What’s the real reason for all of the cybersecurity measures protecting your business? In the end, it’s for unscrupulous people using internet access to steal your money. It may be in obvious ways: with DDOS attacks, spyware and ransomware. You might also pay them to steal from you. It’s called click-fraud, and if you’re not familiar with it, you’re at risk of experiencing it.
Who’s that knocking?
We know people behave badly. It’s not just people cheating you this time though.
Like any tool, automation can be used for good or evil. Bots are certainly no exception. These snippets of code that roam around online fulfill a variety of purposes. Some are made to index every site on the internet so that search engines can serve them to you on command; others are designed to check specific locations for instructions on what sites to hit en masse, causing that site to do down under the combined weight of countless hits.
Then there are bots designed to click on your ad, skewing your stats and wasting your advertising budget.
Who would do such a thing? Well, who stands to make money from such a thing?
The dishonest dealers
Different ads might attract different types of click fraud.
Do you offer a percentage of a sale on a high-value item to the company serving up banner ads? There are still very low-wage areas where it is worthwhile to have people clicking on ads.
If there’s not enough money in it, the clicks could be automated. There could be a server farm constantly hitting ads but that leaves a pretty specific physical location which requires overhead and would mean criminals can be tracked to a specific place.
More often, malware is downloaded onto as many computers as possible without the users knowing it. That malware lays low but uses the browser to start generating meaningless impressions that waste your ad spend.
How can you tell?
Almost nobody in this industry is in a rush to talk to you about click-fraud. Honest actors who know about it may not understand it. Many people are quietly taking money for the results of it and blame is hard to pin down, so information on the phenomenon is a little thin.
The take-away from your campaign, for instance, may be that you have tremendous conversions. If those many conversions are coming from one or two places and, just as they get to the check-out, the purchase seems to fail, you are probably getting defrauded on your stats.
What are you supposed to do?
There isn’t a blacklist of sites or companies to avoid. The criminals who do this will move too fast, prairie-dogging up wherever they’re least expected with a new name for the same company.
There are click forensics companies. There is even some open source software out there. They can only help you to know that you’ve already been defrauded. Plus, you’d either have to pay for the service or spend time working out how to use the software effectively and hope you get it right.
Search engines have finally started anti-click fraud programs but that’s a drop in the bucket as these organizations won’t be likely to need engine-driven traffic.
Your best bet is to make sure the marketing agency you work with is relying on high-value sites. The lower quality of site your ads are hitting, the higher chance of experiencing click-fraud.
Most importantly, try to have a remarketing strategy for your ads. It helps you hit your target audience by bringing in a wide series of data-points from their online behaviors. Remember, the bots that drive most of the click-fraud that’s happening don’t have personality profiles like the ones we use to define your target audience.
Need a strategic partner who can steward your marketing spend? Contact us.