Stop competitors wasting your ad budget

APRIL 2020

It’s hard enough getting enough digital marketing budget than to have pesky competitors squander it on your behalf. If you’re thinking your competitors not customers are the ones clicking on your ads, there are some tricks you can do to help prevent them from wasting your hard fought for SEM budget.

If you’re running Google text ads (pay-per-click), you’ll be acutely aware of the investment. Depending on your industry, the cost of clicks can be extremely high. So it makes sense that you’ll only want customers, not competitors, clicking through. However, if you’ve been running these ads for any length of time, you’ll come across click fraud – when click bots or competitors click your ads and waste your budget.

According to Juniper Research, ad fraud cost advertisers an estimated US$19 billion in 2018, or $51 million per day, with the figure reaching $44 billion by 2022. With Australia ranking third for ad fraud globally, this is a serious problem that requires every advertisers attention. It is estimated that 1 in 5 clicks (or 20%) are fake.

Click fraud is a black-hat technique of clicking on ads to generate charges for the advertiser. The culprits are almost always competitors or click bots sent into the web by criminal fraud rings.

How Click Fraud Clicks You Out of Budget

Google Ads work by charging for every click. Depending on your industry, these clicks can start at over $100 each. These high costs provide an incentive for unscrupulous competitors – or click bots – to exhaust budgets through fake clicks that ultimately prevent an advertiser from getting a competitive edge. Once an advertiser runs out of money, their ad disappears from Google.

Apart from the obvious financial implications, click fraud also plays havoc with analytics. Since digital marketers use data to heavily influence decisions, especially relating to platform investment, if the data is skewed due to click fraud, you may inadvertently make decisions that turn out to be wrong based on the bad data.

4 ways to help combat click fraud.

You’re not alone, click fraud doesn’t work for Google either. When advertisers experience a poor ROI from Google Ads, they will abandon the platform, assuming it’s “no good”. Google has established sophisticated protocols to combat click fraud, but advertisers need to take precautionary steps to protect their own budgets. Let’s look at the ways you can do this.

1. Block competitors via their IP Address.
Google allows advertisers to manually block IP addresses from clicking ads. If you know your competitors IP Address, you can use it to stop competitors from clicking your ads and wasting your budget.

2. Use a click fraud prevention service.
You can google for click fraud detection service options. Most offer a free trial and it might be enough time for you to determine if it’s a competitors clicking your ads. Two well-known services are “Clickcease” and “Clickguard“.

3. Exclude competitors through tight radius geo targeting.
If you know where your competitors are, set up tight radius geo targeting around their locations. Then you can exclude them. (The downside is you may exclude potential customers too.) If the clicks are coming from overseas from a region where you don’t trade, it’s easy to exclude those locations altogether. Often click farms are based overseas in poorer countries.

4. Use your website logs to do detective work.
You’ll need access to logs that show a visitor’s IP address, click timestamp, action timestamp and user agent. Look for IP addresses that repeatedly reached your website but took no action. You’ll learn more about the visitor through user agent information, such as the device used to access your website. This might give you clues as to whether it’s the same person repeatedly clicking. Once you have an IP address, you can find out who it belongs to. You can also block the IP address (see option 1). And of course you should report it to Google.

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Digital Koalas is an Australian-based team of digital strategists and auditors. We provide digital marketing consultancy, digital strategy development, independent audit plus digital media buying and campaign optimisation services. Everything starts with a conversation. To begin, say hello.

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