Making a stand against targeting bots: What is Click Fraud and How Can You Avoid It?

Making a stand against targeting bots: What is Click Fraud and How Can You Avoid It?

Malware, often known as malicious code, is software that is designed to accomplish a certain goal during a cyberattack or infiltration. Most of the time, the most prevalent form of it is intended to spy on or report sensitive information back to its source. Perhaps it is gathering passwords and account information and relaying that information to a third party. Perhaps it is simply tracking keystrokes and keeping an eye on what you are doing while you explore the web.

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One thing you don’t hear about very often, though, is how these harmful technologies are used to trick people into clicking on advertisements. Yes, those banner and brand advertisements that you see splattered all over websites and search engines. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Why would a hacker go to such lengths to construct a software program that does nothing more than click on advertisements?

The answer is monetary compensation.

What Is Click Fraud and How Does It Work?

This is a relatively new type of attack, owing in part to the proliferation of PPC (pay-per-click) and performance-based advertising. This type of fraud is referred to as “click fraud,” and, shockingly, it has grown into a very profitable industry, not just in the shadowy world but also in the real world. According to paid advertising specialists, one of every five purchased clicks occurred fraudulently during the month of January 2017.

A competitor, for example, may purposefully click on advertisements or promotions in order to increase the marketing costs of a competitor. It doesn’t take long for a competitor to inflate the cost of running an advertisement while earning little or no revenue for the company that runs it.

You see, pages and websites that display performance-based advertisements earn more money for higher click rates, regardless of whether the clicks are generated by humans or by someone else. The associated expenses of an advertisement increase in proportion to the amount of exposure it receives, meaning that the more people who see it, the more expensive it is. In general, larger click counts are associated with higher exposure ratings, though this varies depending on the advertisement. No matter how unethical it may appear, someone who has a vendetta against your company could undoubtedly cause significant damage merely by using an automated instrument, referred to as a “bot.”…

What is the source of the problem with bots?

Click fraud is often used for one of two reasons: to obtain information or to steal money. Attempting to sabotage the competition by increasing the cost of performance advertising and/or exceeding budget caps early in the business day or week

Excessive revenue is generated by clicking on performance advertisements on a consistent basis. Interaction, engagement, or “clicks” with various advertisements, promotions, and media are required on a constant basis in both cases. This is a process that is better done in bulk rather than one that requires someone to sit at their computer all day long clicking on the same advertisement over and over. As a result, it is time-consuming.

As a result, developers have devised automated tools or systems to perform the necessary tasks for them. In some areas, this is referred to as a macro, which is a one-of-a-kind extension or tool that is designed to work independently and without interruption. Something like sending the identical email hundreds of times to an endless stream of recipients would be an example of this. Alternatively, in the instance of click fraud, users interact with the same advertisements and media again and over again in order to increase the cost or money gained.

This is when the use of bots comes in handy. Not all bots are employed for malicious purposes. In reality, several are intended to make our lives easier and more enjoyable—particularly in the marketing field. They have the ability to automate or accelerate arduous and time-consuming tasks that would otherwise consume the majority of our working days. A script can be used in conjunction with your ad campaign to suspend spending after you reach a certain level or increase bids when a particular term is performing particularly well. Bots can also be used to determine when text has been copied and pasted from another source.

In advertising, there are excellent bots and poor bots.

Unfortunately, they can also be twisted and utilized for more nefarious purposes than they were intended. The cost of click fraud or bots to advertisers is estimated to be more than $11 billion per year on average. A significant amount of money has been lost, with little benefit to anyone other than the inventors or sources of these tools. It is clear that we, the marketing and advertising sector, have a problem and that we must stop wasting money on bots.

If you had to guess, which industry do you believe is the most adversely affected by bot traffic? Fake traffic accounts for almost 22% of all traffic, which is primarily in the finance industry.

There are two types of click fraud.

Click fraud is the deliberate interaction with or clicking on pay-per-click (PPC) and performance-based advertisements. Many advertisers warn you that clicking your own advertising for the aim of driving up performance is a punishable infraction that can result in expulsion. But there are numerous parties who are able to get around this problem because of contemporary automation systems, which they do not mention in their article, though. Automatic and manual click fraud, on the other hand, are two completely different types of click fraud.

Manual Click Fraud vs. Automatic Click Fraud

Automatic, as the name implies, is based on the use of an automated system or tool, such as a bot. Manual click fraud is carried out by human hands actively clicking on an element or performance ad in order to gain access to information. For example, when an affiliate or brand actively demands that visitors click on ad links in order to “support their business or channel” and make money, this is an excellent example. This is detrimental to advertising for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is dishonest.

Automatic click fraud is predicated on the use of an automated system or instrument, such as a bot, to generate fraudulent clicks. Manual click fraud is carried out by human hands working to actively click on an element in order to get access to the element.

Then there are neutral parties, who are commonly referred to as “click farms,” which serve to bridge the gap between the two categories of advertisers. A click farm is nothing more than a large labor force or team of people who have been engaged solely to (you guessed it) click on links in order to increase traffic and sales figures. In part, it is regarded both because the workers are “automated” in the sense that they function in a manner similar to that of an assembly line system.

As previously noted, competitors’ brands or organizations can conduct click fraud campaigns to harm your business, marketing strategies, or bottom line by deceiving customers into clicking on their advertisements.

This can be accomplished in one of two ways. First and foremost, clicking on your PPC or performance advertisements increases the cost of your campaign, resulting in budget concerns. It is hoped that this will gradually corrupt or damage your brand to the point where your prospective status in the market is reduced or eliminated.

Second, the purpose is to raise the cost-per-click (CPC), making it more difficult for you to afford the campaign and jeopardizing your prospects of making progress and improving your ranking. Furthermore, it eliminates a marketing solution for you that would otherwise be advantageous – even if only in a minor degree.

