Just as you finally start to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of ad publishing, from creating engaging content to monetizing ads the right way, a bunch of spammers and bots can destroy all of your hard work. Tracking metrics is no easy feat, yet your company depends on those metrics in order to establish the most profitable next steps. These metrics can be completely thrown out the window when bots utilize click spam to inflate your analytics.
But what is click spam, exactly? How can user-made bots and fake accounts surpass verification measures and misuse ads by clicking incessantly on different parts of your webpage? What does this mean for GDPR and other ad-blocking legislatures? Below, our OKO team will answer all of these questions and more so you can quickly identify and eliminate spam clicking on your site.
What is Click Spam?
Anyone who has used a computer in the last two decades knows all too well what spam looks like. If you are like many of our ad publishing clients, then you have probably conjured up images of email notifications and pop-ups, all soliciting unwarranted information and trying to get you to click on something. Some spam can even come in the form of a private message over social media.
One of the worst forms of spamming is known as click spamming, which can be a heavy detriment to your ad campaigns. Click Spam is a type of ad fraud where fraudsters use bots or humans to click on ads. By essentially “hacking into” paid ads, bots and automated users will repeatedly click on ads until their budget has been completely drained. These bots may also be attempting to click multiple times in order to win a prize, access a discount, or steal information that is meant for real users to have.
Paid Ad Vs. Organic Click Spam
Unfortunately, paid ads aren’t the only targets of click spammers. Even organic search results can be hijacked by bots looking to send a website’s ad standing with Google down the tubes. Organic spam bots can show up on links shared through social media or on non-paid search results through Google.
The next big question is: Who is doing all of this clicking, and why?
The “Who” and “Why” of Spam Clicking
There are a lot of reasons why catching the people behind these automatic spamming acts can be easier said than done. These spammers will often impersonate a real, living person, hacking into their system to make it seem like that individual is performing all those clicks. This anonymous identity theft is even further removed from the individuals responsible as these hackers will typically create bots that do their dirty work for them.
But what’s more important is the why, rather than the who. Paid advertising campaigns rake in some of the biggest profits the online marketing world has ever seen year after year, so it’s no wonder that random Internet users are trying to reach into the pot of gold for themselves. In fact, Google itself reported that the average $1 ad has a $1.50 return on investment or ROI. There is real money to be made in advertising, which is why the less honest folks are always trying to get their hands on it.
Additionally, some of the most well-known motives for spam clicking include:
Dishonest Competition. Not every spammer out there simply wants to take your money. They may be trying to tank your ads and destroy your campaign to help the competition get a leg up on you. By draining the budget you have for your ads before you have the chance to retaliate, spammers can successfully ensure that their preferred brand is all that’s left to show to potential customers.
Money Promises. The very sad truth of the matter is that while spam clicking is considered a fraud and is highly illegal, it is very easy for anonymous bots to get away with it. That makes it an easy method of making money for those looking to make a quick buck – whether or not that means coming by the money honestly.
The Ability to Troll. Some people aren’t out to get your money or to stifle your efforts in favor of the competition; some folks simply want to cause chaos. Someone may have a personal slight against your website or simply wants to wreak havoc and see how much they can get away with before they are stopped.
It is more important now than ever to have a secure ad monetization strategy with unlimited support against spam attacks. Since the ability to accurately measure ad impressions is crucial to determining the success of the overall ad campaign – as well as how much you will profit from its completion – you must ensure that there is no possibility of your numerous clicks being fake.
Identifying Click Spam Quickly
What is click spam and how do you identify it before it’s too late? One of the major ways to identify click spam is by studying your metrics closely. If one or multiple specific ads suddenly have a huge influx of impressions, or if there is suddenly a huge number of clicks from a single link, you should raise some red flags. Any kind of strange behavior should be reported immediately, no matter how insignificant it might seem.
Not all click spamming comes from external sources. Some users (or the bots they create) will wait until they are actually on your website before deploying their spam clicking tactics. That is why both front and back-end screening measures should be implemented for metrics to more easily capture strange activity in the future. By looking at heat maps and other types of analytics, you can start to identify problem areas or locations that might be serving as a point of attack.
Stop Malicious Clicking With Proactive Cybersecurity
If you are a publisher relying entirely on a third-party IT service for your security, you may not be getting the wide range of safety your website deserves. Spam clicks can come from many external or internal locations, making it necessary to implement a dynamic series of measures to keep all risks at bay.
Now that you no longer wonder the question, what is click spam, you can move toward solving the issue. But how? Major publishing platforms such as Google AdSense are often your best bet at steering clear of spam attacks as their cookie requirements are unmatched by any other. And as a Google Certified Publishing Partner, we raise the standards of excellence even higher to ensure that your website and ad campaigns are performing exactly the way you’ve designed them. Get in touch with OKO ad management specialists by reaching out to us online or visiting one of our in-person office locations for an initial consultation.
Interested in learning more? Learn about open bidding and header bidding and Google AdX from our team of experts.