Protecting eCommerce Stores From Click Fraud

There are between 12 to 24 million eCommerce stores in the world today. Yet, just over 650,000 of these stores sell more than $1000 worth of goods annually. The brutal competition in the eCommerce space has contributed to low margins that is further eroded by click frauds and other malevolent business practices.

Click fraud is of particular significance to eCommerce given that they spend anywhere between 29-57% of their budget on paid search. Although by Google’s own admissions, over $1 billion worth of clicks are discarded each year for being fraudulent, they are still only a small part of the overall click fraud “industry”.

The Impact Of Click Frauds

Click frauds hurt eCommerce players in more than one way. In addition to losing money on each click, such activities also hurt an advertiser’s overall marketing budget. Google attributes low conversion to factors such as poor ad text and landing page quality. This could potentially bring down the Quality Score (QS) of your site which could lower your ad ranking and Cost-Per-Click (CPC). In short, click frauds could significantly erode your ROI and profitability in general.

Do You Have A Click Fraud Problem

Click fraud is just one of the many reasons why you are experiencing high CPCs or poor ad ranking. If you rely heavily on Adwords (or Google Ads as it is now known) to run your business, you must know that it is in Google’s own interest to make sure that you see success in your campaign. So, it is a good idea to look into you’re ad copy and landing page to make sure that they are not the reason why your ad performance is poor.

The first thing you will need to identify a potential click fraud problem is the IP address of all your visitors. A lot of times, firms that are hired to execute click fraud campaigns will set up bots that are programmed to click on ads over and over again. Google Analytics is not really helpful here as sit does not really store the IP address of your visitors. You could instead rely on native analytics tools provided by your webhost. If you have CPanel access, you could navigate to the “Metrics” section of your dashboard and click on ‘Visitors’.

This section provides you with a complete list of visitor IP addresses along with the referring URL. This way, you could narrow down your log to only include IPs from visitors clicking on your ads.

The next step is to track the activity of these users on your website. Another default CPanel tool like Awstats could come in handy here. This tool gives you a complete rundown of activity from each of these IP addresses including the number of pages the user visited, the number of hits, their last visit and so on.

While this is not a foolproof method to detect click fraud, it is a great way to know whether or not you should be worried.

How To Fix Click Fraud

ECommerce advertisers who fear click fraud could choose not to show their ads specifically to these visitors. Google has a helpful tutorial here that explains how to exclude specific IPs when displaying your ads.

Here is a word of caution - multiple hits from one IP address does not always mean that the visitor is fraudulent. This can also happen if the visitor is truly interested in your products and has been returning to your stores. However, this also means that this visitor no longer has to search for your product with the specific keywords. So you could optimize your budget by not showing your ads to these users.

You could exclude such visitors for specific ad campaigns while continuing to display retargeting ads or ensuring access to your site from other keywords. This way, you could bring down the number of instances where a legitimate user is unable to access your site.

To be fair, this strategy can be quite time consuming and resource intensive. In addition to this, there is likely to be a lot of false positives when such processes are performed manually. These steps are thus useful if you are a small business with a monthly advertising budget of a couple of hundred dollars.

It is a good idea for eCommerce businesses with a larger advertising budget to rely on automated click fraud detection tools that can identify and filter IP addresses on the fly with no human intervention.

Other Click Fraud Prevention Tips

IP-based exclusion is just one of the many ways to protect your eCommerce business from click frauds. Here are a few other strategies that you could follow.

Geotargeting: It is never a good idea to allow worldwide targeting for your ads. Without geotargeting, it is easy for your competitors to hire foreign workers to click on your ads. By restricting each of your campaign to a specific geography, you not only avoid possible click frauds, but can also make sure that each of your ads address a specific audience. This helps with better targeting and thus improved ROI.

Social Media Advertising: Social media platforms like Facebook allow advertisers to display ads based on specific user filters like age, occupation and other demographics. While this is not exactly foolproof, social media advertising campaigns have a lower chances of succumbing to click fraud since it is not easy to predict the delivery of an ad. Therefore, there are a fewer scammers who resort to click fraud over social media platforms.

Click fraud prevention is an industry that can save advertisers several millions of dollars each year. As an eCommerce business owner in a competitive market space, it is important to proactively hunt for potential click fraud in your campaign lest you lose your marketing budget to fraudulent competitors.

Author Bio: Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. Check out their latest tool for conference room booking: https://hubbion.com/meetingroom

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