Click Fraud – Don’t be a Victim!

Some StatCounter members have recently shared with us their stories about they used StatCounter to help identify and prevent Click Fraud. You can read about one case here read about one case here.

As a result of this, we decided to put together this guide to Click Fraud and explain how StatCounter can help you too…

First let’s explain Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising…
PPC advertising is offered by many ad networks. With this type of advertising you pay each time your advert is clicked. The cost of PPC advertising can vary considerably from less than 10 cents to over $25 per click.

Advertisers often have a budget per month for PPC advertising.

For example, if you have a budget of $500 per month for PPC advertising and pay $1 per click, this means that in any month, you can pay for a maximum of 500 clicks on your adverts.

If you get 500 clicks on Day 1, then your budget is spent and your site will not receive any more advertising for the remainder of the month.

What is Click Fraud?
Click Fraud occurs when individuals or automated computers click on an advert without having any interest in the product/service advertised. Click Fraud is performed, instead, simply to generate a cost for the advertiser (without any chance of making a sale) and consume the advertiser’s budget.

Who would commit Click Fraud and who benefits?
Here are some examples of the people who might commit Click Fraud:

The Competitor

    • It’s possible for your competitors to search for and click your adverts in order to use up your advertising budget.

If you have a budget for 500 clicks per month, for example, one of your competitors can “use up” any number of these clicks. Your competitor is hoping that this will mean less business for you and more for him. The end result is that you pay for 500 clicks per month, but only some of these are valid. The earlier case study case study we mentioned is a prime example of this kind of Click Fraud.

The Publisher
When you sign up with an advertising network, your adverts may be shown on numerous different websites. These websites are known as “publishers” as they “publish” adverts. These publisher websites are often paid more if they can secure more clicks on the adverts they display. This can entice some publishers to (dishonestly) click on the adverts they display on their sites or even employ third parties to click the ads on their behalf. They do this in order to boost the advertising revenue that they, the publishers, earn. The end result is that you are paying for adverts that are NOT going to bring you any sales – instead your hard earned cash is being fraudulently obtained by the publisher.

Disgruntled Employee
Unfortunately, some people who find themselves dissatisfied with their job/working conditions/salary look for ways to “get back” at their employer. One way they can do this is to continuously search for and click your adverts in order to use up your advertising budget. The end result of this is that you are again paying for advertising that can never bring you any sales. You may be paying for 500 clicks per month in the hopes of reaching 500 potential customers… but, taking out the fraudulent clicks, you may only be making contact with a much smaller number of potential clients.

Click Fraud – what YOU can do about it
If you use PPC advertising, it is vital that you monitor the visitors to your website and watch for indicators of suspicious click activity. Otherwise, you may be spending your hard earned cash on advertising that won’t be of any benefit to your business.

The first step in trying to identify Click Fraud is to understand the usual stats that you can expect from your visitors. Get to know the normal level of activity on your site by frequently reviewing your StatCounter stats and watching for patterns and trends. When you know what to expect in general from your stats, it becomes much easier to identify any unusual activity.

Here are some important points to watch if you are worried about Click Fraud, together with examples of how you can use your StatCounter stats to protect yourself from this cybercrime.

    • Repeat Visits from Same IP Address
      This is the FIRST thing to look for if you are trying to identify Click Fraud. Repeated visits from the same IP could be legitimate e.g. several visits from different people in the one organization… but they could also be indicative of suspicious activity e.g. a competitor repeatedly clicking your adverts.Use the Recent Visitor Activity information from your StatCounter stats to identify repeated instances of the same IP hitting your site.When you review your Recent Visitor Activity, keep the following points in mind.

      (1) Look at the Number of Entries for each visitor. This tells you the number of times that this IP appears in your detailed log file. If one visitor regularly takes up an unusually large portion of the slots in your log file, then this may be an indication of suspicious activity.

      (2) Look at the number of Returning Visits. An unusually high number of returning visits may indicate suspicious clicks on your site.

      (3) Look at the information about the IP Address of your visitors. Depending on their computer/internet set-up, you may be able to identify what corporation or organization your visitors are from. Repeated visits from a competitor may signify Click Fraud.

      (4) Use the StatCounter Label IP Address function to label any IP addresses about which you become suspicious. This will help you to keep track of future activity from this same visitor on your site.


    • Time Spent on Site
      Looking at the time visitors spend on your site can also help you identify instances of Click Fraud. For example, automated bots designed to commit Click Fraud will generally only spend a very short time on your site. If you establish how long the average visitor spends on your site, then you can identify and monitor suspiciously short visits. Use your StatCounter Visit Length stat to track the time visitors spend on your site.


