Google Ads, Google AdSense, and PPC Ad Fraud


Google Ads and its AdSense cousin are arguably the two most prolific digital advertising platforms on the web. They are responsible for serving up millions of ads in search engine results and on websites, mobile apps, and streaming platforms. All this activity makes both platforms lucrative targets for PPC ad fraud.

Advertisers trust that Google is doing its best to root out ad fraud. When instances of fraud are uncovered, Google takes steps to punish the fraudsters accordingly. They also modify their platforms to prevent future exploitation. But even a company as big and powerful as Google cannot stop ad fraud entirely.

It’s All About the Clicks

When it comes to both Google Ads and AdSense, it is all about the clicks. Google Ads charges advertisers for every click their advertisements get. The more clicks, the higher the bill. The same goes for AdSense. Both Google and ad publishers earn money for each and every click.

Perpetrating PPC ad fraud through either platform is a matter of generating as many clicks as possible. It doesn’t matter that the clicks don’t represent traffic from legitimate visitors who could possibly make a purchase. All that matters is the raw number of clicks generated during a given billing cycle.

A software package designed to identify PPC ad fraud can help advertisers fight back. Fraud Blocker is one example of such software. It monitors a variety of online advertising metrics to identify possible instances of ad fraud so that advertisers can take action.

Both Sides of the Equation

A good scammer who knows how to play the PPC game benefits from both sides of the equation. How? Let’s start with Google Ads. Google Ads is a platform for advertisers. It is where advertisers bid on their favorite keywords, create and submit their ads, and get them published.

Whatever an advertiser bids is the price paid for each ad click. More coveted keywords tend to require higher bids. In turn, advertisers spend more on each click when ads are associated with those more expensive keywords. They pay Google, by the way. A portion of what they pay goes to publishers. That is where Google AdSense comes in.

AdSense is for publishers. Anyone who owns online properties can establish an AdSense account. Ads created and published through Google Ads end up on publisher properties through the AdSense program. Whenever an ad gets clicked, the publisher earns money.

Preventing PPC Ad Fraud

As previously stated, Google does its part to fight PPC ad fraud. They use automatic filters, real-time filtering, click bot hunting, and manual checks to identify and root out fraudulent activity. When Google suspects a publisher might be perpetrating ad fraud, that publisher’s account is blocked.

One of the keys to preventing PPC ad fraud is to pay attention to IP addresses. An IP address offers a direct link to suspicious activity as well as a means of blocking it. Suspect IP addresses can be excluded from ad displays so that scammers never see the ads on which they would otherwise click.

Monitoring IP addresses is just one strategy for identifying ad fraud. Monitoring timestamps, device IDs, and other metrics offers further evidence of ad fraud being perpetrated. The key to all of it is diligence. Advertisers cannot simply sit on their hands and hope that scammers don’t target their ads.

PPC ad fraud generates tens of billions of dollars annually. Scammers are not going to be easily dissuaded from doing what they do. Likewise, Google Ads and AdSense do not offer enough protection on their own. It is up to advertisers to do everything they can to protect themselves.

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