What is PPC Bot Traffic? How Bot Traffic Hurts PPC Campaigns

PPC bot traffic can account for over 35% of daily clicks while causing serious click fraud that wastes ad budgets, reduces reach to real human customers, and provides competitors with an edge as they limit a successful PPC campaign in their industry.

PPC bot traffic is a specific type of click fraud where software applications run automated bots that click on your PPC campaigns. It is common to experience this kind of fraud with Pay Per Click traffic providers such as Google AdWords, Media.net, Bing Advertising, and similar ad platforms which charge per click, rather than impressions.

PPC Bot Traffic

Bot traffic inflates ad clicks with non-human visitors generated by automated software, typically using a proxy or VPN provider to mask the IP address. By performing repetitive tasks at an extremely fast rate, PPC traffic bots can negatively impact a significant amount of PPC campaigns in a short amount of time. While some of these bots serve beneficial functions to monitor ad placements or check your website for consistency, others serve malicious intentions that limit your budgets and drive up the cost of your PPC advertising.

Bot Traffic Types Explained

Bot traffic comes in two distinct forms, good bot traffic and bad bot traffic. Both of these types of traffic make up over half of all website traffic with 22.9% from good bots and 28.9% from bad bots. Good bots perform functions such as search engine services, website monitoring, and aggregating data. Bad bots perform functions such as spam, DDoS attacks, ad fraud, and malicious attacks.

Obviously, good bots will never be a concern for website owners, but bad bots can cause serious problems for website owners. For example, DDoS attacks can overwhelm your server shutting down your website completely. Ad fraud causes you to pay for the clicks of these bots through your PPC campaign without receiving any benefits from those clicks. Spam can fill your comment sections with irrelevant information which can cause distrust between you and your real customers. Some bots even work to infiltrate your website with malicious software. While you want to avoid traffic from all types of bad bots, this article focuses primarily on avoiding bad bots focused on ad fraud.

Bad Bots & Click Fraud

When you receive bot traffic on your PPC campaigns, you directly pay for that traffic each time one of those bots clicks on your advertisement. This can cause a wide range of negative consequences including:

  • It runs up the cost of your PPC campaigns making it extremely hard to run profitable advertisements.
  • Depleting your advertising budget earlier in the day resulting in less real people finding your business.
  • Bot traffic makes it difficult to determine whether or not your current campaigns could yield a positive ROI.
  • Non-human traffic cost the advertising industry over $7 billion in 2016.

Clearly PPC bot traffic can seriously impact the effects of your advertising efforts. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize the impact of bots on your PPC campaigns.

Competitor Click Fraud

The #1 source for click fraud on your pay per click advertising campaigns will be your competitors. It's in their best interest to keep PPC bid pricing as low as possible and minimize competitors which could be outbidding their own ads or even just reaching real human customers. In most situations involving wasted budgets from ad fraud abuse, a competitor is likely at play. As this article continues, we will explain some of the ways you can prevent bot traffic on your ad campaigns.

How To Avoid PPC Bot Traffic

Usually, you can identify PPC bot traffic fairly easily by paying attention to some key metrics of your PPC advertising campaigns. Once you identify the non-human bot traffic, most PPC platforms give you the ability to filter out that traffic immediately. There are also a few ways you can make your campaigns less prone to attack from bad bots and increase your ad spend's reach:

Identifying PPC Bot Traffic

The first step to avoiding PPC bot traffic involves identifying when bot traffic attacks your campaigns. In order to identify bot traffic, you need to pay close attention to a few specific metrics of your campaigns and website traffic. By paying attention to these metrics, you can act quickly to seal up any holes in your campaigns and reduce the effects of these bots. Some key indicators of bot traffic include:

  • Extremely high click-through-rates in comparison to your other campaigns or your expectations.
  • Lower engagement than you would expect with low session times and high bounce rates.
  • Random spikes in traffic during unexpected times of the day.
  • Far higher traffic on pages utilizing PPC than all other pages on your site particularly if that PPC traffic rarely correlates with traffic to your other pages.
  • Significant drops in your ROI for any of your PPC campaigns.

Once you identify pay per click bot traffic, you can adjust your PPC ad campaigns to avoid that invalid traffic in the future. One of the most effective ways of thwarting the efforts of bad bots is to set up an IP exclusion once you identify bot traffic. Most of the bot traffic will likely come from the same IP address or a similar location. You can set up exclusions for these patterns in your PPC platform’s settings.

Instantly Protect Your Campaigns from Bot Traffic and Invalid Clicks

Utilize a Honeypot Field

A honeypot field creates an invisible form on your site prior to proceeding to the intended page of your PPC campaign. While the human eye cannot see this invisible field, an automated bot can detect it then fills it in. You can then redirect this traffic away from your site whenever the form is filled in. This gives you a simple way of detecting bot traffic. Once you detect the bot traffic, you can take action to avoid it in all future campaigns using specific exclusions for where that bot traffic comes from. It also prevents bot traffic from altering the metrics you use to determine whether or not the campaign gave you a positive ROI.

Include as many Targeting Options as Possible

Whenever you create a new PPC campaign always target as specific of a group as you possibly can. While it can seem appealing to showcase the ad you spent time and money creating to as many people as you can, heavily targeted ads simply convert at a higher rate. It also helps prevent your ad from showing to automated bots. Most of the time they only look for the lowest hanging fruit, so the more targeted your ads are the less likely they are to show up to these bots. Targeting your ads as specifically as possible is a great way to avoid PPC bot traffic and increase your overall ROI.

AdWords also has some reports available which can display click fraud that was filtered automatically on your account. Filtered invalid clicks are usually underreported, so still a large amount of fraudulent clicks can limit your campaigns without being detected by Google.

Implement a PPC Bot Traffic Prevention Software

Anytime you’re under the attack of PPC bot traffic, it ends up costing your business money through increased costs of your PPC campaign and time spent avoiding the attack. You can avoid this almost entirely by investing in a bot traffic prevention solution. It works by looking at all of the key metrics of your PPC campaigns then automatically creates exemptions in your campaigns whenever a bot is detected. This immediately prevents the bot traffic from running up your costs all while saving you countless hours fine-tuning your campaigns around bad bots.

If your budgets are feeling the pressure of clicks from competitors, then you need to stop bot traffic right away. Setting up IPQS tools only take a few minutes and can instantly protect your site from bots, invalid clicks, and much more.

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