Microsoft Ads 101: Get Up and Running in Minutes

Google is the biggest search engine ad platform in the world. But Microsoft Advertising has potential advantages, including lower CPCs and less competition on Bing. It’s worth a look, and this article shows you how to get started. I’ll walk through the step-by-step process to set up Microsoft Ads as well as best practices for […]

The post Microsoft Ads 101: Get Up and Running in Minutes appeared first on CXL.

Google is the biggest search engine ad platform in the world. But Microsoft Advertising has potential advantages, including lower CPCs and less competition on Bing.

It’s worth a look, and this article shows you how to get started. I’ll walk through the step-by-step process to set up Microsoft Ads as well as best practices for running campaigns. 

How to set up your Microsoft Ads account

The first step is to create an account on Microsoft Advertising.

microsoft ads homepage.

When first creating your Microsoft Advertising account, you have the option of importing campaigns from Google. If you don’t currently have any Google campaigns or simply want to start fresh, proceed with “Create a new campaign.”

import google ads account into bing.

You can create an ad campaign during the account creation process, but I recommend skipping for now. 

skip campaign creation when creating microsoft ads account.

Next, add your billing information. There are two ways to pay for ads:

  • Prepay allows you to add funds to your account and have charges deducted from those funds. You have the option to pay with PayPal, check/bank transfer, or credit/debit card.
  • Postpay option allows you to pay after charges accrue. You must use a credit/debit card for the postpay option.

If you want to skip the add payment option, you can come back to it later. 

payment options selection screen in microsoft ads.
skip payment in microsoft ads setup.

That’s it. You just created your account.

How to set up a Microsoft Ads campaign

First, go to the “Campaigns” tab and click on the “Create campaign” button:

Campaign goals

You have six options for your campaign goal:

  1. Visits to my website. Choose this option if your main goal is to drive traffic to your website.
  2. Visits to my business location. Select this goal if you have a brick-and-mortar business, and you want people to visit your store, office, or event.
  3. Conversions. Pick this option if you want to track the actions people take on your website, such as purchasing a product or signing up for your email list.
  4. Phone calls. Use this option to drive more phone calls to your business.
  5. Dynamic Search Ads. With dynamic search ads, your ads are automatically customized based on the content of your site; you don’t even choose keywords for your campaign. Check out this article to learn when dynamic search ads may make sense.
  6. Sell products from your catalog. Showcase your inventory with product images on the search results page. This feature is equivalent to Google Shopping.
product ads on bing.

Campaign settings

Next, it’s time to define your campaign settings. 

  1. Campaign name. It’s important to name your campaigns sensibly, especially if you’ll be running a large number of campaigns within your account. Here’s an excellent guide that covers best practices for naming your campaigns.
  2. Campaign budget. Here, you can set how much money you’re willing to spend per day on your ads. Learn more about how your budget is calculated here
  3. Location. You can set locations for your ads based on a country or you choose states, cities, coordinates, or zip codes you want to target. Additionally, you can exclude locations you don’t want to target.
location targeting in bing ads.
  1. Who should see your ads. If you want to show ads to people who live in your target location, check “People in your targeted location.” In most cases, you wouldn’t check “People searching for or viewing pages about your targeted location,” although there are exceptions (e.g., tour business).
  2. Language. Select a language consistent with your location targeting.

Ad groups and keywords

The next step is to name your ad group and choose the right keywords for your ads. 

example of broad match modified keywords in bing ads.

You probably noticed the plus sign in front of each word in the image above. That’s called a broad match modifier, and it’s one of four match types:

  1. Broad match. With a broad match type, someone could type your keywords out of order in the search bar, and your ads will still display. Your ads also show if the searched words are loosely related to your keywords, even if they don’t exactly match (hence “broad” match). Broad match will generally generate the most traffic, but your ads will be less targeted.
  2. Broad match modifier. When you use broad match modifier keywords, your keywords must be in the search query, although the order can differ. You will get less, but more relevant, traffic.
  3. Phrase match. Phrase match keywords generally bring highly targeted traffic to your website since the search query has to contain all of your keywords in the exact order they’re written. You also get exposure to new audiences who type in long-tail keywords that contain your keywords.
  4. Exact match. The exact match requires the search query to match your keywords with no deviation, and the search query can contain no other words. Exact match is the most targeted but will provide the least traffic. 
table showing various keyword match types.

