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5 Steps to beat ad fraud: From a PPC expert

Ad fraud or accidental clicks is a serious challenge we face in Digital Marketing. So just how big an issue is it that we’re facing in the industry? It is estimated that the budget blackhole could be in excess of $30 Billion per annum worldwide with up to 40% of all display advertising being subject to either accidental clicks or invalid traffic where the user never intended to visit the site of the advertiser.

Given that Google is so powerful and companies are concerned about losing their organic ranking, many choose not to take up the matter with Google and their card providers. The good news is that you have a lot of leverage to rectify this.

Today I am going to show marketing campaign specialists how they can fight back and hold Google accountable for any losses and how to get your companies money refunded.

I am still an advocate of using Google Adwords especially if you are in an area where Bing has low inventory levels and I advise clients with very large monthly budgets on the use of Adwords, so this is not an attack on Google: it is simply a measured approach to ensure advertisers get a fair deal.

The standard response at the Google response centre in India is very disappointing, so be prepared for this. In my own experience, it seems that they are all trained to repudiate any claims by telling the advertiser that there is probably an issue with poor user-experience on their website. However I will show you how to back your investigation with facts and what next steps to take.

There are just a few metrics you need to compare in order to establish whether Googles’ standard repudiation claim is true, or to proof there is a problem with the legitimacy of the traffic they sold to you. It would help if you have three types of traffic to your landing page: some organic traffic, some paid search and some traffic from the display network.

The bounce rate for organic traffic

The bounce rate for paid search traffic

The bounce rate for display network traffic

If there was a scenario where organic traffic produced a bounce rate of let’s say 95%, paid search produced 96% and display traffic produced 95%, clearly users are not satisfied with the experience on your site and Google would have some grounds to repudiate your claim for a refund.

Now what we find as a common trend, is something along the following lines: A bounce rate for organic traffic at around 45%, with 50% for paid search and around 93% for display network traffic. When you see this, alarm bells should ring and you should not be charged for the traffic from the display network. You can clearly proof that there is nothing wrong with your user-experience and in this case, you’re going to take action.

Another metric you should consider is mobile bounce rates. This is because publishers often position Google display ads in such a way that it is clicked by mistake when the user attempts to browse with their device. In this case, you would produce an analytics report with bounce rates for your landing page, which is segmented by device type and traffic type. In this case the test is simple: If my organic or paid search traffic does not produce a high bounce rate, but display traffic does, it is again grounds to take action.

Now I’d like to share with you how to take action:

We use simple process: Firstly we gather the evidence and do some introspection to make sure we’re not in the wrong. Then, we contact Google via the Adwords interface and give them a fair chance to provide us with a refund. The problem should be resolved at this point. However, at the same time, we also inform Google that should they refuse to take action, we will proceed with the next step, which is to contact our card provider and claim a refund. In this case you should also inform the regulator in your country, whether that is the European commission in the EU or the FTC in the US.

So, give Google a fair chance to act appropriately, but if they fail to do this, take matters further in the precise manner that I’ve explained.

About Adriaan Brits

I'm Adriaan Brits, a digital and strategic marketing consultant, Linkedin learning instructor and media owner. I authored the popular Linkedin course "Digital Marketing Research" with more than 120 000 enrolments to date. You can see my boutique marketing consultancy at www.adriaanbrits.com and connect with me on Linkedin

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