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How to Prevent Click Fraud

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How to Prevent Click Fraud


When it comes to business, the old adage “You’ve got to spend money to make money,” couldn’t be more true. Aside from the financial outlay to develop your product and manufacture it, and all the overhead that comes with owning a business, you are responsible for marketing your product so the public knows that your product exists.

You’ve set aside some marketing dollars to spread awareness and attract people to your brand and your website. You’ve looked into a variety of advertising options, and determined that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a sound way to spend your marketing budget. After all, you only pay when users click on your ad, so you only pay to advertise to people who are at least mildly interested in what you offer.

PPC advertising can provide a healthy return on investment – unless you become the victim of click fraud. By understanding what click fraud is, and being aware of the tools that are available to protect yourself and your investment, PPC can be an excellent choice to market your business.

What is click fraud?

Click fraud happens when a person or a bot clicks on an ad, button, or hyperlink to trick the platform into thinking there is more interaction than there actually is.

With PPC advertising, click fraud can happen for one of two reasons:

  1. The website owner who is hosting the ad will click on the link repeatedly to increase the amount of money the business must pay them.
  2. A company’s competitor may employ click fraud to divert from the business’s marketing budget.

Interestingly enough, sometimes it’s the business itself that will engage in click fraud. Search engines like Google rely on the click-through rate – how many people have visited a site because of a certain link – to determine search rankings. Sometimes, a business owner will attempt to scam the system, inflating the number of clicks through click fraud and moving up the search engine ranks so that more actual users will find and visit their page.

Any type of click fraud can be damaging to a business which is why you’ll want to protect yourself against this illegal practice.

What is a click bot?

You’ve likely heard of click fraud bots, but do you know how they operate? It’s estimated that bots comprise roughly 52% of all internet traffic. Harmful bots (like fraud bots) make up a large part of this number.

So what are click bots and what are they doing to our websites? Click bots are designed to carry out click fraud. They vary from relatively simple (access webpage and click on the desired link) to advanced (mimic the actions a human would take such as moving the mouse and clicking at uneven intervals). The more advanced a bot is, the more difficult it is to distinguish it from a legitimate user.

Rather than attempt to create hundreds of thousands of clicks from one device with a single IP address (this bot traffic would be immediately suspicious), bots are installed across many devices, often through malware. This means that the device owner is completely unaware that their electronic property is being used for nefarious purposes.

Bots aren’t always to blame for click fraud. Some scammers will employ people to manually perform click fraud. While it’s more difficult to recognize human fraud, it’s considerably less efficient than utilizing fraud bots.

Click Fraud Prevention

Instances of click fraud are not uncommon. A recent study from the University of Baltimore found that in 2020 click fraud cost marketers over $35 billion.

Search engines like Google have put practices in place to protect businesses from click fraud. These include:

  1. Automated detection systems built with machine learning and complex algorithms to keep ad platforms clean.
  2. Manual reviews when invalid activity is suspected or brought to their attention.
  3. Advanced research to uncover sources of invalid traffic and prevent them from entering their networks.

Knowing that Google is looking out for your business is great news, though it’s still important to be proactive to protect your business. The first step is creating ads that are more difficult for scammers to target. You can consider allocating more budget to social media ads that are less keyword-focused and therefore harder to search for.

You also have the option to be more targeted with your desired audience which will lessen your chances of encountering click fraud. Being more specific about the geographic locations your ads target and avoid can also provide an added layer of protection from click fraud.

Next, you can help prevent click fraud by keeping a close eye on your ads and your ad spend. The moment you suspect fraud, it’s time to jump into action. If you’ve detected fraudulent clicks coming from specific IP addresses, Google Ads will allow you to block these IP addresses.

Click Fraud Detection

While preventing click fraud is an admirable goal, it’s not always possible. Scammers have created highly advanced and indiscernible methods for perpetrating click fraud which is sometimes impossible for the average business to protect against.

Thankfully, there are a number of click fraud detection protection services available. Here are a few recommendations.

1. ClickCease

ClickCeace click fraud protectionImage Source

ClickCease blocks bot traffic from Google and Facebook ads before these clicks can impact your ad spend budget. Users can also create custom detection rules to provide the level of support their business needs.

Price: Standard Plan starts at $59 per month; Pro Plan starts at $79 per month

2. PPC Shield

PPC shield click fraud protectionImage Source

PPC Shield offers holistic support to protect your Google Ads campaigns from fraudulent clicks. Notable features include instant blocking of suspicious IP addresses, detailed reporting, and a budgeting tool to help you allocate ad spend saved from click fraud prevention.

Price: Basic Plan starts at $39 per month; Standard Plan starts at $55 per month; Professional Plan starts at $119 per month

3. AppsFlyer

AppsFlyer click fraud preventionImage Source

Looking for protection for your ads against mobile fraud? If so, the AppsFlyer fraud protection tool is worth looking into. This tool provides multi-layered protection against click fraud and has an extensive partner network to keep companies safe from emerging threats.

Price: Free with paid plans starting at 6 cents per conversion

4. Singular

Singular click fraud preventionImage Source

Singular provides a comprehensive fraud prevention tool with a suite of features including iOS and Android click prevention, hyper-engagement detection, and geographic outliers to keep your ad placements safe.

Price: Free, with custom paid options available

5. ClickGUARD

ClickGUARD click fraud preventionImage Source

ClickGUARD’s platform is a powerful click fraud prevention system. Offering a Google Ads shield to protect conversions and prevent invalid clicks and advanced bot detection, this tool identifies and prevents threats from targeting your ads.

Price: ActiveGUARD plan starts at $79 per month; PremiumGUARD plan starts at $79 per month; EliteGUARD plan starts at $99 per month

Unfortunately, click fraud is a very real threat to your PPC advertising campaigns. While it has the potential to drain your budget and leave you short of your marketing goals, with the right protections in place, it’s still a viable option for your business. Investing in education and services to prevent click fraud is a worthwhile expense.

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MARKETING

State of Content Marketing in 2023

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State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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MARKETING

27 Best About Us and About Me Page Examples [+Templates]

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Your about page summarizes your history, values, and mission — all in one place. That’s a tall order for just a few paragraphs. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to these about-page examples for inspiration. 

about us page example: laptop held in palm of hand

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MARKETING

MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow

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MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.


Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 


Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.


Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.


Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/MarketingOps.com, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 


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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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