Pay per click (PPC) is the most popular way of using search engine advertising. By bidding for ad placement of specific keywords in a search engine’s sponsored results you can increase website traffic and drive sales quickly. Although PPC is an accessible way to increase traffic and sales to your website it has long been proven that at least 20% of all traffic on paid ads is from fraudulent sources. Click fraud, or invalid clicks, can take place in many different forms. But it’s the world of click farms, which we’ll be looking at here, which play a major part in click fraud.
What are click farms?
Click farms are locations created to generate traffic in bulk for all sorts of purposes online. They can be hired to boost your social media presence, bring traffic to your website, increase domain authority using black hat tactics and even commit fraudulent acts such as clicking on pay per click ads or boosting video impressions.
Often, click farms are made up of hundreds or thousands of people working at computer terminals similar to call centers. They can also be a smaller operation with just a few employees and a couple of hundred mobile phones. Most often, click farms are sources of huge amounts of automated traffic, known as bots.
A recent report by anti-click fraud software firm ClickCease reveals that there are at least 7 locations in Taiwan offering a variety of click farm services, including fraudulent clicks. This is in addition to multiple smaller click farms across the world from Bangladesh to the USA, often run by one person with a handful of phones linked up to a computer.
Often they will advertise something like 10,000 genuine USA visitors for $10, or similar. Of course, this traffic is not as advertised. Those 10,000 visitors will likely be automated bots and will be routed through VPNs from places such as Bangladesh to make them appear as if they are visitors from the USA.
You’re wondering if all this is actually legal. Basically, yes it is.
Most of these services provided by click farms are actually legal, with the additional ‘fraudulent’ services often not advertised online. Buying social media likes, followers, and comments are frowned upon on the internet, it’s not against the law. Usually, if click farms do get shut down it’s for other reasons, such as immigration issues or importing illegal equipment.
How are click farms used for fraud?
Click farms can easily be hired online for a huge range of services and will click whatever link you may want for money. This does, of course, include pay per click links.
Often business rivals may hire click farms to click on competitors’ links in an attempt to deplete or damage their rival’s marketing budget.
The business of click fraud is forecast to cost marketers at least $24 billion in 2020, even with the impact of Coronavirus. Click farms have the ability to keep operating even under furlough as many of the services offered are run by bots.
If you’re running PPC ads for your business, make sure to keep an eye on suspicious activity such as high bounce rates, duplicate IP addresses or activity at strange times of day or night.
Those running pay per click ads on platforms such as Google Ads or Bing/Microsoft Ads can check out how much of their traffic is fraudulent by signing up for a free trial of one of the anti-PPC fraud platforms such as ClickCease.