Click fraud on PPC content network campaigns hits 28 percent
By Hallie Janssen
Click Forensics, a click quality monitoring firm, released its quarterly Click Fraud Indexearlier this month and reported that one in four clicks on ads running on content networks like Google’s AdSense and the Yahoo Publisher Network was fraudulent. The report is based on stats from more than 4,000 online advertisers, both from the B2B and B2C industries. The index shows that overall click fraud was up only 1% from Q2 2007 and only 3% from the same quarter in 2006, bringing overall click fraud to 16%. The biggest increase was from clicks coming from the content networks; 28% of clicks are fraudulent, which is an increase of almost 10% since 2006.
So what’s an advertiser to do with this information? Turn off all content campaigns? Not necessarily. Content campaigns can bring you valuable brand exposure that the search network cannot. By following a few simple rules when setting up your PPC campaigns, you can avoid being part of this growing trend.
Before making any changes to your campaigns, you should thoroughly assess your current campaigns and site analytics to set a baseline. You should note where traffic is coming from (referring domains and URLs) and how that traffic is behaving on your site. Visitors that are referred from sites that you haven’t heard of, that bounce immediately off your landing pages, are a clear sign that you need to tweak your campaigns. You can also run a few reports in Google AdWords that will tell you how many invalid clicksyou received and weren’t charged for. You can also run a placement performance report that will tell you where your ads are placed and how they are performing. Since 60% of traffic from parked domains and made-for-ad-sites was click fraud, it’s important to know where your ads are being shown.
After determining your baseline, the next step is to set up dedicated content-only campaigns centered on keyword themes. While it’s true that the engines don’t penalize campaigns based on content network performance such as click through rates, it’s still a best practice when combating click fraud and even running a good overall campaign. And in these dedicated campaigns, it’s important to have related keywords. Don’t just lump all your keywords in one ad group or campaign. Since the PPC engines assign a theme based on the ad group, you’ll want to make sure your keywords are tightly-knit and allow the engines to match your ad with highly relevant content. It’s your job to tell the engines where to show your ad.
Step three is to further target your campaigns by filtering traffic based on geographic location. Click Forensics reports that the greatest percentage of click fraud originated in France, China, and Germany. Fraudulent clicks from the US were surprisingly low, however our neighbors above and below were pretty high. Be sure your ads are showing in the countries you want traffic from and then monitor the response rates closely to determine any spikes that might represent fraudulent traffic.
Once you’ve set up dedicated content campaigns targeted geographically, the next step is to filter your traffic even further by adding negative keywords at the campaign and ad group levels. This step isn’t so much about click fraud, but just good overall campaign management. So if you only sell tennis shoes and not tennis rackets, you should add in “rackets” as a negative keyword which will keep your ad from showing when a user searches for a tennis racket.
Last step is to filter and qualify your clicks before they happen by creating targeted ads. Are you an enterprise software solution that costs over a million? Then you need to filter your clicks by including words like “enterprise” in the ad. Tell the user before the click that they aren’t your target market and that your price might be too high for them.
Then “wash, rinse, and repeat” the steps when creating new campaigns and refining old ones. You should also consider book marking the site exclusion tool in Google, which will allow you to exclude sites that aren’t performing. You can even block competitors from seeing your ads by blocking their IP address via the IP exclusion tool; just make sure the addresses are correct and not a shared network. If you are still not seeing success from your content campaigns, then you might want to consider a cost per action campaigninstead. I’m not recommending that you bail from the content network, however if you’ve done all that you can to filter then it might just be for the best.
By implementing the recommendations above, you can minimize the probability of becoming just another click fraud statistic.