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Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Google Employee
# 1
Google Employee

Hello Everyone,

 

- Ever wondered how Google monitors each and every click in your AdWords account?

- Did you know that a good number of clicks are automatically filtered out by our detection mechanism even before they can impact your budget?

- Confused on how to distinguish between a valid and invalid click?

- Wondering what data to send to Google for investigation?

 

If you ever had any of those or similar questions, read on.

 

My name is Sumanta and today I will be sharing a very interesting topic with all of you. Over the past few years, we have received multiple questions from you on this topic.

 

So let me try to demystify “Invalid Clicks” for you today. Lets get started with what is and isn’t an invalid click.

 

What is an invalid click ?

 

There are different dimensions of invalid clicks - some of the most common techniques are:

 

  • Clicks from competitors

  • Excessive clicks from automated bots

  • AdSense publishers clicking on their own ads to generate more revenue

 

Additionally, we also consider extraneous clicks which provide no value for you, such as we filter out the second click of a double click as an invalid click.

 

There are multiple dedicated teams monitoring all these activities for each click and for each account. Over a period, these teams have created multiple security filters to exclusively monitor these activities and protect your account.

 

I am happy to inform you all that our prevention mechanism is so strong, we can filter out these clicks even before they impact you - we monitor these clicks as invalid clicks in your account directly, and we also report these clicks via adding them in a separate column in your performance report.

 

What is not an invalid click ?

 

Before I go into further details on various dimensions of invalid clicks, let me also discuss what usually is not an invalid click. The following behavior doesn't necessarily mean that the account is charged for invalid clicks:

 

  • Your tracking software showing different number of clicks from AdWords

  • Your conversion rate is falling - or ROI is lower than expected

  • You are noticing high bounce rate and short time visit on your site

 

I wanted to clarify that the above mentioned scenarios are most likely not happening because of any invalid clicks. Let me explain all three scenario mentioned above:

 

  • The way AdWords determines a click is different from the way your tracking software counts a click, therefore, these discrepancies are normal and it is not related to invalid click.

  • If your conversion rate is low or you are not getting expected returns, I would suggest you to have a look at your account structure - we offer a very detailed optimization guide and following the same can help you get great returns out of your advertising budget. We also have a discussion on the same on our at traffic quality resource center

  • High bounce rate and short time visits on your sites may look alarming to see - but in reality, it is just the way these are measured. When a user visits only one page in a visit to your site, we call that a bounce. If you arrive on the page, spend 10 minutes reading the content on that page and then close the page, this is an example of bounce. However, you should keep in mind how they are actually calculated, because they have very specific definitions that do not always capture the full extent of a user's engagement.

 

How can you check your weblogs and make better decisions ?

 

If you want to make better decisions based on the click pattern, the first thing I would ask you to do is to enable auto-tagging. The feature appends a unique parameter to each AdWords click - the parameter is called GCLID. We have created a very detailed section in our Ad Traffic Quality Resource Center for explaining this - you can also watch a video to understand it better.

 

Once you have auto-tagging enabled, you will see each AdWords clicks appended with one unique GCLID. These are case sensitive and if you see the same GCLID appearing more than once, you can be rest assured that they indicate only one single click. You can see IP addresses in your weblogs as well - please note that Google AdWords does not have any reports on IP addresses clicking on your ads. However, your weblogs can be a very powerful source of information if you have auto-tagging enabled.

 

Using these, in most of the cases you can do a self-check for many of the scenarios. When you enable auto tagging, your weblogs along with the invalid clicks report can give you a clear picture of the filtered clicks from your account.

 

If you are escalating to Google, it will be very helpful if you can send us the traffic you are suspecting, such as specific GCLIDs and the reason you suspect this traffic - we can address your concern much better with this information. For a complete guide on the essential information you need to send us please refer here

 

I assure you that our proprietary technology is working 24*7 to make sure your account is not affected by any invalid activity.

 

Before I close, here is a snapshot of what we discussed today:

 

  • Definition of invalid clicks and what we do not define as invalid clicks

  • How to get better decision from auto tagging and weblogs

  • What data you need to send to Google

 

As always, please feel free to comment or ask any questions here - I am happy to answer any questions you might have about invalid clicks.

 

- Sumanta

 

3 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
# 2
Participant ✭ ✭ ✭
Thanks for an informative article Sumanta.

I have a questions in regard to your assertion that "we filter out the second click of a double click as an invalid click."

How come I sometimes see keywords with a 200% CTR?
Marked as Best Answer.
Solution
Accepted by Mini-CM (Community Manager)
September 2015

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Google Employee
# 3
Google Employee

Hi David,

 

Great question - many thanks for asking. There are, indeed, multiple reasons for this behavior.

 

Because browsers cache the search results and ads on search results pages, Google registers only one ad impression per search. However, your reports will show multiple clicks if a Google user clicks on your ad more than once in a cached browser session. 

 

Additionally, in cases of "tabbed browsing" if users click on an ad, open the website in a different tab and then again clicks on the ad from the search result, although only one impression is registered, there are multiple clicks regstered. Hence a CTR more than 100% is possible. However, if our system registers that the clicks do not follow a pattern of normal user behavior, the repeated clicks will not be charged. In case of valid clicks ( comparison shopping ) the clicks are charged.

 

Moreover, if you are looking at today's data, you may see CTR more than 100% - Clicks are updated about every hour while impressions are updated every few hours. Therefore, it is possible that the number of clicks displayed in your reports exceeds the number of impressions, until your reports are completely updated. This usually happens by the end of the day (11:59 pm in the time zone you've selected for your account)

 

Hope this explains.

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Top Contributor
# 4
Top Contributor

Sumanta;

Thanks for this post . It clarifies the tracking process and remove the "mist" over "auto tagging "

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Google Employee
# 5
Google Employee

Welcome, Moshe.

 

If there are any additional question on this topic, I am happy to answer them - so please keep posting.

 

Thanks,

Sumanta

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 6
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Hi Sumanta, It's nice to know we have peace of mind when it comes to invalid clicks. We have noticed these credit on our account which is a great feeling knowing that you guys are watching out for this type of unethical behavior.

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 7
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Thanks for the post Sumanta.

Also to add here is that there is a research done by the Dr. Alexander Tuzhilin, Professor of Information Systems at the Stern School
of Business at New York University (NYU), about how Google filters out invalid clicks.

This is a very exhaustive report which would, I think, answers almost all questions about invalid clicks.

You can find his report at http://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://googleblog.blogspot.com/pdf/Tuzhilin_Report.pdf (pages 25-26, 47; English only).

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 8
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
I have another question, many times we do research on what our competitors are doing on Google Adwords. Is there a way to click on our competitors ads without them being charged for the click?

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Google Employee
# 9
Google Employee

Hi Leather,

 

Thanks for asking. There isn't a way to click on an ad without being charged.

 

For research purpose, I encourage you to use the "Ad preview and diagnosis tool" - the tool will provide you with search results and ranking for ads. 

 

Wanted to highlight two benefits of using the tool:

 

Hope this clarifies.

 

- Sumanta

Re: Demystifying Invalid Clicks in Google AdWords

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 10
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Thanks, that clarifies things for us. We'll start using the ad preview tool for now on when doing competitive research.