To learn more about each match type, here’s a great guide.

example of keyword ideas for core topic on bing ads.

If you need inspiration for keyword ideas, use tools such as Wordtracker, SEMrush, Adzooma, or Moz.

table with searches and estimated CPC on bing ads.

Once you’ve chosen your keywords, click “Save.” Next, we’ll get into the ad creation process. 

Ads

Click on “Create ad.”

creating an ad with microsoft ads.

Next, fill in the following information:

  1. Ad type. Choose between expanded text ads and responsive search ads. If you go with expanded text ads, you have to write your own headline and description for each ad you create. With responsive search ads, Microsoft Advertising automatically combines headlines and descriptions.
  2. Final URL. Enter the URL of your landing page.
  3. Title part 1. People usually notice your title first to decide if your ad is relevant. It’s a good idea to include keywords in your title.
  4. Title part 2. This is a subheading for your ad, separated from the first title by a vertical bar.
  5. Title part 3. The last title is less important and may not appear in your ad at all, but it still provides helpful context.
  6. Path. Name your path with relevant keywords. For example, if you’re a dentist, you may name your first path as “teeth” and the second path as “whitening,” so the path is relevant to the search query. Your display URL will show as “domain.com/teeth/whitening.” Each path comes with a 15-character limit.
  7. Ad text 1. Include important information with your first ad tex. If you want examples of good PPC ad copy (with explanations), check out this article.
  8. Ad text 2. The second ad text is not guaranteed to show in your ads. 
  9. Mobile URL. This should be the same as your final URL unless you have a different URL for mobile users.
example of ad creation in microsoft ads.

This is how your ad appears to search users.

dissection of ad components on bing ads.

How to use dynamic keyword insertion

If you type “{“ into any of the title boxes, you have the option to choose “Keyword insertion.”

example of dynamic keyword insertion.

The keyword insertion function matches the exact keyword someone typed in. For example, say you have keywords that include teeth whitening and dental bleaching, and you set your title as “Book Your {keyword: dental} Appointment Today.”

When someone types in “dental bleaching,” your ad displays as “Book Your Dental Bleaching Appointment today.” When the searcher’s keyword cannot be displayed in ads, your ad automatically displays default text (e.g., “Book Your Dental Appointment Today”).

(For your default text, choose something general that works for multiple scenarios.)

choosing default text for dynamic search ads.

Ad Extensions

There are nine core ad extensions, some of which are unique to Microsoft Ads. (There’s also a tenth extension to promote app downloads, if you have an app.)

1. Action extensions

These allow you to embed a call-to-action button to your ads, which can help increase the click-through-rate of your ads. 

action extension on microsoft ads.
example of "compare" button on bing ads.

2. Price extensions

With price extensions, people can see sample prices before they click. Price extensions help can increase the relevance and improve conversions of your ads. 

price extensions example bing ads.

3. Sitelink extensions 

Sitelink extensions allow you to include additional links to specific products or offers. They significantly increase the surface area of your ads, which can drive more clicks. 

sitelink extensions on bing ads.

4. Callout extensions

Callout extensions also increase the screen space of your ads. You can use them to highlight product features or benefits. But, unlike sitelink extensions, callout extensions don’t add additional links to your ads.

example of callout extensions on bing ads.

5. Structured snippet extensions

With structured snippet extensions, you can highlight aspects of your product or service. A structured snippet contains a header and a list of 2–10 words that relate to the header. For example, if your header is “services,” then the words that relate to your header may be “oil change” and “brake repair.”

example of structured snippet extension on bing ads.

6. Review extensions

Review extensions allow you to display customer reviews on your ads “from reliable, well-established and trusted sources.” For more information on Microsoft’s review extension policies, click here.

example of barcode extension on bing ads.

7. Location extensions

These are useful if you own a brick-and-mortar business. With location extensions, you can add the physical location of your business for easy reference (instead of forcing potential customers to click your ad just to find your address). 

example of location extension on microsoft ads.

