As each hero has its villain so do you as an affiliate. In the ever-going affiliate effort to make a buck, a click bot is your Kryptonite. In particular, if you have to work within the limits of your budget, you want to make sure every dime spent on your affiliate campaign matters. Big companies don’t really care if a small(er) percentage of their traffic is bot-based. When your budget is limited, however, a click bot might deplete your funds and negatively impact your campaign’s performance. They have to go.
What do you do? For starters, you have to make a thorough sweep of your data to spot irregularities and inconsistencies that are symptoms of a click bot on the loose. Then, you have to eliminate the disease and keep a close eye on further developments to prevent future damages. In the next few minutes or so, we’ll show you all you need to know.
What is a Click Bot?
First, a short introduction is in order. A click bot is a breed of traffic bot that has one single aim: to spike your ad’s click count. Whenever there’s an advertising fraud scheme in play, a click bot is usually part of the crime scene. It simulates (up to a degree) the actions of a real viewer who visits the site and clicks on an ad. From there on, it’s easy to see how this little piece of software can make any PPC campaign bleed money.
It’s a neat package, alright…
Image credit: Bestmacros
The reason why click bots are so popular is that they deliver results. So much so that the click fraud operation Methbot generates between $3 and $5 million in fraudulent revenue every day. And that’s just one click fraud system out of thousands. A simple Google search shamelessly reveals tons of available bots to try out, as well as information on how to build one. The bad news is that the more sophisticated they get, the harder it is to detect them. The good news is that a computer-generated click is not completely undetectable.
How to Identify a Click Bot
Your campaign data will be your first and final destination. Once you establish a steady stream of data coming in from your campaigns, start checking for signs of click fraud ASAP. Every click should be under the magnifying glass, especially easy-to-fake metrics like viewability and suspiciously high traffic levels. Unusual spikes in CTR are oftentimes a sign of click bots, particularly everything above 1% in an industry where the average routinely floats under the 0.1% mark. A sudden increase in bounce rates or PPC traffic without accompanied ROI are usually indicators of click fraud, as are duplicate IP addresses and recurring domains (especially the long-tail variants).
It’s also a good idea to focus on human interaction metrics like subscriptions, purchases, and others that show the real effectiveness of a campaign. Naturally, you need to track a fair amount of incoming data as well from potential culprits, such as IP addresses, the timestamps of clicks and actions, as well as the user agent used to access your campaign. This will provide you with a sense of where fraudulent traffic is coming from.
Image credit: AdProfs
The key is to be persistent and thorough. Actively monitoring your analytical data will allow you to set the first line of defense click bots will a have hard time penetrating. Blocking access is the first step in the fight against bot traffic. Some slip through, though, but that’s no reason to panic. Bots are all around the Internet with major platforms like Google and Facebook constantly trying to filter them out. If one wanders into your area, there are a few solutions you can try.
As for almost everything in the online world, there’s third-party software that can help. Services like ClickGuard, Clixtell, Improvely, and others can both track click data and help you reduce click fraud through various methods. These don’t come free though so you should consider them with a clear picture of your budget in mind.
Of course, these are far from providing absolute support and you’re far from being helpless on your own. On the proactive side, two of the best options are using remarketing whenever possible and adjusting your targeting to relevant audiences, putting an end to areas known for fraudulent activities. With remarketing, you’re reaching out to the same people who showed an initial interest and as such, you know they are valid. In addition, broad targeting increases the chances for click fraud, so if you’re aiming locally, there’s no need to advertise on another continent. Geographic targeting is also very important because it can filter out countries and regions where click bots generally come from.
Aside from remarketing and geo-targeting, you can also maintain a blacklist and block low-quality domains and IP addresses from your campaigns. This is more of a reactive approach that needs to be done manually and frequently but still very useful.
Prevent It Before It Happens
In an ideal world, no one should have to pay for fake impressions. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in, so your best chance to fight click bot is to prevent it from depleting your budget in the first place. Considering everything, that’s easier said than done, but a lot more rides on your choices than you may realize. Most notably, the choice of your traffic partner. Look at it this way: if the water is tainted at the source, you need a ton filtering to make it drinkable, and even then, they might not be that good. The same goes for your traffic – where you get your traffic matters the most in this fight. If you buy traffic, make sure it’s from a reputable and trustworthy ad network that has a long and proven history record in dealing with fraud. Look for a platform that is strict and will not tolerate any fraudulent activities. It should also be transparent regarding their traffic inventory and have the necessary in-house tools for fraud detection and prevention.
When optimizing your campaigns, your first order of business is to address click fraud. If left unchecked, it will spread and poison everything else. The simple truth is your campaigns won’t matter the least bit if not viewed by actual human beings. Use the information outlined in this post to your advantage and shut down low-quality traffic for good. Otherwise, you’re like a Lamborghini on an off-road trail: out of place. In the affiliate world, that’s as good as being bankrupt.