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. Click fraud has cost me a lot more than I dare admit. Love to see the clicks, but the conversions are the only thing that really matters!

  2. Wow that’s opened my eyes!

    Didn’t know it was such a fraudulant type of advertising but I suppose it’s very obvious really!

  3. Very interesting article and relevant to my work. Thanks for the statcounter. Its very useful.

    Keep the good work!

  4. Pingback: Evitar el fraude en la publicidad online Adwords | Miguel Galve: marketing online y publicidad.
  5. You know, if they “click bomb” and “click fraud” that actually gives them a bad rep. They think they’re “making money” but…..uhhhh…good luck on your reputation.

    If I notice I only make 1 sale from an advertisement, then I’m never using their service again. There’s thousands of services you know?

    If these people who are unhappy want to get “revenge”, the best revenge is success! Invest your time in your hobbies or something! Eventualy blossom and have success in something! Revenge is a waste of time.

    Love dies when vengeance smiles.

  6. Things are not good even for me.. Some one have continuasly clicked on google ads and now my adsense is blocked 🙁

  7. I feel bad about the negative feedback on ad publishers. A feeling is being creating about specific behaviour & integrity of ad publishers in general I totally NOT recognize myself in.

    First: For Google counts that all publishers are monitored 24×7 with special detection software for clickfraud, they know with which IP you login frequenty to check your adsense earnings so a match of the publishers generated clicks with a shortlist of IP’s is the easiest way I can think of. . Which I support 100% by the way. So doing click fraud as a publisher is really kind of stupid and you will be banned from the progam in no time! Leaving your earnings on Google’s bankaccount. So you better stay with the Google TOS for advertisers.

    Second: I have a network of websites where frequently (over 400.000x per Quater) google ads are shown. I personally believe the triangle Visitor – Publisher – Advertiser is very important and thereby it never came up in my head to sneaky clicking or let other do this. I focussed more on investing in better content for my advertisers & visitors. Resulting in a average higher CTR & PPC.

    Third: I know Ad publishers using adwords for a while now promoting their local shop here downtown. They pay standard toooo much a click because they don’t know how to configure all campaings proper with keywords. correct daylimits and average ppc… and more. So little mistakes in settings can lead to a lot of unnecessary costs. Get yourself trained well in using these programs and do little try outs first.


  8. PS: the above info on click fraud perpetrators is from the link mentioned in the StatCounter post:

  9. As usual, the No. 1 perpetrator of negative things, is the “United States of America”:

    Among perpetrators, 75.2% were male and half resided in one of the following states: California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. The majority of reported perpetrators were from the United States. However, a significant number of perpetrators where also located in United Kingdom, Nigeria, Canada, Romania, and Italy.

    For some reason, like with military spending, pollution, waste, murder, crime, national debt, obesity, and all other negative things, however the Great USA is not mentioned whilst those lesser culprits such as Nigeria, India, China, Romania, are.

    Thanks StatCounter for a very interesting coverage and many interesting comments from StatCounter users with many perspectives.

    CPM or CPA is the best way to go, as it is far easier to spot fraud on those basis than CPC. The very best can be Rental – provided the price is right and the audience is known or statistics are available and transparent.

    We’ll be urging users of our advertising service to sign up to StatCounter in order to monitor their statistics, as we can place their StatCounter code along with their advertisements published via our advertising network.

    Just a further comment: the US is collapsing (Babylon a fall down big time now) and its executives are trying to hold on to their fat salaries instead of tightening their belts – as a result US ad agencies such as Google have dropped their quality to an all time low, with inappropriate ads and poor targeting being the norm. Using StatCounter to monitor and verify agency statistics is best practice and should be encouraged!

  10. Hm, it’s good to know that there are people finding ways to prevent/combat click fraud. Still though, we all need to be careful.

  11. Wrote about this topic in a blog entry today before I saw this. One thing that might be worth checking the referrer. There are some sites that basically say on their main pages that they are running short on funds and ask visitors to their site to click on the ads. I’ve seen this some on message boards, smaller fan fiction archives and anime fan sites where the people running them don’t seem to understand that click fraud is taking money away from people.

  12. We signed up for this “professional” advertising service that was connected with the program Passport To Wealth. We were paying $507 per month for “professional” advertising. All we got was basically third world (s)hits.

    In keeping with this article, we were smart enough to track their results. Needless to say it was a big fraud. Not only did we not get any sales from their “clicks” we receive no optin leads.

    The link we included here shows exactly how our own amateur “free advertising” results compared to their “professional advertising” results. Our point, and the point of this article is: BUYERS BEWARE OUT THERE!

    The Roc Group

  13. Click fraud is continuing to rise despite what the search engines have you believe. There are several tracking tools that help fight it but its best to let a third party handle it. Way too much of a time killer.

  14. Another good article Statcounter…

    I must say PPC is already a hard art to master without worrying about fraudulent activity.

    It has fallen massively in my priority for marketing as there are so many more cost-effective methods to get traffic, targeted or not.


  15. Very nice post. but how to prevent clicks from where I dont need even after making Geo targeting perfectly ?

  16. Thanks for the useful tips. I think click fraud occurs more than Google is possibly capable of catching. Definitely one of the biggest disadvantages to PPC campaigns.

  17. I was thinking about to put some PPC ad in my page, but I will have to think again it now. thanks for the post.

  18. A very cool post. I had been thinking aobut doing some PPC advert but this post and the comments have changed my mind. Thanks for sharing.

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