8. Call extensions

Call extensions display your phone number on your ads. Your phone number can be displayed on all devices, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. On PCs and tablets, people can make calls by using a free Skype call, which is an exclusive feature of Microsoft Ads.

On smartphones, people can make calls by tapping on your number. According to Microsoft, ads with call extensions have a 3–6% higher click rate than ads that don’t.

example of location extensions on bing ads.

9. Image extensions

With image extensions, your search ads have a chance to appear on non-search placements.

There are a few requirements for images that you can use in ads:

  • Minimum image dimensions: 760 x 400 pixels;
  • Maximum image dimensions: 1,900 x 1,000 pixels;
  • Required aspect ratio: 16:9;
  • File types eligible: .jpeg, .png, and .gif.

The next step is to set your budget and bids.

Budget

Your budget comes down to how much you’re comfortable spending and the industry you’re in. Know what kind of CPC you’re looking at before you commit to a paid strategy.

example of budget setting in microsoft ads.

To help get you started, Microsoft Advertising provides suggested bids when choosing keywords. It’s their estimate of how much you’ll have to spend to show up on the front page of Bing.

This bid is just an estimate. Keep a close eye on how your campaign performs and adjust your bids accordingly.

estimated clicks and spends based on bids in microsoft ads.
campaign performance in microsoft ads.

Bid strategy

There are three main bid strategies:

  1. Manual: With a manual bid, you set bids for your ad groups and keywords, and these bids are set in stone unless you change them.
  2. Enhanced CPC: With Enhanced CPC, you set your bid manually, and Microsoft Ads automatically increases or decreases your bid when the conversion is more likely. Enhanced CPC ads come with certain geographic restrictions.
  3. Maximize clicks: Your bid is set automatically to a number that maximizes clicks while staying within your set budget. (You have an option to set a maximum CPC.)

While automated ads can save time, the tradeoff is you have much less control. And despite their potential, PPC automation isn’t guaranteed to outperform manual bids. 

bidding strategy choices on bing ads.

Conversion Tracking

You can only optimize what you measure, but conversion tracking is also vital to automation. Many Microsoft Ads features depend on the volume and quality of data from conversion tracking

How to set up conversion tracking 

Click on “Conversion Tracking.”

conversion tracking setup within bing ads.

Then, click “Get started.”

setting up uet tag with bing ads.

Next, click on “Create UET Tag.”

creating uet tag for bing ads.

Fill in the “UET tag name” section. For your description, it’s recommended to either write the name of your page or page URL. 

naming conventions for uet tags.

In the following steps, I’ll set up a UET tag using Google Tag Manager (GTM), though there are other ways to implement the tag on your site.

Go into your GTM container and click on “New Tag.”

creating new tag on gtm.

Next, click on the pencil icon in the Tag Configuration.

tag configuration in gtm.

Scroll down and click on “Bing Ads Universal Event Tracking.”

choosing bing tag in gtm.

Go to your Microsoft Ads account and click on “UET Tags” under “Conversion Tracking.” Copy the Tag ID from your UET Tag.

tag id for bing to add to gtm.

Go back to GTM and paste the Tag ID into the “Bing Ads UET Tag ID” section.

adding bing uet to gtm tag.

Click the pencil icon in the triggering pane.

setting up triggering for microsoft ads tag.

Select All Pages and click Add

add a trigger for a gtm tag.

Enter a tag name and click Save.

saving a gtm tag.

Click on Submit.

submitting tag changes in gtm.

Finally, click on Publish.

publishing tag in gtm.

You should see your tag verified under the UET tags pane in your Microsoft Advertising account within 24 hours.

confirming active tag in bing ads.

Conversion goals

After you’ve added conversion tracking for your website, create conversion goals

How To Set Up Conversion Goals

Go to “Conversion goals” and click on “Create conversion goal”:

creating conversion goal in bing ads.

Name the conversion goal and select a goal that best describes the measure you want to track. 

We’ll walk through an example based on a destination URL (e.g., “thank you” page). 

destination url conversion for micrsoft ads.

Add the destination URL to ensure your conversion gets recorded when the customer reaches, in this example, your thank you page.

defining destination url in bing ads.

