What Is Click Spam? How Fraudsters Can Click Your Ads Without Leaving A Trace

Sam Carr | October 31st, 2019

click spam

Digital ad fraud currently costs advertisers billions of dollars a year, and it doesn’t look like it’s decreasing any time soon. With fraudsters always creating new methods to steal money from advertisers, it’s crucial you keep up to date with the latest scams.

In recent years, mobile ads have really taken off thanks to the popularity of mobile apps and games which allow advertisers to get their ads in front of the right people. However, at the same time, this has opened up a whole new world of ad fraud which many advertisers are not aware of yet.

To ensure that you understand the various ad fraud schemes that might be wasting your money, we’re taking a look at one of the newest ones: click spam.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand precisely what click spam is and how advertisers are losing millions of dollars a year to it. But that’s not all! You’ll also be able to identify when it’s happening, just in case you happen to be running any mobile app ads of your own.

To get things started, let’s take a close look at what click spam is and what it involves.

What Is Click Spam?

Click spam is a type of mobile fraud in which fraudsters utilize the power of mobile apps to cover their tracks. An unsuspecting user will download the app from the app store and run it, but this isn’t any normal app. Unlike legitimate apps on the various mobile app stores, this app is designed to generate fake clicks on ads that look real.

Unknown to the user, the app will click ads in the background that the user never sees but is registered as a legitimate click by the advertising network. To the network and advertisers, these look like real clicks coming from in-app advertisements, but in reality, no human eyes actually see the ad.

This has multiple adverse consequences for the advertiser. Firstly, they lose money to fraudulent clicks and get no benefit from their ad spend. This basically means their budget spent on mobile app advertising is also completely wasted.

In addition to this, they also get incorrect analytics data which could influence their decision when it comes to allocating their marketing budget. If they see they are getting lots of clicks on mobile and a good click-through rate, this could influence them to spend more. But in reality, these “good” metrics are down to fraudulent clicks generated from the apps and ultimately result in no sales or conversions.

How Is Click Spam Detected And Stopped?

Since click spam has become a growing issue in recent years, many advertisers and advertising networks have begun to fight back. There are many ways in which they can identify apps that are generating fraudulent clicks, with the most common method being looking at publisher analytics.

This technique works well because click spamming apps can’t interact with ads the same way in which real humans do. This means there are specific patterns and click distributions that give away what the app is really doing, and over time can be used to confirm suspicious activity.

Another common way in which click spam and fraudulent activities can be avoided is through app validation. This is where apps are reviewed by ad networks and exchanges to ensure none of the code within the app is malicious.

By reviewing apps like this, networks can feel safe knowing only legitimate apps are available on their network. The downside of this, however, is that it can take a very long time to validate apps, and not everyone is willing to share their code.

If you’re running ads on mobile apps and want to see if you’ve been the victim of click spam, then it’s probably worth diving into your analytics. By comparing individual app publishers, you should be able to identify which apps are giving you the most conversions and which are just wasting your money.

Any app that has an extremely low conversion rate should immediately be put on the watchlist for further analysis. The next step would be to analyze what time the clicks take place as some click spam apps might automate fake clicks at a specific time such as every hour, or a particular time in the day.

Once you come to a conclusion about a particular app you should either greenlight it, collect more data if you’re not sure, or exclude it from all of your campaigns. By doing this you should be able to get rid of the obvious click spam apps, but the more sophisticated ones will require more analysis.

But it’s not just advertisers and networks who are fighting ad fraud, the large app stores are also removing thousands of apps every year that have been linked to click fraud. And recently, Facebook has also been on the offensive suing two app developers who created fake click fraud apps.

Are Your Mobile Ads Protected?

Now you understand what click spam is, how protected are your mobile ads? If you’re running pay per click ads on mobile devices with Google, then you could be unknowingly wasting your budget without realizing.

Luckily, we can help identify fraudulent clicks and help you reclaim your losses while protecting you from future fraudulent clicks. Thanks to our AI-powered click fraud detection platform, our software monitors all of your ads and campaigns in real-time to ensure only legitimate customers are seeing your ads.

In the event we detect any fraudulent activity on your account, we’ll block those users from seeing your ads in the future while also helping you claim a refund.

To see how much money you can save on your PPC campaigns, sign up to a free 14-day trial of PPC Protect to test-drive our software.


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