Click Fraud, the process whereby “bad actors” claim traffic that is being sent to a website, has been an industry problem for years. It can impact you, even if you’re not doing Pay Per Click advertising.
Many advertising teams measure digital advertising performance using a “Last Click” method. The Last Click method gives credit of the conversion to the publisher which served the last ad that drove the consumer to the website. This means that when performing campaign analysis, media budgets will be weighted artificially towards the wrong publishers (and the ad networks that support them).
Operationally, Click Fraud is accomplished by utilizing automated software programs (bots) and malicious code which make it appear that website traffic is coming from another source.
Business Insider, via a legal declaration from Elyse Burns of Vista Print, recently exposed how Click Fraud can occur:
“Burns navigated to the VistaPrint site via search and left the browser on overnight. The declaration states she discovered that, without taking any action, the browser had reloaded the webpage on its own. As a result, the visit no longer had tracking code reflecting that she had reached the site by search, but instead reflected the visit occurred as the result of [another advertising network’s] ad, according to the declaration.”
There are several ways to minimize the impact of Click Fraud (if not eliminate it all together):
- Don’t count click traffic coming from self-proclaimed bots. Admittedly, true bad actors will mask their bots as human traffic … but discounting bot traffic from your attribution is such an easy process that there is no reason not to do it.
- Watch click behavior. While all humans don’t “click alike”, they all have certain similar limitations and behaviors. For example, they likely don’t click on 30 ads an hour. Similar to the first suggestion, this is not a silver bullet. Savvy bad actors can program their bots to mimic human behavior. But it is an important characteristic to watch for.
- Stop doing Last Click attribution. It is, quite candidly, a lazy way to measure campaign performance. A proper measurement and attribution program will take into consideration the multiple cross channel touch points a consumer has – both internally and externally – on the path to their ultimate conversion. And ideally that conversion isn’t a click, but something more tangible like an email newsletter sign up or a purchase.
Much like all technological fraud, Click Fraud is made up of a race between good marketers looking to accurately measure campaign performance, and bad actors actively looking to take advantages of technology loopholes.
The best that you can do is pay close attention to the website traffic which is driving your conversions, and watch for irregularities which could indicate fraud. Your website log traffic can provide vital clues as to the source and timing of each web visitor; a valuable tool for all of your campaigns (even email!).