For destination URLs, you have four options, similar to what you see in Google Analytics Goals: 

  1. Equals to. The URL that users visit has to exactly match your destination URL to count as a conversion.
  2. Begins with. Any visit to a page that begins with your URL will count as a conversion. For example, “abc.com/example/abcd” will be recorded as the conversion if your destination URL is set to “abc.com/example/.”
  3. Contains. Any visit to a site that contains your URL or keywords will count as a conversion. For example, if you set your destination URL to “thank-you,” then both “abc.com/thank-you” and “abc.com/example/thank-you” will count as conversions.
  4. Regular expression. This is a useful option if you’re trying to track a purchase for a specific product. For in-depth details, check out this page.

Once you set your destination URL, you can fill in the rest of the information, and click on save to complete the process. If you need additional help, check out Microsoft’s guide on creating conversion goals

Remarketing with Microsoft Ads

Remarketing can substantially increase your conversion rate for paid search marketing. It’s a way to re-engage website visitors who have visited your site but not yet converted.

How to create a remarketing list in Microsoft Ads

To create a remarketing list, go to “Shared Library” and click on “Audiences.”

shared library in bing ads for remarketing.

Click on “Create remarketing list.”

creating a remarketing list on microsoft ads.

Fill in the following sections:

  1. Remarketing list name. Write the name that best describes your remarketing list.
  2. Who to add to your audience. Pick one of the four rules.
defining who gets added to a remarketing list.

For example, if you set the rule to “URL contains welcome,” your remarketing ad will target unconverted users who visited a page on your site that had “welcome” in the URL.

url-based rules for remarketing lists.
  1. Membership duration: Type in how many days you’re willing to wait before you give up on people who didn’t convert. Nick Supapol from SearchEnginePeople recommends using a time lag report to match the membership duration to your sales cycle (e.g., 14 days).
  2. Tag name. Select the tag name that you verified during the conversion tracking step.
remarketing campaign ui.

Microsoft Ads: Exclusive features and benefits 

While Google Ads and Microsoft Ads share a lot of similarities, there are features unique to Microsoft Ads. Additionally, you get access to Bing traffic, which owns close to 26% of the search market share for desktop searches in the United States (and its traffic is on the rise).

The following are some key features for Microsoft Ads.

Competition Tab

Inside the competition tab, you can peek at some of the key advertising performance metrics of your competitors, such as impression share, average position, and many more.

Additionally, you can view how your competitors perform across devices and over time.

Linkedin profile targeting

With LinkedIn profile targeting, you can target users based on their: 

  1. Industry. Ex. Finance, health care, agriculture.
  2. Company. Ex. Microsoft, Google, Facebook.
  3. Job functions. Ex. Operations, real estate, administrative.

For example, say you sell PPC software and you want to reach decision-makers. Linkedin targeting can help you reach a director of digital marketing instead of a PPC analyst. 

Importing campaigns from Google Ads

If you import campaigns from Google Ads into your Microsoft account, double-check location targets, as there are differences in supported cities and countries. 

In most cases, you’ll be fine if your targeting is based on the state and country level. But things can get tricky when you get down to DMAs and MSAs. Check out a detailed guide on how to import Google Ads here.

How to import Merchant Center from Google

You can also import Google Merchant Center to Microsoft Ads if you have shopping ads set up in Google. First, go to Microsoft Ads and select “Tools.” Next, click on “Microsoft Merchant Center”:

microsoft merchant center in bing ads.

If you haven’t created your store yet, click on “Create store.” If you get stuck on the domain verification stage, follow the steps outlined in the conversion tracking section to copy and paste the UET code onto your website. Next select, “Validated via UET tag” from the destination URL.

validated uet tag in bing ads.

The next step is to import a merchant store from Google. You can access the tutorial with the entire process here.

Conclusion

If you’ve primarily relied on Google Ads for your advertising efforts, Microsoft Advertising is a great alternative to add to your mix. With so many marketers and organizations advertising only (or primarily) with Google, there’s plenty of opportunity for those willing to learn a new platform. 

With useful features such as Linkedin profile targeting and a variety of ad extensions, Microsoft Advertising has exclusive opportunities, too. Even if you’re setting up your Microsoft Ads from scratch, it should take only a few hours to go from nothing to a live campaign. 

