Signs of Click Fraud

Click fraud occurs when someone clicks on your PPC ads in order to incur charges with no intent of doing business with you. Occasional clicks of this sort incur little additional cost and are very hard to differentiate from legitimate users. The real problems occur when systematic attempts are made to deplete your advertising budget through “manufactured” clicks.

Google AdWords, Yahoo Sponsored Search, and other advertising programs typically try to detect blatant click fraud and will not charge you for it. The simplest form of detection is to ignore multiple ad clicks from the same computer on the same day. More sophisticated techniques may try to find patterns of behavior that indicate click fraud.

Some fraud will always make it past the search engines’ detection schemes, so it is good to keep an eye out for indications of illegitimate clicks. Here are some behaviors that may indicate click fraud:

  • Sudden changes in click counts that are then sustained at a higher or lower level.
  • Intermittent high click counts, spikes in otherwise consistent click rates over time.
  • Higher CTR on content ads which typically don’t perform as well as search ads.
  • Significant differences in very similar terms, such as four times as many clicks on “Seattle car dealer” as “Seattle car dealers”.
  • Sudden jumps in CTR for a particular keyword.

To report suspected click fraud for AdWords, visit Yahoo requires you to contact support from within your account management console. For either vendor, you’ll need excellent documentation of unsual behavior if you hope to have your account credited.

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