Should Self-Employed Small Business Owners Worry About Click Fraud?

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Should Self-Employed Small Business Owners Worry About Click Fraud?

Click fraud is a term that you may or may not have heard before. It relates to the use of automated systems that emulate real users clicking on PPC (pay per click) ads, such as Google or Amazon ads. While many people think that this type of thing is really only a concern for big businesses with huge advertising campaigns, and that nobody would target a small business in this way, click fraud is actually a big concern for anyone who uses PPC advertising. Here, we look at why this is, and what you can do to make sure you don't become a victim.

Why Do People Commit Click Fraud Against Small Advertisers?
It may seem like there is nothing to be gained by making it look like many more clicks have been made on a PPC ad than there actually were from real interested customers. After all, it seems on the face of it that all it really does is cost the advertiser money, and mess up their metrics for their advertising campaign. Well, that is actually one of the first reasons why this can happen to small businesses - it can be carried out as a black hat means of bringing down competitors. This happens more than you might think in local business sectors like local plumbing, beauty salons, and home improvement type businesses.

Where there is usually a fairly high cost per click for these types of companies who rely on being able to advertise locally in response to searches, and also high competition, it is not uncommon for unscrupulous people to hire click farms to affect their competitors' online PPC ad campaigns. There can also be other SEO advantages to causing click fraud issues for businesses in a sector that someone fraudulent is trying to compete in, as well as it being used as a way to manipulate the cost of advertising with certain keywords.

What Happens When You Receive Fake Clicks?
The most obvious effect of getting fake clicks on your ad campaign is that it will cost you money. How much will depend on what you are bidding on your ads in the first place, which will vary by your sector and how competitive the keywords you target are, along with how many fake clicks you are getting. This can add up very rapidly, and every time your budget is being used to pay for clicks that don't come from people who are genuinely interested in checking out what you have to offer, you are also losing the opportunity to pay for a real click. Your budget, after all, is not infinite.

The other issue with click fraud is that it makes all of the data you gather from your PPC campaign meaningless in terms of working out things like the conversion rates of different ads. Many businesses do things like AB testing to see which ads are most effective at getting customers to click, and then which are best at leading to a sale or inquiry. If the clicks on your ads are not from real people, but from bots, then you can never really know what the effectiveness of your ads is. Much of marketing is about tweaking things like your ad presentation, wording and your keywords to find the most effective mix, and click fraud robs you of the ability to do this.

As well as making your analysis of the effectiveness of individual ads so badly skewed that it is meaningless, being the target of click fraud also means that you won't be able to work out the return on investment you are getting from using PPC advertising in general. This includes planning your ad budgets for the future, and how much you can expect to spend to get a certain amount of new business.

PPC Is Still Worth Doing!
With all of these things associated with click fraud, you can probably see just how detrimental it is to your business to do PPC advertising without safeguarding yourself. Of course, this doesn't mean you should avoid doing this kind of advertising in the first place. PPC advertising can be one of the most cost-effective ways to get your business seen whether you are looking for customers locally or globally. It can also be one of the easiest to analyze, as long as your clicks are genuinely representing the level of interest your ads are generating. What you need to do, is find a service that will protect you from becoming the victim of click fraud while you are running your campaigns.

What Can You Do?
Preventing click fraud involves using a service that employs AI that is more sophisticated than the AI the click farms use, to tell apart the real and the fake clicks and block the fake ones. There is a balance to this that is very important - block real customers and you lose business, so you don't want a trigger-happy service, but any fake clicks allowed through directly cost you money and make the ROI on your advertising impossible to truly calculate. This means you need to find a service that is appropriate for your industry, and for the kind of PPC advertising you are doing.

How Does Click Fraud Prevention Work?
Click fraud prevention systems do an analysis of information available about each click and use powerful AI to identify when the click fits the patterns of a fraudulent one, blocking those clicks from going through. A good click fraud prevention system will give you a lot of information about what it is doing, and will also allow you to configure things to better suit the demands of your own campaign and sector.

Taking a look at the click fraud prevention services available can help you see the different types of features these products typically have, but the most important thing you want to look for is transparency in what the product is doing, in terms of what type of things it blocks and how often. Just as you value the data you get back in terms of your ads, you should also be looking to be given good information by your click fraud prevention tools.

As you can hopefully see, click fraud is not something that only big financial institutions and companies that one would imagine to be the typical victims of hacking and online fraud need to worry about. If you are running a small business of almost any kind and are using or plan to start using PPC advertising to reach new customers, then click fraud is something you absolutely need to understand about and take steps to prevent. Doing so will not only protect you from spending your marketing budget on clicks that will never result in new business, but also from losing the integrity of your all-important ad campaign metrics.

Why not take some time today to research click fraud in your own industry, and look into your options when it comes to safeguarding your business from this incredibly common online threat? You may well be glad you took the time to do this when your next PPC ad bill comes in!

Meet The Author:

Ella Woodward

Ella Woodward

As a woman making her way to the top of the corporate ladder, Ella Woodward has the expertise and business knowledge to guide readers through the latest developments in the fast-paced business, financial and investment spaces. She has the contacts, instincts and insight to discover the latest deals, trades and organisations that are worth your time. Being in constant demand, she’s made this blog as a resource for you to see a small selection of the work she’s done over the years.

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