The post Microsoft Ads 101: Get Up and Running in Minutes appeared first on CXL.

Is Click Fraud Devouring Your Ad Budget?

Click fraud occurs when a pay-per-click advertisement is clicked on by a user with malicious or disingenuous intent. Click fraud first came to light in 2005, when several major cases were taken to court. However, it continues to poison marketing campaigns—and find its way into more and more courtrooms. Juniper Research estimates that click fraud […]

The post Is Click Fraud Devouring Your Ad Budget? appeared first on CXL.

Click fraud occurs when a pay-per-click advertisement is clicked on by a user with malicious or disingenuous intent. Click fraud first came to light in 2005, when several major cases were taken to court.

However, it continues to poison marketing campaigns—and find its way into more and more courtrooms. Juniper Research estimates that click fraud cost advertisers $42 billion in 2019.  

In a time when advertising budgets are being cut and many businesses are facing economic uncertainty, putting every ad dollar to good use goes a long way.

This article explains what click fraud is, shows how it can impact your campaigns, and shares ways to reduce its impact on your marketing. 

How click fraud works

There are many ways to implement click fraud. Here’s a rundown of causes:

1. Click farms. Some businesses approach companies on the “dark web” to click on ads on their website. The clicks aren’t from potential customers, but they’re often from real people. 

These dodgy arrangements are often called click farms. Some networks are highly sophisticated, and organisers disguise their IP addresses. Click farms are often a combination of real people and bots.

2. Competing businesses. Competing businesses may click on each other’s PPC ads to waste money. If you conduct some intricate research (detailed below), you may be able to identify the IP address of competing businesses. If you can—great! Loads of PPC platforms (Google Ads included) allow you to blacklist IP addresses. 

Competitive industries, such as insurance, travel, and finance are especially susceptible. 

3. Potential buyers. Believe it or not, consumers who highly value particular brands click on competitors’ ads—knowing it will cost them money. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it.

Loyal buyers of other brands don’t care about your ad budget or your search terms. Thankfully, the effect of these types of clicks on your campaigns is minimal. 

4. Automated programs (bots). Perhaps the biggest culprits of click fraud are robots—malicious computer programs (botnets) that automatically scan the internet and subtly carry out clicks, trying to pass as human.

Wired refers to these as “hordes of linked machines controlled by rogue software.” They may be random and created simply to annoy people and businesses.

A recent Imperva Incapsula Bot Traffic Report found that 48.2% of website visits are by humans and 51.8% by robots. (Some 22.9% are “good” robots and 28.9% “bad” robots.)

No matter the cause of click fraud, the losing party is the business paying for the ad. After all, they want potential customers clicking their ads, and each instance of click fraud makes advertising more costly.

So how much should you worry about it?

How much of an impact does click fraud have?

“Click fraud can be extremely unsettling for well-to-do publishers and advertisers on search,’ says Grayson Kemper, Content & Editorial Manager for Clutch, “particularly during a time when many businesses are operating with an incredibly tight budget.”

However, for most small businesses, systemic click fraud is rare, according to Marcus Miller of Bowler Hat:

You may lose some clicks to competitors and window shoppers, but we don’t see much of what we would consider true click fraud. 

If traffic seems low quality, we will tweak targeting or, in very rare occasions, block IPs, etc.—but in most instances, this is just not that common. 

Typically, just using very tight targeting, not showing ads in countries where there are higher instances of click fraud or click farming, and using paid social—which, as a closed network, seems much less susceptible to click fraud—seems to work.

That said, it’s not all hype, either, as Christian Nicolini, Senior Director of Paid Media at Ignite Visibility, notes: 

Most click-fraud cases manifest from third-party display placements. However, we also see affiliate click fraud, competitor click fraud, click farms, and bots. While publishers have drastically improved their security, our team uses a combination of manual and automated tools to combat click fraud. 

From a manual response, we create internal reports to collect click timestamps, action timestamps, user agents, IP addresses, and create a master exclusion list of speculative activity. We’ve also experimented with several automation tools, like ClickCease and Clixtell to automate this process at scale.

