Five Steps To Help Business Owners Avoid Click Fraud On Google AdWords


Are you getting too many invalid clicks in your Google AdWords account? How about “valid” clicks, but you know they are actually invalid? Both of these scenarios can be difficult and costly. Fortunately, business owners can take decisive action and improve their AdWord results.

Google AdWords is a great tool to make money. It works amazingly well to connect you with people who are looking for what you sell. Keywords are not as cheap as they were in 2004, which is when I first started. Competitors now are not only starting bidding wars but also clicking on your ads with bots to stunt your performance. I want to tell my story of fighting bots from data centers to protect my Google AdWords budget.

In early March of 2015, I noticed that my Google AdWords bill was too high and ROI had significantly dropped. I wrote to Google support — they said there was nothing unusual. I looked at the keywords in the “search terms” tab and found a number of long-tail keywords that didn’t make any sense.

I wrote to Google again — this time they gave me some credit, which covered, in my estimation, about 50% of fake clicks. ROI was still not there at this rate of fake clicks. So I installed a script on my website to track IPs since Google doesn’t provide that information. I was then able to identify a bunch of IPs, but Google’s IP exclusion limit of 500 was quickly reached. Even after trying geo-targeting, I was still overwhelmed by the number of IPs at the disposal of my competitors.

Google didn’t break any laws. Clicks were there, and they charged per click, so their hands were clean.

Security firm White Ops later shared a study about bot farms, which illegally generate between $3 million and $5 million a day for criminals through these kinds of methods. I was lucky enough that the competitors only targeted about 20% of my keywords, which I ended up turning off.

Here are five steps to help you identify which keywords these bots may be targeting so you can turn them off:

• Install a tracking pixel that will list IP addresses in your AdWords account. A quick online search can help you discover the best tool for you.

• Review the information you obtain for each click, such as IP address, location, referrer URL, tracking link, date and time. Then, export all these IPs for future use.

• Search for IPs pointing to data centers. You can analyze IPs using more sophisticated services by searching “IP to location” on Google.

• Identify which keywords the data centers have targeted.

• Finally, remove these keywords, and hopefully, the bleeding will stop. Be creative; you might see some other patterns.

Keyword diversification is the name of the game. That is, if possible, try not to focus only on a few keywords. Go into many different verticals with many different websites so that the attackers won’t even know it’s you. Finally, business owners should consider utilizing other channels for online marketing — not just AdWords. Think SEO, SMM and other avenues.

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