Have you ever taken the time to read all of Google’s documentation related to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising? If so, perhaps you’ve run across their page dedicated to invalid traffic. The term ‘invalid traffic’ should strike fear into the heart of any PPC advertiser. It is serious business that should not be ignored.
Most of us get the fact that Google would prefer to discuss ‘invalid traffic’ rather than being more direct. It is normal in a modern culture that softens the language as much as possible. But the truth is that invalid traffic is fraudulent traffic. And if you advertise via PPC, it is something you should dread.
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Google’s Definition of Invalid Traffic
Given that this post began by discussing Google’s invalid traffic page, it might help to know how the search engine giant defines it. Here is the definition taken directly from that page:
“Invalid traffic is any activity that doesn’t come from a real user with genuine interest. It can include accidental clicks caused by intrusive ad implementations, fraudulent clicking by competing advertisers, advertising botnets and more.“
The definition makes it clear that we are talking about click fraud. It is also ad fraud, pay-per-click fraud, Google click fraud, or any other number of terms you care to use. The common thread here is fraud.
Invalid Traffic Depletes Marketing Budgets
The biggest danger of invalid traffic, according to the makers of Fraud Blocker, is the risk of having your marketing budget depleted. Remember that Google’s definition refers to traffic that doesn’t come from a real user with a genuine interest in buying something.
A click bot is a piece of software programmed to seek out and click on ads. The click bot is not a genuine customer looking for goods and services. Likewise, click farms employ scores of low paid workers to sit at computers all day clicking on ads. They also have no intention of buying anything.
Nonetheless, every click results in a charge to the advertiser. That is how PPC works. You pay for every click. So imagine running a set of PPC ads getting lots of clicks. You think your ads are doing well. But the majority of those clicks are invalid, meaning that you are spending money on nothing. Your ad spend is not generating traffic from people who might actually buy something.
Why Fraudsters Do It
Perhaps you’re wondering why fraudsters would do this sort of thing. There are two primary motivations: money and competition. Let us start with the money aspect.
The majority of individuals who perpetrate PPC click fraud are in it for the money. They set up ad publishing networks designed to lure in unsuspecting advertisers. They help their advertisers create and place ads. Then they spring into action, generating as much invalid traffic as they can. Every click represents money in their pocket.
The other motivation is competition. This scenario involves one company perpetrating click fraud against an industry competitor. The goal is to harm the other company by depleting its marketing budget, thereby making it more difficult for that company to compete with the perpetrator.
Monitor and Prevent
Let us close this post by talking about a little monitoring and prevention. Fraud Blocker is just one of many companies that offer click fraud prevention software and monitoring services. You may not be able to stop invalid traffic completely, but you can monitor for it and put a stop to it whenever it’s discovered.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s true when it comes to invalid traffic. The more of it you can prevent, the better.