Our advice to advertisers with smaller budgets: Stick with buying ads on owned properties (e.g., Facebook ads, Gmail, Discovery, search) and monitor your audience targeting in third-party serving environments (e.g., Google Display Network).

Indeed, individual cases and the collective impact is staggering.

There are some major botnets out there. For example, “Chameleon” is estimated to cost advertisers upwards of $6 million every month. Ad Age estimates that $1 out of every $3 spent on PPC is subject to click fraud. FraudLogix said that 50% (yes, 50%) of all ads that gained an impression in 2016 were a result of non-human traffic.

Neil Andrew, Founder of PPC Protect, has endured devastating click fraud:

The whole reason that I founded the company was due to suffering a devastating click-fraud attack that existing technology just couldn’t stop.

I had a range of ecommerce websites in an extremely competitive niche that were being hammered by organised competitors every time I turned on my ads—and Google simply wasn’t detecting or blocking the activity. We spent around £5,000/day and generated around £50,000/day in sales on average. When the fraud hit, that fell to just a few hundred pounds of revenue a day and a ton of wasted spend.

Any business can hire a botnet or, in some cases, even genuine people to maliciously click ads. We found a range of providers, mainly in Russia, that were as low as $100/day to eliminate your competitors from the ad auction.

We tried various pieces of existing technology to solve the issue, including relying on Google’s in-built systems (which is what they recommended to us), but nothing worked. Everything seemed very easy to work around, and, ultimately, Google’s response to us was, “It’s probably just poor targeting,” even though the analytics and data we had proved otherwise.

In the end, we built our own solution and refined it over time, before eventually launching it as a stand-alone SaaS product.

Other than build your own product, what can you do?  

How to protect yourself from click fraud

The symptoms of click fraud overlap with those of exceptionally good and bad campaigns. To know whether a sudden change is expected or potentially fraudulent, you must regularly audit your analytics and ad performance. 

Keep an eye on some of these data points: 

  • Dramatic increase in bounce rate for paid clicks. If, historically, the bounce rate for a landing page is in the 20–30% range, but it quickly shoots up to over 60%, that may indicate that something has gone awry. Of course, bounce rate can be affected by other factors (e.g., page speed, web design), so a sudden jump doesn’t guarantee foul play.
  • Abnormal number of clicks and impressions. A successful ad campaign will increase pageviews and impressions, but an unusual increase in clicks and impressions—like hundreds of clicks pouring in with “(not set)” as the location—may signal click fraud. 
  • Low or non-existent conversions. Lower-than-expected conversions on your campaigns can also be a sign of click fraud. If a competitor is using a click farm to manipulate your advertising efforts, the people or bots behind the attack aren’t going to buy your product or service. 

In every instance, historical data is essential. Not every ad campaign will be a massive success—detecting click fraud in an analytics audit requires a comparison to baseline expectations. 

If you suspect click fraud, report the suspicious activity to your ad platform. In many cases, you’ll receive credit if click fraud is proven or suspected. 

Here are a few other steps you can take.

1. Take a proactive approach to prevention.

The easiest way to deal with click fraud is to prevent it. While protection methods aren’t foolproof, they can reduce or even eliminate damaging attacks.

Sharpen your ad targeting. The more specific your ad targeting, the less likely click fraud is to occur. Target specific countries or locations where your target audience is most active.

If you do 98% of your business in the United States and Europe, for example, consider excluding countries outside of those locations to reduce your risk. You can still reach that tiny subset of buyers via other channels—without risking your entire ad spend.

Choose high-quality placements for display ads. Generally speaking, higher quality ad placements are less susceptible to bots and other forms of click fraud. They also cost more.

If you suspect certain websites are sending you fraudulent clicks, you can exclude them from display placements:

how to exclude websites from a display ads campaign.

Plenty of sites catalog other sites you may want to exclude from your display campaigns for a variety of reasons, potential click fraud included.

Know your competition. In a fair and ethical advertising landscape, you wouldn’t have to worry about your competition using shady tactics—like clicking your ads—to hurt your business.

Of course, some companies simply don’t play by the rules. Competitors may even click your ads just to get an idea of what your landing pages look like or what copy you’re using. That still costs you money.

