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Invalid Clicks In AdWords: Is Google Doing Enough?

Neil Andrew

Neil Andrew

June 29th, 2019

Neil is Scottish so when he's not writing for PPC Protect he's eating haggis and watching Braveheart.

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If you’ve been running a pay per click campaign for long enough, then you’ve probably encountered plenty of invalid clicks in AdWords. For the new user, this can sound incredibly scary and confusing.

Why am I receiving invalid clicks? What is an invalid click? Who’s clicking my ads?!

With so many questions, getting the right answers can be very time-consuming, especially when you have to trial through Google’s never-ending support library. But lucky for you, we’ve got all the answers you need right here.

To give you the straight to the point answers you need right now; we’ve put together a helpful guide that answers all of your questions about invalid clicks. No matter if you’ve never heard of the term before, or if you think you know what they are, we’re here to clear everything up and improve your AdWords knowledge.

So let’s dive straight in, what are these invalid clicks you keep seeing on your campaign and what do they mean?

What Are Invalid Clicks?

Just seeing the term invalid click on your campaign can be frightening for a lot of new AdWords users. But it’s even more frightening when you’re receiving hundreds of them a week or even a day on your campaigns.
If you’ve noticed you have started to regularly receive invalid clicks on your AdWords campaigns, then pay attention, someone could be targeting you.

Invalid clicks are Google’s way of saying “these clicks where probably fake or fraudulent in some way”. Of course, Google never uses the word fraudulent, but instead suggests they are illegitimate or unintentional clicks from non-legitimate users.

The most common examples of invalid clicks are:

  • Clicks from robots or automated tools (adware and botnets)
  • Users manually clicking the same ads repeatedly
  • Accidental clicks from users
  • Clicks from known VPNs and shared IP addresses

As you can see from the list above, no advertiser would want to pay for those type of clicks on their campaigns. And considering some keywords can cost tens of dollars per click, if you were charged for an accidental click, then you’d have every right to be annoyed.

This is why the invalid click system came about in the first place.

As an advertising network, Google needs to make sure that their advertisers are happy or else they’ll stop spending money with them. To reimburse advertisers and to keep them happy, Google refunds users for any invalid clicks they receive.

We say refund, but in reality, it’s more of a non-withdrawable credit to their account. If an advertiser spends $2 on a click that Google classes as invalid, then they’ll be given the $2 back, so they’re not out of pocket.

This doesn’t mean that for every click an advertiser receives that doesn’t convert they’ll receive a refund, but instead the clicks have to have certain characteristics before they become flagged.

So how does Google identify these invalid clicks in the first place?

How Google Detects Invalid Clicks

detecting clicks

To identify invalid clicks, Google has its own “sophisticated” system that analyses every click your ads receive. However, the details behind how the system actually does this are unknown.

Many speculate that it takes a number of factors into consideration when trying to determine if a click is legitimate or not. These factors include things such as the time, IP address, and device ID of the user to name a few.

By using their extensive database of information from millions of other users running campaigns, Google has plenty of information to work with when it comes to determining if a click is genuine or not.

However, it doesn’t mean that Google always gets it right.

Does Google Block All Invalid Clicks?

invalid clicks

Considering Google has information from millions of different clients from all over the world, you’d assume they’d easily be able to block all invalid clicks. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Google’s invalid click detection algorithm is very slow and often takes a few clicks before an invalid click is detected. Even then, Google still has the final say on if they’re willing to offer you a refund or not. This means that there might be a lot of invalid clicks sneaking through the net and costing you money.

In response to this, Google has introduced its own invalid click investigator which allows users to report suspicious clicks to Google that they have been charged for. The investigator guides you through a series of questions, and if they require more data for their investigation, Google will email you directly and request it.

From our personal experience of using the tool regularly for several years, the chances of receiving a refund from Google are extremely low. Even when you have substantial evidence and proof backing up a click is invalid, you’ll be left scratching your head as to how you didn’t get a refund.

Overall, the idea might sound good to AdWords customers, but it’s really seen as a bit of a gimmick. Don’t hold your breath for a refund!

How to Stop Invalid Clicks in AdWords

As an advertiser who uses Google AdWords, blocking as many invalid clicks as possible should be your number one priority. If you’re expecting Google to do it for you then you’ll be left out of pocket and disappointed.

Sure, Google might be giving you free refunds for your invalid clicks, but that’s only for the ones they detect. What about the potential hundreds of other invalid clicks that sneak through and end up costing you money?

To stop those invalid clicks from costing you money you have to take things into your own hands and increase your protection. Thanks to AdWord’s IP exclusion list, it’s actually possible to create your own block list and stop certain people (and bots) from seeing your ads. Of course, doing it manually isn’t the most effective way of blocking fraud. Who really wants to waste their time doing something that Google should be doing already?

Thankfully you can improve your AdWords ROI by blocking invalid clicks automatically with PPC Protect.

To see how much you can save with our click fraud prevention software, click below to try our 14-day free trial!

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