What Can I Do to Avoid Click Fraud?

Preventing click fraud is not as difficult as it may appear at first glance. In truth, there are some things you can do, including metrics you can pay attention to, in order to rapidly identify an attack on your business or campaign, which will help you respond more swiftly. Maintain your composure and take these simple actions to reduce or entirely eliminate fraudulent click behaviors on your campaign’s landing page.

Recognize the presence of bots.

The first and most important step has always been and will continue to be identifying the bots or other offending parties. As with a data breach, the sooner you identify the problem, close the hole, and take steps to safeguard yourself, the more likely it is that you will be able to minimize or avoid further damage. Some things to keep an eye out for are as follows:

  • CTR (click-through-rates) for your campaigns that are significantly higher than average
  • In comparison to traffic volume, engagement metrics such as low time on site, short average session times, and exceptionally high bounce rates have been underwhelming.
  • Sudden increases in traffic, particularly during certain hours or periods of the day when you would not expect to see them, are common.
  • When compared to the rest of your site, pages using PPC media receive much more traffic.

There is no correlation between increased inbound traffic and increased advertising prices, as you are paying exorbitant fees for little to no return. In certain cases, however, these patterns are not immediately apparent or easy to discern — particularly when working with hundreds, if not thousands, of data quality points. Modern detecting tools come into play in situations like this. There are a range of malware, bot, botnet, and sniffer detection technologies available that can reliably identify and indicate potentially malicious activity.

Disable targeting bots by utilizing filters, scripts, and honeypots to prevent them from executing their attacks.

A captcha, as infuriating as it may be, was created solely to prevent bots and automated systems from gaining access to a website. The problem is that they can cause tremendous aggravation for your users and detract from what would otherwise be a positive experience. That’s why it’s a good idea to employ a honeypot field, which is a strategy that is comparable to but not as obvious as

You can build an invisible field that regular human users will not be able to see by combining CSS and JavaScript. Spambots and targeted bots, on the other hand, will make the mistake of filling in this section and quickly inform you of what they’re planning.

Using filters and scripts, you may also prevent various sites, domains, and people from causing disruptions in your traffic, referral data, and revenue. Find any identifying or associated information, and then utilize a mix of online searches, WHOIS data, and other methods to identify domains or portals that should be excluded from your analytics data collection and analysis.

Carry out your own metric auditing.

As is true of most management tactics, you’ll want to spend some time utilizing your own intuition to check on the analytics and metrics that are being used. Are there any anomalous spikes or patterns that have caught your attention? You might be able to identify one or two trends that don’t make any sense. Is it true that costs are suddenly soaring to levels never before seen while revenue remains stable or even declines?

With your job and a supportive team, you have the opportunity to become involved and learn the ins and outs of these systems first-hand. More familiarity with what happens on a regular basis and why it happens will enable you to recognize a traffic or performance problem sooner rather than later.

Identify and target niche sites as well as demographics

Try to avoid targeting large or sweeping audiences that have the potential to walk away frequently, no matter how appealing the prospect may appear to be. To put it another way, refrain from targeting large groups of people. As a substitute, stick with the audience and clients you are most familiar with and who you know will remain loyal and interested in what you have to offer. It goes without saying that understanding this information is essential to operating a successful marketing campaign, which is another area in which having a proper DMP in place would be beneficial to you.

Ad placements should be scrutinized more closely.

It appears to be pointless because you have most likely already spent a significant amount of time developing and selecting an ideal ad placement on your website. The intention was most likely to maximize performance and income, which is exactly what should have been done. However, it is also vital to consider how exposed it is to any bots or automated technologies that may float around your site.

In the words of White Ops, an online fraud detection organization, a partner’s, brand’s, or company’s “reputation” is no longer a suitable “benchmark for predicting bot traffic” in the digital age. Instead, it is necessary to employ “technology to validate all assumptions,” as the phrase goes. This implies that no matter how long you’ve been in business, you’re unlikely to be familiar with the best places to post your advertisements. The only way to find out is through the use of technology, modern measurements, and customer data.

Reducing the amount of money spent on advertising by bots in the real world

At least in principle, all of this is easier said than done. The ultimate goal is to reduce the expenditure and costs associated with bots and automated systems while simultaneously enhancing or maintaining the performance of genuine clicks and engagements on the website. Consequently, the question becomes: Is something like this even achievable in the real world today?

Yes, in fact, it is. Procter & Gamble recently revealed a reduction in their advertising spending budget, resulting in a savings of more than $100 million in marketing expenses. It was their intention all along to stay away from suspected “bot” traffic and questionable content, but they soon discovered that the adjustment had little to no effect on their business operations. This demonstrated that their digital advertising effort — or at least the ads in question — was mainly ineffectual in the first place. Indirectly, it reduced the amount of money spent on bots.

If you didn’t already know, P & G is made up of significant brands such as Crest, Tide, Bounty, Pampers, and many others. Once again, this corporation made the decision to go it alone, assuming full responsibility for the outcome. Fortunately, it was successful.

Even if they are frequently employed across a variety of fields and organizations, it is no secret that some widely utilized methods, tactics, or policies can be detrimental to a particular business or group. Another example is the employment of bots and automated technologies in the advertising industry, which have been utilized to cause mayhem and confusion in the industry. A swarm of highly effective and aggressive bots can completely destroy months and months of metrics or client data in a single, coordinated attack.

It is not only important to secure your income streams and advertising budgets, but it is also important to be cautious about how bots are being utilized to damage your highly valuable data. When faced with flagrant situations like this, the only response that makes any sense is to raise awareness, share knowledge, and share experience with others. That involves getting a handle on what these dangerous tools are, how they are used, and how to recognize them as soon as possible rather than later.