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Click Fraud in Google Adwords (And What to Do About It)

Recently I created a new Google Adwords PPC campaign targeting the Display network of Adwords. The other day I checked and found several hundred dollars of bogus clicks(more on that in a sec). For the uninitiated, the Display Network AKA the “Content Network” is the publisher’s side of Adwords, where just about anyone can submit their site and run those little Adsense ads. Incidentally one of the services we provide is monetization and optimization of Adsense, or the substitution of other revenue generators. But I digress.

Text PPC ads have always been, and continue to remain, a favorite of mine. There is something magnificent about the format to me. For example, it is much easier (for me at least) to test iterations.  But image ads work well on the content network, having to appear in a variety of locations and content. So we put a lot of time into this batch, and did a lot of testing. This was one of the larger campaigns we had ran in this vertical, and would prove a nice design pattern if successful (we measure success here by  Conversion,  CPA and lead quality).

So imagine my dismay when I am checking the traffic sources and discover about $180 of clearly fraudulent clicks (we are paying about an avg CPC of $3.50 in this area).

I have seen so many statistics and reports over the years that I could not tell you specifically what red flagged about this pattern- I am constantly pruning out traffic sources, keywords and ads that are underperformers, but this stood out. The ad group performance was way off the group, and historical. A little analysis showed it had been sucking almost the entire daily budget for the last few days. Most importantly the traffic wasn’t  converting  at all… and the kicker was the CTR. 30% is unreal. I know from working the publisher side standard Adsense CTR is rockstar at 2-3% and other media m-a-y-b-e  5-10% if you are using matched upsells or behavior targeting. The icing on the cake was visiting the site in question and finding it to be a vanilla wordpress blog with 3 pages of content- in other words incapable of generating any useful traffic, not to mention $180 worth of targeted clicks.

Thus, I fired off the fraudulent click form, and documented the issue as best I could. Having worked quite a bit with Adwords CS, I’ve noted that you need to be super explicit and thoroughly spell things out for them.  Sure enough, today I got a notice that they had indeed confirmed the clicks were invalid and were in the process of crediting back (even more than I had noticed) to our clients account. Win-Win! It’s things like these that give me a good feeling that our investment in their advertising platform, products and API.

In closing though I have clients whose entire monthly budget is $200- these clients cannot afford to lose even a few bucks on bad clicks. And if they are maintaining their own account in their spare time, without the benefit of the training and experience I have… How can they possibly address this? Google has always been the best at combating click fraud but just like any other form of marketing, the small business is getting it in the shorts here. Does this frighten you? Is it old news?? Tell me in the comments.

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