  • Country Breakdown
    As we mentioned earlier, some unscrupulous publishers have outsourced the task of committing Click Fraud to fraudulently increase their profits at your expense. Many of these third party Click Fraud operations are located in countries such as India, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Romania and Russia. If you get an unexpected number of clicks from any of these countries, this could mean that you are a victim of Click Fraud. Use the StatCounter Recent Visitor Map to identify the geographical breakdown of your visitors.

Click Fraud – The Conclusions

No-one is immune to Click Fraud and, although the advertising networks can and do screen out some instances of this practice, they do not catch all illegal activity. It’s up to all of us who pay for PPC advertising to make sure that we don’t fall victim to this crime.

The methods employed to commit Click Fraud are becoming ever more sophisticated and it probably isn’t even possible to identify all instances of this activity, but using the suggestions in this article you should be able to better protect yourself from this fraudulent practice.

Please feel free to share any other ideas about how to detect and prevent Click Fraud in the comments section below!

UPDATE: How NOT to be a Victim of Click Fraud

Further to some questions posted in the comments below, we want to emphasize that it’s almost impossible to stop people fraudulently clicking your adverts… but it IS possible to minimize your financial loss because of this activity. See the case study we mention in the first paragraph of the article.

You only become a VICTIM of Click Fraud IF it ends up costing you money. If you can identify it and report it to your ad network you can claim a refund. This means that you don’t lose any cash because of this deceitful practice.

Also, if you can identify that a competitor is committing Click Fraud, then make direct contact with them. The possibility of legal action is usually enough to prevent them from engaging in Click Fraud at your expense in the future.


  1. Statcounter is the real deal, I have used other counters before with less results and Statcounter I want to thank you for all the information and news about what is going on in this world wide web Business, When People get our easy to build web sites from I let them know about statcounter. Being able to monitor what, where , and who visits your site makes it easier to do ppc campaigns.Like many others have said report the repeat return visits to get the money put back in to your PPC campaign . Keep up the great Job and everyone have great holidays. Thanks, WCB

  2. Very nice and informative article! I think anyone can be a victim of Click Fraud, but like what the article said, its about knowing your stats and stat counter provides a wonderful platform for this. Usually in my site, I use Stat Counter and my own hosting’s stat which gives me a more accurate and more balanced results. I have removed adsense, and other ppc network on my sites, I just retained one company, but I rely primarily on Project Wonderful to sell and buy ads because its not based on clicks but its buying an ad for one whole day, but its like ebay where you bid for your ad, the advantage for the ad buyer is that statistics of the sites are provided in real time, for the ad seller, the advantage is that buyers are bidding on their ad box and unlike google and all the other ad providers, they don’t have to wait for their check as you will get your ad profit in real time. I think this is a good alternative to any ppc campaigns….the publisher can relax and just worry on creating quality contents for his site while the advertiser is not pressured to pay per click as if he’s the highest bidder that day, his ad will appear the whole day…basically with Project Wonderful which had worked on my site, the ppc campaigns of adsense and adbrite and other ad network are a thing of the past….I am so happy with my experience with Project Wonderful that I can finally say goodbye to all adsense… 🙂 cause I don’t need them anymore!

  3. Pingback: Click Fraud or Competitor Fraud? « Words Of Wisdom
  4. StatCounter is very useful for spotting fraudulent clicks. In fact I blocked one IP address earlier today (you can do this in AdWords). I had previously labeled the IP address as suspicious in my StatCounter stats and when I looked again this morning, I saw more activity including a “conversion” as shown by a visit to my client’s “thank you” page: the third in two weeks from that IP address. I then contacted my client to check this out and he confirmed that the details entered into his enquiry form were useless.

    So I copied the IP address and pasted it in to the Tools>IP Exclusion area of my client’s AdWords account for all his campaigns. That IP address won’t see my client’s ads any more and so won’t be able to click on them.

    The market my client operates in is highly competitive – we are paying over £20 for some clicks (and making money!) – so I have to watch out for Click fraud like a hawk. As well as StatCounter, there are some other free neat tools that can help you spot click fraud before you waste too much money.

    One issue of course is IP addresses that are used by lots of different people. If you see frequent clicks from one IP address and get suspicious, first check that the browser, the screen size and the operating system are all the same before putting IP blocking in place.

  5. Roland you know you would block the ip range for India, so you would not get visitors from there if it bother you….

  6. uhh yeah there is not much that you can do with just the ip adress, but maybe you would contact the cybe police in your country, it is not a joke, more deparment police in the world has a cyber police.

  7. I see nothing in any of these posts that I did not all ready know. But then a lot of peoples may not of knew some of it.

    But it does help some peoples from being click bomb. But on the other hand it is also helping the click bomber. Because after reading all of these posts the click bomber will begin looking for ways around what was said here. So it is like a two edge sword, one way or the other you may get burned.

