VPN is a virtual private network used by many these days. Some use it to get better prices for products or services, such as a cheaper Netflix subscription not available in their country. Others use VPN to create an IP from a different country to access sites that are not available in theirs, or for example, to find more Netflix titles. But, some use it to do VPN click fraud.
There’s no doubt that there are many advantages to VPN. By investing in this technology, you can shop online safely, prevent internet service provider tracking, and save a lot of money on deals. However, this trending technology offers criminals more chances to obtain data and misuse it.
It offers them a chance to do VPN click fraud. Many of the click fraud cases these days are done with the use of proxies, including VPN technology.
In 2020, click fraud cost marketers more than $35 billion, a number that grew to over $44 billion in 2022. An incredible 90% of all Google and Bing PPC campaigns are affected by this type of fraud.
Imagine now that Google sends you an AdWords bill for thousands of dollars. You planned a very small budget for the PPC advertising campaign you put in place and yet, it seems like you got thousands of clicks and no significant leads or revenue. This is because of click fraud, a deceptive technique costing companies a fortune.
In this guide, you’ll learn what fraudulent clicks are, how they happen, and most importantly - how to prevent and stop VPN click fraud from harming you.
Understanding VPN click fraud: how it happens
Click fraud is frequently seen in the advertising world. The numbers double almost every year. Simply put, click fraud is the massive, malicious clicking on a PPC. It is sometimes done by the competition to raise your advertising bill, or by criminals trying to get your money.
This form of fraud adds up tremendously to ad fraud numbers. These days, ad fraud in different forms is an advertising problem of $7.2 billion.
Now let’s be real about this - the risk of click fraud will remain as long as you have a PPC campaign in place. What you can do is diminish the likelihood that it will happen to you and the chance of getting that high AdWords bill.
Not all false clicks are fraudulent!
Some clicks do not fall under click fraud, even if they aren’t exactly real. We are talking about accidental clicks i.e. clicks that increase your costs because someone double-clicked on your ad.
What constitutes click fraud is any manual or automated click intended to increase your costs, stop your advertising, or increase the profits for the site owners that host your ads.
How does VPN fall into the picture?
Fraudsters often use VPNs to hide their real location and privately perform click fraud on your ads. This makes it hard for businesses to detect their real IP addresses and realize that it is not a real lead that clicks on the ad.
A bad bot is easy to detect because of the unusual click peaks outside of your business’s targeted geo-location. To eliminate this big red flag, fraudsters today use proxies like VPNs to switch to an IP address in your targeted geo-location.
As you can imagine, this makes VPN click fraud very hard to detect.
Tricks for stopping VPN click fraud in 2023
Now that you know how serious this can be and how hard it is to detect or prevent it, let’s get to the actionable part of this guide. Below you’ll find the 6 top tricks for stopping VPN click fraud in 2023:
1. Invest in proxy detection software
Fraudsters have improved their methods for scamming businesses a lot. Before proxies and VPNs, you could easily notice the red flags when the number of traffic grew unexpectedly. Today, when you get many clicks on your PPC campaign, you’ll see that they are from your targeted locations. There’s no way of figuring out what is real and what is a fraud - not on your own.
The best trick for stopping VPN click fraud these days is proxy detection. SEON, a top-rated VPN and proxy detection solution uses AI and automation to catch the bad agents that spoof the connection details to commit this and other types of fraud.
How will SEON detect the proxy and VPN use by seeing your clicks?
Proxy detection at SEON comes from the IP Lookup module. This tool uses a combination of techniques such as ping tests, DNS leak tests, WebRTC checks, all to find the tricksters that try to harm you.
This is all automated, so you’ll get fraud scores and risk score reports in real time. When you have the data at your disposal, you can use it to stop click fraud before it costs you a lot of money.
2. Check the IP addresses with many clicks
Do you get lots of clicks from the same IP address? Check the click time stamp and the IP address to see if it is legit. While most people who do click fraud use proxies and VPNs to hide their IP, there will be some that won’t know that this is an option or won’t do it properly. You can use Whatismyip to see where these clicks are coming from.
Let’s say that you find such an IP address and have your suspicions about it. You can reach out to Google to report the issue and they’ll look into it. This should be enough to prevent that same fraudster from continuing to click on your ads maliciously.
3. Keep track of your targeted audience’s demographic
The demographic of your targeted audience is your best way of detecting and avoiding all sorts of fraud including click fraud. Unless you know where your audience is based, you won’t be able to detect when you get many clicks from different, unlikely locations.
Do an audience analysis regularly - your reach might widen and this information can change when you market your products and services online!
Another good way to research and analyze your audience is by tracking their behaviors. You might want to build a chatbot that your customers can talk to, and analyze the conversations to look for behavior patterns. This is also a great way to boost customer satisfaction, so it’s a win-win method.
4. Set up IP exclusions in Google Ads
Do you have a list of IP addresses that are making too many clicks or look fraudulent to you? You can block these to prevent them from adding to your PPC costs. Google Ads has this feature. When you block them, the ads won’t be shown to those IP addresses, so they won’t be able to proceed with their clicks.
This is not a fool-proof method since fraudsters often use versatile IP addresses, but if they use each address to do at least a few dozen clicks, it can certainly help reduce them.
5. If possible, do retargeting with your ads
Retargeting ads are only visible to people that have been on your website before. This makes it impossible for fraudsters to see the ad in the first place, not to mention click on it. No VPN will help them find and use the IP addresses of people that have visited your site, not to mention get them enough IP addresses to deliver hundreds of clicks to your advertisement.
Of course, this is not very productive if you aim to attract a new audience with your PPC campaign. However, if you are looking to retarget the ones you already have, this will keep you much safer.
6. Make your ads as targeted as possible
The more targeted your ad is, the more success you can expect from it. But, that’s not all you get with highly targeted ads - you are also reducing the risk of click fraud.
Click fraud is often done via click farms located in specific locations. While they might use some VPNs and proxies to use other IP addresses, they might not be sure of which your targeted geo-locations are.
You want to get the ads in front of people in your target demographics, so share the PPC only with people in selected locations. Exclude all other languages and countries from your targeting.
Let’s make sure that the PPC campaign is a success!
PPC campaigns have the potential of bringing you a pool of new customers and helping you retarget your visitors. However, this comes with its risks. If you want to get the best out of your PPC campaign, take some measures to prevent VPN click fraud.
Google and other search engines are already taking some action to prevent and even refund businesses for illegitimate clicks. But, they have a lot to do to perfect this. This is why you should take a proactive approach, invest in the right tools, and make some effort to stop VPN click fraud.
Nadica Metuleva is a freelance writer who’s passionate about creating quality, original content. She holds a Master’s degree in English teaching and a Bachelor’s degree in translation. With 8 years of experience in the freelance writing industry, Nadica has become proficient in creating content that captivates the audience, drives growth, and educates. You can find her on LinkedIn.