As a content creator in the SEO space, I have spoken to a lot of small business owners who wanted to take a look at pay-per-click (PPC) advertising but were afraid to do so. They were paranoid that any attempts to undertake a PPC ad campaign would lead to them being victimized by click fraud. Their fears are completely justified. However, those fears should not keep business owners away from PPC.

PPC advertising is easily the most utilized form of advertising on the web. One of its big advantages is a payment structure that allows advertisers greater control over their ad spend. After all, advertisers only pay when people actually click on their ads. PPC can be a cost-effective way to reach a targeted audience with the smallest possible investment.

Click Fraud Basics

Click fraud is not an especially complicated crime. It is pretty easy to pull off if you have a basic understanding of how PPC advertising works. Basic click fraud examples include:

  • Click Bots – Automated scripts that continuously seek out ads and click on them.
  • Click Farms – Businesses that employ low-paid workers to click ads all day.
  • Ad Stacking – Stacking multiple ads on top of one another so that clicking one clicks them all.
  • Hidden Ads – Deploying tiny ads that cannot be seen but are still clicked as a person moves around a website.

It is clear that criminals intent on perpetrating click fraud have lots of ways to do it. Some of their operations are pretty sophisticated. But click fraud isn’t unstoppable; there are ways to detect it. There are also ways to prevent it.

Sticking With Reputable Publishers

One of the first things every small business owner should do is make a commitment to sticking with reputable publishers. Google Ads is the clear leader here, and Google itself has taken significant steps in recent years to root out click fraud. That wasn’t always the case, by the way. For a long time, Google took heat for not doing enough to fight fraud.

These days, Google has advanced algorithms capable of detecting and filtering invalid clicks before they ever make it through. Advertisers are never charged. But algorithms are not foolproof. So Google also has a human Ad Traffic Quality Team tasked with manual analysis of ad data. The team removes invalid clicks from an advertiser’s account before that advertiser is charged.

And Fraud Protection Software

Committing to advertising only with reputable publishers is a good first step. But no publisher is perfect. It is still possible for scammers to slip their way through. So the next step is to invest in ad fraud protection software and/or service. A good example is Fraud Blocker.

Fraud Blocker’s creators say good ad fraud protection monitors and analyzes a ton of data including IP addresses, click timestamps, action timestamps, and user agents. If their automated analysis detects any anomalies, suspicious activity is flagged. The advertiser can then investigate further as to whether click fraud is taking place.

Advertisers can also monitor and analyze their data. Like Google has a human team, advertisers should have someone within their ranks who can look at data manually. A manual analysis acts as a failsafe just in case the ad fraud protection package misses something.

Yes, click fraud is real. Yes, it costs advertisers billions of dollars annually. But small businesses can fight back with software, ad fraud protection service, and their own data analysis. There is no need to let fear keep businesses away from what is arguably the most cost-effective way to advertise online.