If you’re running your own Google AdWords campaign, I can guarantee that you’re paying for clicks that you would not want to pay for. It’s just a part of search engine marketing. Whether it’s because of click fraud, incorrect geo targeting settings, match type or a multitude of other potential factors, you can’t stop it: you can only hope to contain it. Here are a few ways you can refine your campaigns and weed out those wasteful clicks that could be lowering your ROI.
1. Search Query Report — This report allows you to see what exact queries triggered your ad to show up for that particular search. If you are using broad or phrase match, your ad can appear on the results page for queries related to (or variations of your keyword). By running this report, you can uncover words or phrases you don’t want to show up for and add those to your negative keyword list. Your negative keyword list tells Google not to display your ads if a search query contains a particular word or phrase.
2. IP Exclusion — The IP Exclusion tools is another method to avoid wasteful clicks. The IP Exclusion tool allows you to block certain IP addresses from seeing your ads on their search results page. This is good for two reasons. The first is internal searches. If you or members of your company have to do frequent searches on your advertised terms (without clicking on your ads), your click through rate can go down, ultimately lowering your quality score, which is what Google uses to determine your ad position. To combat this, simply add your internal IP addresses to the exclusion tool. Another remedy is to utilize Google’s Ad Preview tool. The ad preview tool allows you to conduct searches without affecting your quality score.
The IP Exclusion tool is also useful to combat fraudulent clicks. Although, the major search engines have taken large strides in protecting advertisers, click fraud still exists. If you are able to monitor IP addresses of your inbound traffic, you could potentially find fraudulent click patterns and exclude those IP addresses from seeing your ads.
3. Site and Category Exclusion — This pertains to Google advertisers utilizing the Content network. If you’re not running a specific site targeted campaign, and are just running a general content campaign, your ads may be showing on non relevant sites or sites with content that you do not deem appropriate or would not want to be associated with. This could potentially do harm to your brand. The Site and Category Exclusion tool allows Google Advertisers to exclude certain sites from displaying their ads. To find out what sites you are running ads on, you’ll need to run an ad placement report, located in the report section of your Google AdWords account. This is very similar to the search query report but displays websites, not keywords.
Just as injuries are a part of sports, click fraud is an unfortunate part of the PPC game. You can take all the precautions to eliminate the issue, but click fraud happens. The question is — how bad is the issue? There has been some press about this lately, and I believe there is some overreaction.
According to Click Forensics, a company that specializes in monitoring and preventing internet crime, click fraud rates are at a two-year high. The industry click fraud rate for the last quarter of 2008 was 17.1% versus 16.6% a year earlier. At first glance, these numbers do seem alarming. What isnt factored into that 17.1% are the invalid clicks that are discounted by most search engines.
Google, Yahoo, and MSN have safeguards in place to indentify and filter out invalid clicks, and have recently stepped up their efforts to control click fraud. For instance with Google, in most cases these fraudulent clicks are filtered out before they are even reported in the AdWords interface to advertisers. Google utilizes 4 layers of click fraud filters, and claims that their click fraud rate is on average less than 2%. Yahoo has stated that on average between 12-15% of clicks are filtered out due to being fraudulent or invalid.
Bottom line: It’s important to be aware that click fraud is a reality, but as advertisers you can feel confident that the search engines are taking the issue seriously and doing a good job identifying and filtering out these invalid clicks.