The Dangers of PPC Frauds

Content produced by and on behalf of ClickGuard

PPC fraud prevention is a necessity for modern businesses, especially since it is growing out of control all over the internet. In case you are not aware of what a PPC fraud is, or how you can detect one if you are already being conned by the botnet, then your online business might be at a greater risk than you realise. Read on as we discuss the nature and some background information regarding ad fraud, as well as methods that must be adopted for PPC fraud prevention.

What is PPC Fraud?

PPC stands for pay-per-click, and PPC frauds seek to exploit that pay-per-click marketing strategy. Also known as click fraud, the fraudulent activity involves clicking on web ads with an active intention to make the advertising business/marketer pay for the maximum number of clicks possible.

This is not the same as someone randomly clicking on an ad without any active interest to buy, but a planned attempt to click as many random ads as possible, in order to generate false traffic for the advertising website. None of the clicks or traffic generated in the course of a PPC fraud will convert, but the advertising party’s entire PPC budget will be exhausted quickly as they will be “paying per click.” In order to augment the fraud, a few purchases might be made at times and keep the sham going indefinitely.

The Clickers

Clickers that act on behalf of the beneficiaries can be divided into the following categories:

  1. Bots pretending to be people on web browsers
  2. Actual people paid to click on ads all day (click farms)
  3. A malicious script that is written in order to click ads at every chance

Only one or all of the above clickers might be used by a beneficiary to conduct the PPC fraud, depending on their own resources and the target in question. For the most part, though, scripts and bots have taken over the PPC fraud from human clickers, which makes things even more dangerous for target businesses. The most resilient and fastest human clicker cannot match the abilities of an automated script or an entire array of bots (computers taken over by the malware) known as a botnet, making PPC fraud prevention a priority for online businesses of all size.

Who Benefits from Click Fraud?

Click frauds are a matter of huge controversy since their beneficiaries are often found to be previously reputed business establishments. For the most part, ad frauds and PPC frauds usually have an ad agency behind them, although the actual work might be conducted via a cybercriminal organisation. Other beneficiaries might be competitors or the affiliate websites themselves.

In one of the earliest cases, multiple PPC scams were conducted by the Estonian IT company and pseudo-digital marketers, Rove Digital. They managed to steal roughly $14 million in false ad revenue before being caught back in 2011 by the US authorities. Nowadays, only the malware’s name is announced, while the actual beneficiaries who fund such operations are seldom revealed. Some of the most dangerous PPC fraud bots include:

  • DNSChanger (Used by Rove Digital)
  • Methbot (Still watching millions of video ads every day)
  • ZeroAccess
  • HummingBad
  • Chameleon

How Can Businesses Prevent PPC Fraud?

PPC fraud prevention requires taking active steps to ensure click quality and authenticity. To get started, visit clickguard.com to learn how it works and how any business can prevent click bots/scripts from getting through in the first place, thanks to their automated solution providing 24×7 PPC fraud prevention. Their services are also designed to enhance the client’s conversion rates by improving the source of their clicks. What that means is, more potential customers will be clicking on the site with genuine interest, rather than money grabbing clickers.

Even if you have not realised it yet, it is perfectly possible for your own business to be affected by a click bot. This is why business owners notice massive improvements in their ROI from Google Ads after adopting PPC fraud prevention measures. There is no way to tell for sure whether or not a party has indeed targeted your business with a script or a click bot since most of them work under the radar to not raise suspicion these days. The only way to save your money and your website is to take the necessary precautions beforehand.

Are There Signs to Look Out For?

As mentioned, there is no way to tell for sure whether you have indeed been targeted by a PPC fraud group or not. That being said, there are some telltale signs which every business owner should look out for because they can help in detecting at least the basic attempts before it’s too late.

Unexpected and Sudden Increase in Traffic – A sudden, unexpected and severe spike in web traffic can be a sign of danger or incoming prosperity, with the former being far more likely than the latter.

Unusually High Traffic at an Unusual Time – If you notice a rapid spike in incoming traffic from ad clicks at a time when that is very unlikely to occur, it is almost definitely a sign of PPC fraud. If they did not mask their location with a proxy, get ready to see a lot of clicks from South Asian, Eurasian, and African nations.

Short Bursts of Traffic – This is when the fraudulent clickers are trying to ‘play it discreetly’ and only clicking your ads for a short period of time while trying not to go overboard with it. Nevertheless, PPC frauds, in most cases, will still generate significantly more invalid traffic within that short time, alerting the target site about the clicker.

Stark Contrasts Between Web Traffic and Conversion Rates

After a successful marketing campaign, it is possible and even expected to see a heavy spike in web traffic. It’s also true that even the most ideal customer might abandon the cart if they do not like the advertised product, find a better price on some other site or simply because they changed their mind. What is almost impossible, however, are the chances of seeing both of these happening simultaneously and continuously within a short period of time.

If the site experiences high incoming web traffic after running an ad campaign, but the rate of conversion doesn’t justify the visits, it is most certainly a sign of PPC fraud. Check to see if the bounce rate is too high, and if it is, you are wasting money on PPC ads. In such circumstances, business owners need to act immediately and take steps for PPC fraud prevention before the frauds can run them dry by wasting the entire marketing budget.

In case you are thinking about finding PPC frauds by tracking IP addresses, that might not work in most cases. Neither bots nor human clickers use their original IP for fraudulent activities anymore, as it is so easy to hide one’s original IP address with virtual private networks and proxy servers these days. Web anonymity is a desirable aspect of preserving the privacy of internet users for sure, but for cybercriminals, it is just another tool that they will exploit. VPN blocks, however, are a crude but effective way to filter such activities altogether and keep your website relatively safe from crude PPC frauds.