PPC advertising is a popular form of online marketing today. It typically involves three parties, e.g. publishers, advertising networks, and the advertisers themselves. When an ad is created, it will often feature one or more links that direct the visitor to the advertiser’s site. It is a common goal for advertisers to put these ads up on a publisher’s website. Each time a visitor clicks on these links, the advertiser will pay the publisher a fee. Unfortunately, some publishers abuse this system by faking the appearance that an ad has been viewed and interacted with by far more users than the actual number. Read on to find out more about PPC click frauds.
What are the Common Types of PPC Click Fraud?
- Bot net click frauds
Cybercriminals are known to use bot nets (a large network of malware-infected computers) to carry out instructions without actual owner’s knowledge. For example, bot nets will instruct compromised computers to visit websites and click on their paid ads. This attack may go undetected due to the seemingly unrelated clicks from varying IP addresses.
- Hit inflation click frauds
This type of PPC click fraud involves generating false traffic by bouncing visitors to other ads before allowing them to return to the page they clicked on. Victims of a hit inflation attack do not actually see the advertisement, but each visit is converted directly into a click. They may only notice that it’s taking slightly longer for the target page to load.
- Click farms
Click fraud can be committed from click farms where unemployed and impoverished individuals are hired to click on ads all day. This is a common problem in developing countries, and it can evade detection by automated filters due to the absence of automated scripts. Hired personnel are typically instructed to follow a link to the advertiser’s site and subscribe to the company’s newsletter in significant numbers.
- Crowdsourcing and incentivized click frauds
Some companies get their unsuspecting visitors to click on sponsored links on their behalf. Also known as crowdsourcing, the company may request visitors to click on various advertisements to continue supporting their page. Oftentimes, these visitors may comply because they are fine with supporting a site that they enjoy. They, however, have no actual interest in the ads’ content and their actions end up constituting click fraud.
The incentivized version of this type of click fraud works the same way, except that visitors are rewarded with in-game benefits, e.g. discount vouchers, free gifts, etc.
Why do PPC Click Frauds Exist?
An affiliate program may pay companies to publish ads regardless of whether visitors, who followed the link, have legitimate interest or made a real purchase. This strong financial incentive has caused participating publishers and advertising networks to see that the sponsored links are clicked on as many times as possible.
In some cases, the goals of perpetrators may not be about making money. They may aim to deplete the PPC advertising budget of competitor companies that are running legitimate ads. Those perpetrators may also be holding a personal grudge against the company, leading to those actions.
How Can You Detect a PPC Click Fraud?