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September 1, 2020

What is Click Fraud & How to Prevent it in Google Ads

by Harry Phillips

Back in April of 2020, several of our clients were going into their key selling periods which meant Google Ads budgets were increasing dramatically over the next few months.

As an agency, we’ve always been aware of click fraud and that it was happening, but we thought the scale would be so small that it would never affect the bottom line profitability of our campaigns – oh how we were wrong.

With the increased budgets in mind, we knew that the amount of fraudulent activity was bound to also increase so we thought this would be the perfect time to implement a PPC click fraud service.

What is Click Fraud?

Firstly, let’s uncover what the nasty business of click fraud actually is.

‘Click Fraud’ is a legitimate type of fraud that happens when a person, bot or automated script pretends to be a genuine user and clicks on a pay-per-click (PPC) advert without any actual intent or interest, costing the advertiser money for nothing.

Who commits click fraud?

  • Competitors: One of the most common and widely-known forms of click fraud. Your competitor(s) will click on your PPC ads to increase your costs in an attempt to drive you out of the market to benefit their own business over yours.
  • Average users: This includes you and me. Sometimes you might not be paying full attention and click on an ad that you didn’t intend to. Unfortunately, there is nothing that advertisers can do about this, it’s just an accepted part of PPC.
  • Bots and click farms: Automated software and scripts that have been created with the intent of dealing damage to businesses across the world in the form of simulating fraudulent clicks on ads, raising the costs of advertising.

In some of the more competitive industries that have very a high average cost-per-click (upwards of £100 per click), this can be detrimental to the overall performance of PPC and the business.

Any type of fraudulent activity negatively affects PPC performance by wasting precious ad spend and impacting metrics such as conversion rate, ROAS (return on ad spend) and CPA (cost-per-acquisition).

How to stop Click Fraud

Unsure on how to stop click fraud within your PPC campaigns? The quickest and easiest way is to use a ‘Click Fraud Detection’ software such as PPC Protect.

But, before paying for a service, it’s worth testing the waters first. Try our three simple steps:

  1. Monitor PPC performance
  2. Advertise only where necessary
  3. Check if Google has already reported any for you

1. Monitor PPC performance

Identify key metrics to monitor within your PPC account and reports. If you’ve been running PPC for a while, you will have a wealth of data to work with and to help identify trends.

Key metrics to look at are:

  • Conversion rate
  • CTR (click-through rate)
  • Bounce rate
  • Average time on page
  • Pages per session
  • IP addresses

We’d recommend keeping a close eye on the relationship between CTR and conversion rate.

If your CTR is high but you’ve noticed a decline in conversion rate, it may be because irrelevant clicks are being driven by fraudulent users.

2. Advertise only where necessary

When reviewing historical data of fraudulent clicks, it has shown that a large portion comes from countries that tend to have lower labour rates, with the Philippines and Bangladesh topping the list.

Review your campaign settings and location reports to see exactly which countries your ads are showing. We’ve got a blog fully explaining location targeting settings in Google Ads, check it out if needed.

3. Check if Google has already reported any for you

Google Ads does already monitor fraudulent clicks, just not as well as some third-party click fraud prevention services.

They label them as ‘Invalid Clicks’ and within Google Ads, you can see whether your campaigns have received any by applying the invalid clicks column metric.

You can also see if Google has refunded you for invalid clicks under the billing and payments section of your account.

See Google’s article on Invalid Clicks to get the full details.

What we use to stop Click Fraud

With the large-scale budgets we were set to spend for several of our clients back in April, we partnered with click fraud detection service providers, PPC Protect, to abolish fraudulent activity across our clients’ accounts.

The software

“PPC Protect is an entirely automated click fraud prevention solution. Existing adtech driven solutions are using simplistic IP analysis, static defined rules and small scale sampling – but they aren’t working. That’s why we’ve built the first cybersecurity driven solution to the industry’s $25bn problem. We detect click fraud automatically at scale with thousands of data points, all analysed in real time, and backed up with our advanced self-learning algorithms.”

On average, using the software achieves:

  • 97% decrease in bot clicks
  • 27% increase in traffic quality
  • 92% decrease in competitor clicks
  • Average platform ROI of 13x

The results

The most important bit, how much money did we actually save by using PPC Protect?

Between April – May 2020, just two months, a single client of ours saved £2,152.

We were astonished.

By having this software in place, our client saved a whopping £2,152 which would have been otherwise thrown away by scammers.

This had an instant effect on the overall performance of PPC and gave us additional ad spend budget to use towards campaigns in order to drive additional revenue.


The pricing for the platform varies, depending on how much ad spend you are looking to protect.

Protecting up to £10,000 starts at £40 per month. This includes unlimited clicks and domains, auto-traffic filtering and more.

For the cost it is and the results it gets, this is a service that deserves being shouted about.

If you’re curious whether you are being hit by click fraud, PPC Protect offers a free trial for all users so it’s definitely worth a go.

For us, it turned out to be an incredible addition to our offering as an agency and helped save our clients thousands.

See the full pricing plans for PPC Protect and/or start a free trial.

Written by Harry Phillips
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