PPC click fraud is ad fraud that costs global advertisers billions of dollars annually. The problem is so prevalent that marketing and IT teams accept it as a normal part of business in the digital era. As cyber security experts work on ways to combat it, the victims of PPC click fraud are left wondering who is doing it to them.
So who are the main perpetrators of PPC click fraud? According to the creators of the Fraud Blocker click fraud protection service, there are three groups responsible for the lion’s share of fraudulent ad clicks:
This post will examine each of the three groups in more detail. As you read, remember what PPC click fraud is: generating illegitimate traffic from pay-per-click ad platforms to drive revenue or cause harm to advertisers.
1. Publisher Ad Fraud
In the PPC world, a publisher is an organization that publishes PPC ads on websites and mobile platforms. Google is arguably the largest ad publisher in the world. Likewise, big tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft publish ads. However, the publishers most likely to commit click fraud are much smaller operations.
Google is vested in stopping PPC ad fraud because it affects its bottom line. On the other hand, a smaller publisher generates revenue only from ad clicks. It isn’t trying to do anything else. The fraudulent publisher does not care what their online reputation is. There are no concerns about SEO performance, brand loyalty, or anything else Google would care about.
The rogue publisher’s only concern is generating clicks to drive revenue. When the value of a particular website dries up, he closes it down and starts another, likewise for a mobile ad platform.
2. Competitor Ad Fraud
Where publishers perpetrate PPC ad fraud to drive revenues, competitors use the practice to hurt their rivals. You need to know how PPC advertising works to understand why a competitor would do this.
Advertisers like businesses and nonprofit organizations design their online ads around certain keywords. They bid on those keywords through their chosen ad platforms. Whatever bid is accepted becomes the per-click price for the ad. Every time the ad is clicked, the advertiser is charged that amount.
Competitors looking to harm their rivals perpetrate PPC ad fraud to waste their rival’s money. Produce enough fraudulent clicks, and a company can decimate a rival’s marketing budget. Produce enough fraudulent clicks, and a company can destroy a rival’s marketing budget. Every fraudulent click generates a charge against the marketing budget without any hope of generating a sale.
3. Customer Ad Fraud
Last but not least is the customer group. This group comprises people who willingly seek to harm advertisers they are unhappy with. This form of PPC ad fraud is not nearly as prevalent as the other two because it requires understanding the PPC model. How many retail customers even know how PPC ads work?
Nonetheless, customers can inflict harm on advertisers just as competitors can. They generate charges against the company’s marketing budget by seeking out and clicking on ads. The higher the costs, the more it hurts.
All PPC click fraud schemes boil down to generating false impressions. Click fraud is made possible by the way platforms charge for their services. It is part and parcel of an online model that still has not caught up with sophisticated scammers committed to perpetrating fraud.