March 29 Clinic Notes



These are the notes from our interactive March 29 teleclinic on Click Fraud. If you missed it, the recording will be posted here a few days after the event.

Specifics of these first three tested campaigns included:

  • All three campaigns ran over a ten day period.
  • Duplicates were determined by comparing IP address, language, browser settings, referring URL, time of click, operating system, browser plug-ins, and country.
  • Campaign A was implemented for a finance company with a high-end ($1.00-$2.00) cost-per-click (CPC), Campaign B was for a travel company with a mid-range ($0.20-$0.30) CPC, and campaign C was for a “jobs” company with a low ($0.05-$0.15) CPC.
Documented Click Fraud for Three Google AdWords Campaigns
  Campaign A Campaign B Campaign C
Total Clicks 34,763 12,790 4,184
Duplicate Clicks 10,268 1,257 349
Alleged Click Fraud 29.5% 9.8% 8.3%
Clicks Billed By Google 34,758 12,671 4,130
Google Credits – 5 – 119 – 54
Non-Credited Fraudulent Clicks 10,263 1,138 295
Cost to Advertiser $15,394.50 $284.50 $29.50
Google AdWords PPC Campaign for Test Site 1
Day of the Month Click Charges
25 $145.00
26 $409.00
27 $437.00
28 $1,544.00
29 $4,307.00
30 $1,503.00

Clicks vs. Impressions

Leads by Location

Spike vs. Average Traffic Comparison
Region During Traffic Spike Average
North America 27% 30%
Central/South America 4% 2%
Europe 14% 11%
Africa 6% 5%
Australia 1% 1%
India 37% 42%
Asia (Excluding India) 7% 6%
Middle East 3% 3%
Fraudulent Referrers
Referrer Number Percentage
Unknown 171,991 79.81%
Google, Yahoo, MSN, AskJeeves, AOL Search, etc. 35,687 16.56%
SEO Parking and Spam Sites 7,824 3.63%
TOTAL 215,502  

How to Avoid Click Fraud:

The following tips come to us from Vinny Lingham, the founder of incuBeta (parent company of Clicks2Customers, Inc.):

Vinny’s Blog:


These tips should help you minimize click fraud:

1. Watch the daily volume of clicks on your main keywords. If they fall outside the statistical averages, then investigate. A sudden drop in conversion may also indicate a problem.

2. Be very conservative with content-targeted ads placed on third-party websites. These website owners are incentivized to click, or may recruit others to click the links on their sites. This is the majority of international fraud that you find, where many companies have set up shop, employing low-cost labor to click on various websites that they own.

3. Only target the geographical regions where you do business — don’t waste clicks and impressions on countries you do not serve.

4. If you have a select group of keywords that drive most of your traffic, try increasing your keyword base with more specific and relevant terms. The larger your keyword base, the less susceptible you are to click fraud in general.

5. Review your server logs, and use applications like KeywordMax, Urchin, Clicktracks, or companies like ClickDefense to assist in monitoring your click fraud levels.

6. Click fraud from (non-contextual) search engine traffic is very low, as no one except your competitors have an incentive to click your links. Competitors can only incur one charge in a given period, as search engines do not typically bill for multiple clicks from the same source. (Beware of those who do.) Contextual traffic is the highest risk of click fraud.

7. Review IP addresses and IP ranges in your server logs over a given period of time, such as seven days. This will show you if many duplicate IP addresses come up, and you can report this to the search engines for investigation. The more information you give them, the more they can help you.

8. If fraudulent or unproductive activity occurs primarily during a certain time of the day, then pause the campaigns for those hours.

9. Don’t buy PPC traffic on unknown search engines. These will often allow bots and other suspicious activity in without a high level of click fraud filtering. These small companies may be hungry for revenue and more hesitant about eliminating potential fraud.

Spend your money with Yahoo!, Google, AskJeeves, and MSN, until you’ve really tapped out your search budget. Then go for lower volume, but still high-quality second-tier engines like Looksmart. We’re spending well into eight figures this year on search, and we have yet to use another engine other than these, simply because we’re still exploring the keyword opportunities on the Big Four.

10. KEY POINT: Avoid bidding high for position or branding. Use the tracking codes provided by the search engines or an alternative solution to understand your traffic behavior and conversion data.

Don’t simply bid to be number-one, bid for the position at which the ROI is positive. Many times the perception of click fraud is simply a result of marketers assuming that the top position must convert well, when it may produce nothing but unqualified traffic.

Tom Charvet, the Vice President of Technology for Click Forensics, offers this additional advice:

11. In addition to monitoring paid conversions, you should also monitor your organic conversion rates. A sudden deviation in the ratio between these two conversion rates may indicate click fraud.

12. Check your paid traffic for unusual activity in areas outside of your geo-targets. Specifically look for traffic from foreign countries that are unlikely to be interested in your products or services.

13. The Click Fraud Network has identified that China, Egypt, and South Africa have generated the greatest volume of high threat-level traffic.

14. High-traffic, expensive keywords are the most obvious targets for those involved in creating fraudulent clicks. Make their job harder by leveraging keywords that aren’t so inflated.

Learn from the MEC Research Team How to Test and Optimize Your Website

Become A Certified Online Testing Expert With the Marketing Experiments Professional Certification Program. Register today for classes starting April 13, 2006.


  1. Click Fraud Tested
  2. Google to settle click-fraud lawsuit for $90M
  4. Vinny Lingham’s Blog
  7. Apply to Become a Research Partner
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