What is click fraud and how does it happen?

What is click fraud and how does it happen?

It is possible to commit click fraud by impersonating a legitimate visitor to a website and clicking on an ad, a button, or some other sort of hyperlink. In order to deceive a platform or service into believing that legitimate users are interacting with a webpage, advertisement, or application, click fraud must be performed on the platform or service.

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Click fraud is being committed by a click bot.

This type of fraud occurs on a huge scale most of the time; each link is visited many times, rather than just once, and typically multiple URLs are targeted. Click fraudsters frequently utilize bots to automate this process, which “click” on a given link again and over again. Bots account for around 50% of all Internet traffic, with as many as 20% of websites that sell advertisements being viewed exclusively by fraudulent click bots*.

Click fraud might be motivated by a multitude of factors. The majority of the time, especially in the case of ad fraud, the fraudsters are out for financial benefit. In some cases, businesses employ click fraud to harm their competitors’ advertising budgets by targeting their PPC (or “pay per click”) advertisements with false clicks. Click fraud could also have ideological reasons — for example, artificial likes or upvotes to a post to make particular feelings appear more popular than they actually are – and could be used to further political agendas. Cyber thieves can also use click fraud to raise the ranking of a malicious webpage in search results, giving the impression that the webpage is authentic.

Types of click fraud that are commonly seen

Ad fraud is an example of click fraud: when a website operator pushes false clicks on PPC display ads on their own website, this is known as ad fraud. Click fraud perpetrators can build up webpages that display PPC advertisements, and then utilize click bots to “click” on the advertisements displayed on those webpages. The ad network is required to compensate the website operator for each click (the scammer). The greater the number of fraudulent clicks, the greater the amount of money the ad network must pay the website if the fraud goes undetected.

Ad fraud can also take the form of a financial attack on the firm that is paying for the advertisements. In such a case, scammers target PPC advertisements on a website that they do not control. It is not the scammer’s intention to generate money from the clicks, but the targeted firm must pay the ad network for each click, which results in a financial loss for them.

When someone attempts to manipulate search engine results by artificially increasing the click through rate, this is referred to as click fraud. The term “click through rate” refers to the percentage of people who click on a certain link out of all the total number of visitors to a page. A ranking factor taken into consideration by search engines such as Google is click through rate, however it is unclear how significant a role it is. According to this scenario, the purpose of click fraud is to improve the click through rate of a webpage, hence raising the page’s search engine ranking and driving more genuine people to visit it.

What is a click bot, and how does it work?

A click bot is a computer software that has been programmed to commit click fraud. The most basic click bots will simply access a webpage and click on the link that is wanted. Click bots that are well-designed will be programmed to perform actions that a genuine user would perform as well – mouse movements, unpredictable pauses before performing an action, varying the timing between each click, and so on. This way, the scammer who created the bot aims to fool legitimate users into thinking that the bot’s clicks are coming from them.

The employment of bots deployed on several devices is common in click fraud campaigns due to the fact that hundreds or thousands of clicks from a single device would immediately appear suspect. Because each of these devices has a unique IP address, it appears as though each click is coming from a different user. A botnet is a network of devices in which each device runs a copy of a bot, and which is referred to as such.

It is possible to have thousands or even millions of bots installed on a single user device through the usage of botnets. Because of malware infections, the vast majority of the time, these botnet click bots are running on consumers’ devices without their knowledge. Click fraud has been perpetrated by a number of large, well-known botnets – for example, “Clickbot.A” was a click fraud botnet that infected over 100,000 user workstations.

Click fraud does not necessitate the use of botnets; a single bot can be used to spread illicit clicks. Bot traffic from from a single machine, on the other hand, is much easier to detect and block. It is possible that the web server will simply stop serving that IP address.

Is it always the case that bots are responsible for click fraud?

While bots are routinely employed to perpetrate click fraud, it is also possible for low-paid human workers to engage in the practice. A group of such workers is referred to as a “click farm,” and click farms are frequently based in locations where salaries are relatively low, such as developing countries, in order to maximize profits.

Worker from a click farm will be assigned to visit specific webpages and click on designated links in order to artificially inflate click through rates or traffic totals for such webpages. They can also be active on social media networks, “liking” specific posts or sites in order to increase their exposure.

From the standpoint of a scammer, the advantage of using a click farm is that the conduct of the human click farm workers is more likely than the behavior of a bot to convincingly impersonate a legitimate user’s activity. The disadvantage of employing a click farm is that it is significantly less efficient for fraudsters and significantly more resource costly.

Considering that most click fraud artists do not have access to thousands or hundreds of human workers, writing a few lines of code and creating click bots is a far simpler process for them. For this reason, bot management is extremely vital for businesses wishing to avoid click fraud.

What is the financial toll that click fraud has on businesses?

Click fraud costs ad networks billions of dollars every year – advertisers are believed to have lost $19 billion in 2018 alone as a result of click fraud. Using a botnet or hijacked IP addresses, scammers can conduct click fraud on a huge scale: in one long-running scam that was revealed in late 2018, a single criminal organization made more than $29 million through ad fraud.

Additionally, organizations that run pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns may find themselves obligated to pay for fraudulent clicks that are generated by software bots. According to one source, advertisers suffered a $7.2 billion loss due to ad fraud in 2016.

What is the impact of click fraud on website analytics?

Click fraud can have a negative impact on website metrics. The activities of bots that interact with a web site are logged and stored with the data of that property. Therefore, the individuals in charge of the website are unable to determine the true impact of a display advertisement or to assess the true behavior of legitimate users. For businesses that want to know how well their content is engaging an audience, or who want precise information on traffic and user behavior on their website, this is an issue.

Any website, application, or API that is accessible via the Internet must have a policy in place for dealing with bot activity. Bots can have a detrimental impact on customer experiences and cause firms to lose money if they are not given the tools to prevent unwanted bot traffic such as click fraud.

What is the mechanism by which click fraud protection works?

Some advertisers have automatic detection algorithms in place to block clicks that are most likely from bots — Google, for example, utilizes machine learning to filter out ads-related behavior from bots, in addition to a manual review process, to identify and block bot clicks.