One of the biggest risks in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is click fraud. Also known as PPC click fraud, it is a crime perpetrated against advertisers who end up paying for clicks but not getting anything in return. There are ways to fight it, including paying attention to click and action timestamps. Both types of timestamps can help expose click fraud in its earliest stages.
Click Fraud’s Basic Premise
In order to understand the benefit of paying attention to click and action timestamps, it is necessary to understand click fraud’s basic premise. In its simplest form, click fraud is about generating as many clicks as possible in order to drive up the charges billed to advertisers. The more clicks, the more advertisers pay.
A fraudster might set up a phony website and publishing platform, then sign on to Google’s advertising network. Ads would be served to the fraudster’s sites despite the fact that few people, if any at all, would actually visit those sites. Meanwhile, automated click bots sit on the sites and click away with impunity. That is pretty much the whole scheme in a nutshell.
Click and Action Timestamps
Click fraud experts generally recommend fighting back using a click fraud prevention software package like Fraud Blocker. But if companies want to go the DIY route, they can. They just need to know what to look for, beginning with anomalies in click and action timestamps.
The Click Timestamp
The click timestamp is a little data point that tells online advertisers the exact time their ads are clicked. Every click generates a unique timestamp that displays the date and time of click, down to the second in many cases. Ad fraud aside, click timestamps are especially useful for understanding when most of a website’s traffic comes in.
The Action Timestamp
The action timestamp does something similar. But instead of telling an advertiser when an ad was click, it gives the time that certain actions occurred on the website. For instance, maybe an ecommerce operator wants to know when a visitor began adding items to the shopping cart. The action timestamp reveals that.
Combining the Two Timestamps
For the purposes of exposing click fraud, website owners want to look at the two timestamps together. A normal scenario under which no click fraud is taking place should reveal a consistent pattern wherein some visits generate considerable action while others, not so much. Across all website visits though, there should be a consistent volume of conversions.
If click fraud is taking place, an advertiser should notice a large influx of traffic within a short amount of time. In addition, that traffic is not leading to a substantial number of actions on the website. Conversions also are not consistent with past history. The site is getting a lot of traffic that isn’t actually doing anything.
Heavy traffic with little activity is a red flag for click fraud. It suggests that either click bots or human workers at a click farm are simply clicking ads to drive revenue. If those clicks do not lead to an increase in conversion, the advertiser is spending money for nothing.
Other Metrics to Follow
Click and action timestamps are fairly useful for exposing click fraud. But they are not the only metrics to pay attention to. There are others, including IP address, device ID, operating system info, etc. A good software package analyzes the many metrics on an ongoing basis. Online advertisers which choose the DIY method need to analyze all the data manually. Unfortunately, it is the only way to expose and stop click fraud.