Knowing the major players in your space and commonly targeted keywords can help you monitor clicks from the IP addresses of your competitors. Tools such as Ispionage or Spyfu can help you gather some of that intel. 

2. Block sketchy IP addresses.

You can block specific IP addresses—including your competitors’—from viewing your ads. 

While blocking IP addresses in Google Ads is simple, identifying them requires evaluating your server logs. Google Analytics no longer allows you to see the IP addresses of visitors to your site, and Google Ads never has (since it constitutes personally identifiable information).

Navah Hopkins, Director of Paid Media at Hennessey Digital, recommends software to support manual efforts to refine targeting:

Block IP addresses causing invalid clicks with software (clickcease.com is a great one) or manually block them in your campaigns. 

Usually, click fraud comes from an unexpected location, which means your location targeting wasn’t as specific as you might have thought. 

A reverse look-up of a questionable IP address can often help you determine if it’s likely click fraud. For example, if you suddenly notice hundreds of clicks from rural Idaho—and you sell beachwear—you can block that set of addresses.

Still, blocking IP addresses isn’t a perfect solution. You may block legitimate customers—like that one couple in Idaho prepping for their honeymoon—from seeing your ads. It’s risk vs. reward.

3. Consider click-fraud software.

Tackling click fraud on your own may not be the most effective solution. Software can help. (The landscape is ever-growing.) 

According to Martech Series, TrafficGuard has offered free PPC click-fraud protection software to small and medium-sized businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ClickCease is another popular tool that helps monitor bots, click farms, and your competition. PPC Protect uses AI to help clients hide ads from botnets and other vicious online robots. 

If you’re in the market for software, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Do they work with your go-to ad platforms? Some click-fraud tools specialize in Google Ads, while others monitor and protect a wider range of platforms. (Platforms themselves also have limitations—Microsoft Ads, for example, doesn’t allow automatic IP blocking by third-party tools that detect click fraud; Google Ads does.)
  • Is there a free trial? In the case of click-fraud software, trials can be especially helpful. You can test the software immediately on several campaigns to see its impact. (Free trials may also be useful diagnostic tools to identify the scope of click fraud in your campaigns.)
  • Does their model align with your budget? Some tools cover only a limited amount of ad spend each month.

Think of click-fraud tools as a way to supplement manual efforts and built-in platform protections. As James Norquay, Director of Prosperity Media, summarizes:

If you notice a large volume of clicks from the same IP address and during a similar time period, this is a sign to investigate.

Google and other platforms should take action to limit the clicks from users who do not have a legitimate browsing history, as simple safeguards like this can help prevent click fraud.

Many software solutions are also available in the space to prevent click fraud, such as ClickGuard, so marketing professionals have options to monitor their campaigns using third-party tools.

4. Use audiences to prequalify impressions and clicks on suspicious publishers.

Hopkins again:

If you set your ads to target and observe, the only folks who will have access to your ads are people in your audience lists. Yes, there need to be 1,000 people in a 30-day period for the list to work, but it can be a powerful way to protect your marketing dollars. 

In many cases, click fraud is actually a targeting mistake. The average brand doesn’t sit there clicking on competitors’ ads. Even if they did, the ad networks would flag them for suspicious activity and begin counting those clicks as invalid (crediting you back the spend). 

The best way to prevent click fraud is to regularly audit your campaigns and analytics, ensuring traffic is coming from intended sources, and you haven’t left yourself open to a targeting mishap.  

Even with some manual monitoring and software, you’ll never prevent click fraud completely. Any marketing strategy that relies heavily on PPC—or any single channel—for acquisition is at risk. Diversifying your marketing spend is an essential hedge. 

Conclusion

Click fraud costs businesses billions of dollars a year. While it can be frustratingly difficult to prove click fraud, investing in some baseline protections can help make every ad dollar count.

Realistically, the chances of large-scale click fraud are small (depending on your niche). But small businesses aren’t in a position to start long, expensive legal battles with giant corporations.

PPC is still a useful digital marketing channel. However, diversifying your acquisition channels can help reduce your risks and makes sense—even if click fraud is a minor concern.

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