Local Search Campaign Being Subjected To Click Fraud
I am currently managing a local search campaign for a small business in a warm climate. The business is service-based with a relatively high average CPC, and a good amount of local competition so there is not much room for error. Around 3 months ago I noticed a dramatic drop in the CPL and an increase in the CTR. I installed a click fraud detection software which monitors IP address, location and zip code.
I started looking at the data and noticed alarming patterns and saw I was getting a large number of clicks originating from the same place within a short period of time - the locations were miles away from our business but we were getting large amounts of clicks from certain geographical areas. (I have the campaigns set up to show to people in, searching for or who show interest in my targeted location since the targeted area is seasonal and many people have second homes in our targeted location and will look up our services from their other home)
I identified extremely unnatural click patterns, sent an in-depth report of my findings to the Fraud Investigation team and was very disappointed to learn they thought it was perfectly natural and would not give my client any advertising credit. I know in the whole Google 'ocean' of ad revenue $100,000 in a year is nothing, but to a small business that is huge, and since I have to be accountable and proactive regarding advertising spend it would be nice to know Google is also proactive about protecting the businesses out there who are lining their pockets.
I excluded the main irrelevant locations which were sending fraudulent clicks our way and to take things one step further I installed a more comprehensive Click Fraud detection software which monitors not only the IP address but also tracks the Device ID. To my dismay I realized the problem was bigger than I first thought. There are about five suspect devices which are generating a good percentage of our clicks - they are searches which target three totally different services and campaigns (which without going into detail of what the business does it would be highly unlikely someone would be searching for all three of those services in one day) - sometimes generating several clicks per day on each campaign, mostly within a two hour window. Although their IP address gets automatically excluded they keep coming back with a different IP address - just the same device ID.
The clicks are all coming from within our targeted locations so I'm guessing it is either a disgruntled former employee, or a competitor. The latest response I got from Google was a very generic looking email response saying they take click fraud very seriously but there is nothing out of the ordinary going on with the campaign. I am reaching the far end with this matter. I monitor the account daily to check for irrelevant searches, geographic locations, competitor ads/offers - etc. anything which could explain the drop in leads but it is becoming very disheartening.
Has anyone had a similar experience, or does anyone have any suggestions? Any feedback or input would be greatly appreciated.
Re: Local Search Campaign Being Subjected To Click Fraud[ Edited ]
October 2015 - last edited October 2015
Hi @Jen M sorry to hear you've had problems and I'm also sorry we appear to have missed your post for so long, it wasn't deliberate, honest!
The only thing I can say at this time is that you do have to be a little careful when analysing IP and device information provided by software tools. Not only is it possible you're detecting clicks from different people who are using a limited IP pool provided by their ISP, but it may even be possible you're looking at ISP device IDs, rather than individuals.
Although malicious clicking certainly exists, it's a lot more rare than stories online might suggest and there's usually another explanation for unusual click patterns. Unfortunately, it's very difficult for us to remotely diagnose these issues.
Do you have any updates on the problem?
Re: Local Search Campaign Being Subjected To Click Fraud
Thank you for taking the time to reply and sorry about my delay in responding. I understand what you are saying regarding being careful about third party tracking tools, however a good portion of the clicks are not originating from the same IP address - the device ID is the same as is the operating system and the browser edition from which the numerous clicks are coming. With the OS and browser edition being the same it would be unlikely to be coming from different people.
No real updates at this time apart from monitoring the situation.