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Is click fraud a threat to your business?

If you're in online marketing or you're running pay-per-click campaigns on a regular basis, you've probably heard the term click or ad scams. Google uses the term "invalid clicks" to refer to the practice of automated or inappropriate clicks on paid advertising links. What is really a click fraud? And is it really that important to your business and your marketing budget?

Put simply, click fraud means clicking on paid ads to reduce or redirect the advertiser's budget. It can be an angry competitor who knows how much you pay per click and wants to hit you where it hurts (in your wallet) or around a shadowy network of criminals who run multiple sites to direct these advertising dollars to their own accounts.

About the Author

Oliver Lynch is a freelance copywriter, marketer and public relations provider.

Is there really click fraud?

Are both scenarios really happening? Absolute. A famous example of the competitor who runs a click fraud is the WickFire case against TriMax in Texas. It has been discovered that TriMax, a competing agency for digital marketing, has used several nefarious methods to both hurt WickFire in the eyes of its customers and exhaust its PPC budget has increased the price of every click ̵

1; essentially for click fraud. The whole case became extremely chaotic when TriMax launched a counterattack against the public, accusing WickFire of being the original perpetrators. However, a Texas court found TriMax guilty and ordered them to pay WickFire $ 2.3 million in damages.

Although it is a major case, it is not an isolated case of alarming regularity in recent years.

How is ad fraud different?

When it comes to the scarier case of ad fraud, we see criminal organizations involved here. The reason for this is that with an orchestrated advertising campaign, you can potentially spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a day.

How does advertising fraud work? In most cases, content marketing works for everyone. However, if you are an unscrupulous website owner, you can create a website page full of display ads. Some of them may not even be visible to the naked eye, with banners on banners or autoplay videos hidden in tiny 1×1-pixel displays.

It's all about directing visitors or clicks on these ads to help them collect the payout for hosting on your website. Fraudulent, this often means that these ads are clicked on with automated bots or created a view.

The best known example of this is Methbot on an industrial scale. Methbot is said to be operated by the Russian mafia. It is estimated that Methbot earns up to $ 5 million a day by faking premium domain names, embedding them in video ads, and then using bots to display them. In fact, Methbot is just one of several known click fraud networks known as botnets. Another huge botnet operation called 3ve was discontinued in late 2018 in a joint operation by Google, WhiteOps (an online security firm) and the FBI.

Although prosecuting these criminal companies has been successful, this is usually only a matter of time before another more challenging iteration occurs.

Increasingly, click fraudsters use apps or VPNs to hijack users' phones and web browsers and do their dirty work. As we reported here on Tech Radar, some popular antivirus apps were the perfect platform for the fraud of mobile advertising, with both Android and iOS targeted.

Online Traffic

So much traffic is fraudulent online? It is estimated that up to half of all Internet traffic is not human, including web crawlers, bots, and other automated processes. Ilan Missulawin of anti-click fraud company ClickCease said: "Although up to 50% of Internet traffic is automated, we estimate that at least half of it is due to fraudulent traffic. Thus, about 20-25% of all online traffic comes from either these botnets or click farms.

Do not Google or other online companies have procedures to guard against click and advertising fraud?

] "Yes, Google automatically blocks clicks from known suspicious sources," says Ilan. "The problem is that the software and the processes are getting more and more sophisticated. Previously, when it was fairly easy to spot bot activity online, bots could mimic human activity through programming improvements. "

The digital giants are increasingly viewed as being against fraudsters, with Microsoft and Facebook both making statements by blocking ad fraud on their networks.

But anyone who runs a PPC campaign could be appalled by how much they spend on fraudulent clicks. And although Google, Microsoft and Co. are about to launch their game, their efforts are still failing for many advertisers.

Predictions of automated and fraudulent traffic are likely to increase in this lucrative industry. It is estimated that marketers could spend over $ 42 billion on ad and click fraud in 2019.

There is no denying that click fraud rates are increasing not only with large advertisers. SMEs and even local service providers such as locksmiths and dentists are often exposed to click and advertising fraud. And with the proliferation of malware, where cheaters use the popularity of apps and browser extensions, the landscape is constantly changing. Even ransomware can be used to hack accounts and steal data to make fraud more effective. This is the new reality of advertising that can affect anyone who conducts a PPC campaign, and we see more and more marketers being protected.

Oliver Lynch is a freelance copywriter, marketer and public relations provider.

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