first set goals for the campaign. If you are focusing on branding efforts through the content network, you’ll be more concerned about impressions, but if you have found niche sites that drive targeted visitors (that convert) and you’re meeting your cost/conversion or ROI goals, I think it’s definitely worth the investment. As long as you are seeing a positive return, I see no reason not to continue using these advertising networks. To quote Seth Godin, “If your ads work and you are seeing a higher profit than cost, why not keep running them?”

For those of us who’re monitoring our own search campaigns, what tools can we use to be vigilant against fraud?
As I mentioned previously, being diligent and monitoring your campaigns within AdWords and Analytics for any odd fluctuations (lower conversion rates & higher cost/conversions suddenly happening out of nowhere) or poorly performing sites (from the content network) is the best/most effective approach for Anvil.

Google AdWords has a Placement report that allows marketers to easily review performance from AdSense sites. If you see sites performing poorly, it’s as simple as pausing your ads on those sites. Also, if you feel your ads are appearing on a site that isn’t driving quality traffic, you have the ability to include them in the negative sites feature (works just like negative keywords) so your ads no longer appear on these low quality sites.

For marketers that don’t have the time to monitor their stats on an hourly/daily basis, a fraud detection tool may help but I’m not entirely sold on its necessity as long as you manage to your goals. With that said, I haven’t personally used any click fraud monitoring tools; however, I did find a pretty comprehensive list: http://www.adwordsadsensetools.com/-Click-Fraud-Monitoring-Detection-.html.

We couldn’t agree with John more!  As we’ve said many times on this blog, the most effective metric for the success of your online campaigns (both PPC and display) is not the ubiquitous click-thru rate but the conversions (or engagement).  Watch what your clickers are doing and you’ll be killing those bots!

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.