    I was in google adsense but I left because I was being click bomb all the time. Google may not be able to stop it but there is a lot that they can do to help stop it.

    Where was I being click bomb from you may ask. It was from many different country. There are click bomber in every country. The worst country was the USA for click bombing me. We was able to trace most of it to certain places in the USA. Going by “alexa” 34.9% of the peoples that is coming to my websites is from India.

    Most of the peoples click bombing me was others publishers. Why would others publishers click bomb you? In the good old days of googles adsense they was making a lot of money but now some of them are not. So some of them is saying it is because there is to many publishers.

  8. I accept click fraud is happening in every part of the world not only in india, so change your view on india, its reaported that click fraud has been reported more in china not india.

  9. I’m wondering if SEO companies are also culprits here. I’ve always wondering how they actually work and wonder if they use click fraud as a strategy.

  10. Tuesday 11.11.08 9.42am
    (Statcounter installed Friday the 7.11.08)

    Using StatCounter I have over the weekend not only identified fraudulant clicks on my Adwords account, in addition to this I have discovered (and been contacted by) an organisation that wanted me to attend a information evening but details could not be discussed over the phone.

    When I said i’m not in the habbit of going to meeting where i’m not fully aware of the details, I was told that;
    “dramatically improve my adwords responses and my positioning”
    “we can make sure your competitor ads…aren’t a problem to you”

    After the 9.30pm phone call took place I checked my stats and a irregular number of hits where coming from an Indian based IP within 1 second intervals.

    Google has been contacted this morning.
    Thanks StatCounter

  11. what is ur problem tho?

    that was in regards to …

    “Oh, and if you didn’t notice, many of the replying people’s “names” to this post are:

    “Business Directory”, “free web hosting”, “online calling cards” “get your ex back now”, “CasinoMan” (one willing to delve into a widely considered immoral & illegal practice) etc. etc. So the vast majority are willing to spam their names for a buck… heck your first commenter was “Shop Playstation 3″

    With an audience like that, don’t you think it’d do more harm than help to mention the benefits of click frauding?”

  12. Now I know why I got so many 0 second visitors from an advertising network called AdEngage. I even get those through Google.

  13. Please remember, with the implementation of 3g many people have an IP address that changes every time they connect to the net. It takes a few seconds to disconnect then reconnect on a different IP address.
    Please do not succumb under the illusion that an IP address will reveal all.

  14. Hi,

    I must say this is an interesting, though badly thought out and researched blog post.

    I say this because I am from India, and i do not know of any fraud click providers, and i have been in the internet/design business for long.

    I normally do not trust blog posters in random UK provinces, who base their reporting on outdated sources from faraway countries like the US, written by people with dubious and strange names.

    This is because the UK and Ireland is known to have a serious alcohol problem, and people often land up for work drunk. The US has a long history of fake writers, bad bankers and generally unscrupulous businesses, who will often take fake anything to promote their business.

    Take the case of the credit crisis, the unscrupulous bankers in the US gave bad loans, and the Irish suddenly had no money in their banks, because they believed everything the Americans said.

    Similarly, this post relies on an a post dated 2005, written by someone with an obviously fake name…. for sources see the comment by Razvan Marian Jr above

    PPC Internet advertising,like all other american driven business opportunities will have a lot of hype… use at your own risk.

  15. I have a question – I would like to know how can you prevent someone else from simply clicking and using up your PPC credit. I understand that you can see the IP address, but where to from there? In other words, what can you do with an IP address? I welcome your feedback on this one to resolve my confusion.
    Thansk in advance.

  16. Click fraud will be there for the forsee able future, until and unless Google/Yahoo/MSN give the advertiser an option to filter out the IP address or dont show the same Ad to same IP more than once in every 24 Hours. Since these tools are not there yet, i’m sure that the SEs are not interested in providing it to the people as it would hurt their spendings as well.

  17. Trying to track click fraud can be incredibly hard and time-consuming. Thank you for providing this easy to understand guide.

    I can say good things about Google’s AdWords, they’re trying to prevent click fraud… But you really have to watch out for fraudulent publishers if you use systems like: Bidvertiser, Clicksor, AdOnion, etc. (No offense to these companies, that’s only my personal opinion).

  18. Many good points raised. Having been a victim of click fraud it not only costs you more money than you really want to spend, but quite a lot of time and effort in gathering information to prove you have been scammed. My advice would be to spend the money you would allocate to PPC on a top quality SEO program instead. Within a few months you should start to reap the rewards of first or second page listings in Google and Yahoo. Patience is the essence, but having been through this process with three different sites it really is the best long term option.

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