The online advertising industry is marred with its own share of fraud. This happens through fake clicks that are used to boost up the traffic and manipulate the performance of your campaign or advertisement. Traffic is a very important factor that determines the success or failure of an advertising campaign. Realistically speaking, more the traffic, better is the performance of your advertisement. However, there are various other factors that contribute to getting high internet traffic, like
- Conversion of traffic in monetary terms
- Bounce rate
- The location from where traffic is generated
- Cost associated with the traffic generation
- Source from where the traffic is generated
But what is more important before judging the quality of traffic across these parameters, is to find out if the traffic is real or fake. So, what exactly is fake traffic? A whole lot of clicks that is generated using robots or software, will generate a tremendous amount of traffic onto the website. The reason fake traffic is used is to inflate the value of a website, much ahead of its actual launch. There is a big question on the sustainability and credibility of fake traffic. However, this success is momentary because the moment advertising tools like Google Adwords or Google Analytics identify this as a fake traffic, there is a possibility of the advertising account of the publisher being blocked or placed on a sanction. There are people who are induced into buying websites with inflated or fake traffic
The basic or first step to identifying fake traffic is by reviewing the complete analytics of the website. You can use Google Analytics to perform this analytics and come to know whether the traffic directed to your website is through a real click or a fake one. Google analytics helps you to identify if the traffic is fake by helping you with some statistics around bounce rate, session duration and new sessions.
If your targeted campaign has a very high bounce rate, sometimes even 100% could be the number that you are looking at, then the chances are that this is manipulated through a software or a bot and is a fake result.
You may also encounter a scenario where Google Analytics tells you that the average session per page is extremely short and not as per what the industry standard is. This is again because a machine or a software is running the show and that is why they don’t stay on a page unlike a human visit who is likely to spend some time on a page. This is a red flag Google identifies and helps you to take corrective actions.
When you are analyzing your campaign, you might want to keep a track on the ratio of new sessions. If the percentage is too high or too low, it is because the entire set of clicks and responses are inflated artificially. Google gives you these staggering statistics which are red flags and helps you to take counter measures.
Moreover, there are other ways by which Google Analytics identifies fake clicks. Let us take an example of an advertising campaign which you have crafted in French language and you are targeting audiences in Quebec, France and other French-speaking regions of the world. You may have drilled down your target audience segment to city level as well. Now that you are campaign is active, you suddenly see that the clicks that Google Analytics is identifying, are all coming from those regions which are not part of your target audience segment. You will see that a lot of your clicks are coming from countries like Poland, Russia, and other Non-French speaking countries. This clearly indicates that the traffic is directed using a software that generates fake clicks. Google Analytics will also show you that these clicks are coming from some random URL which does not have a valid website associated but. There are a couple of illustrations below which will give you an understanding of how software or bots manipulate traffic across various parameters.
When Google Analytics gives you the referral link, you will see that most of the times it is not directed to an authentic source and most of the times you won’t see a proper website associated with the URL. This immediately should be a red flag for you.
Hence, Google helps you to identify fake clicks and take preventive or corrective actions. But not to be just dependent on Google Analytics, as a marketer you need to take care of the following when it comes to fake traffic through fake clicks
- Have a look at the referral links and see if it is directing to an authentic website
- Block out the fake traffic at the earliest
- Use advanced filters to block fake referral links and sub-links
If you have only a single metric that is defined, then no way you will be able to track down the difference between a real click and a fake click. Instead, you need to have multiple parameters and factors to determine the traffic. Only then you can effectively utilize even Google Analytics to come out with the statistics related to your traffic and give you a clear indication if the click was a real one or a fake one.
Over the period of years, search engines have received a lot of criticism from marketing teams across the world, for not identifying these fake clicks and not having any measures to curb them. However, by far Google has created a comprehensive and robust mechanism to curb these fake clicks. If you closely observe Google, they follow a 3 point approach.
- Automated Filters- where you have advanced algorithms across various permutations and combinations to detect and eradicate these fake clicks. The best part is that Google helps you even before they start charging you for the clicks.
- Manual Analysis – there is a possibility that the filters as mentioned above may not be 100% accurate and hence there is a manual or offline analysis conducted by the Ad Traffic Quality Team, to remove any further fake clicks.
- Investigations – After removing fake clicks through automated filters and offline analysis, if the advertisers still encounter these fake clicks, Google can launch an investigation based on the report submitted by the advertiser.
All-in-all, among the search engines that are prevalent in the market, Google does have a strong program to detect, analyze and remove the fake clicks. But the fact of the matter is that there is no permanent solution because the internet world is so dynamic and un-ending, that these fake clicks can emerge from one source or the other. At the most what advertisers can do is to use required tools to ensure necessary actions are taken.