Are Invalid Clicks Hurting My Performance?

invalid and fraudulent clicks

I’m going to be talking about invalid clicks in the ever-changing world of PPC but first some context.

Google’s Winning the Moment that Matter philosophy hinges on the very catchy slogan “Right Person, Right Message, Right Time, Every Time” which is a winning formula and a great mindset that has been the catalyst on so many PPC wins. But what happens when you get the right time and right message but not the right person? What to do when an “ad click” doesn’t end up actually being a true “ad click”?

Instances, where the “wrong person” is clicking on your ads (no matter how enticing your ad copy and well-planned your campaigns are), are invalid clicks. Invalid clicks can be this weird, intangible concept to some people but when you get into it; it really isn’t that mind-bending. This blog will unpack the mystique around invalid clicks and help you understand and in turn explain invalid clicks without having key information unintentionally omitted.

Don’t worry, we’ll get through this.

are invalid clicks hurting my performance

What Are Invalid Clicks?

Now, this seems like a good place to start. Google Ads Help define Invalid Clicks as “Clicks on ads that Google considers to be illegitimate, such as unintentional clicks or clicks resulting from malicious software.” This is a nice and succinct explanation of what makes an invalid click but not so much of why they occur or how to see if you have invalid clicks in your campaigns.

What Causes Invalid Clicks?

Instances of invalid clicks can be split into three main reasons:

  • Accidental clicks by human users
  • Intentional malicious clicks by human users and/or competitors
  • Fake users, bots and web scrapers

Accidental clicks by human users are pretty straightforward and usually are picked up by Google usually without issue. It is the other two instances where the instances could be more damaging.

It may seem enticing to your competitors to continuously click on your ads and make you waste that precious ad spend that you have at peak times and although Google will try to exclude them as invalid clicks there are some steps that you can do to minimise the efforts of these fraudsters by using data found in the back-end of a website, you could excluding IP addresses.

Whether you want to accept it or not, they are (unscrupulous) people out there who are deliberately looking to tank your performance. And they can be a bit more advance than just clicking on your ads on the results page. These are known as bots or fake users and they can be split into two types: General Invalid Traffic (GIVT), Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT).

GIVT are non-human traffic that is not malicious. These are known and certified industry bots who crawl the web (such as search engine crawlers) who quickly scan through multiple websites very briefly.

SIVT are quite different. This is much harder to detect as they are actively trying to avoid simple patterns that would raise a red flag. Extra efforts are made to mask their online actions and behaviour as legitimate.

Do My Google Ads Campaigns Have Invalid Clicks?

In all honesty, you probably have got some semblance of invalid clicks in your campaigns. It has been reported that around 11% of search ad clicks and 36% of display ad clicks are invalid. Now that it seems that invalid clicks might be a possibility how do you check how bad you have been affected?

In Google Ads you have 4 invalid clicks metrics at a campaign level that indicate if your campaign(s) are victim to invalid clicks:

image showing invalid clicks metrics

  • Invalid clicks are clicks Google considers illegitimate and doesn’t charge you for.
  • Invalid click rate is the percentage of clicks that have been filtered out of your total number of clicks due to being invalid.
  • Invalid interactions are interactions that Google considers illegitimate and doesn’t charge you for.
  • Invalid interaction rate is used to measure what percentage of interactions with your ad.

Using these 4 metrics, you can see how many have interactions your campaigns have had are actually legit. Bear in mind that these are invalid clicks that Google has identified and have issued a refund for.

stop invalid clicks in google ads

What Can I Do To Stop Invalid Clicks?

Invalid clicks can be damaging to your campaigns’ performance and deplete budget very quickly. So it is important to make sure you have a solid plan in motion. But no matter what you do the best advice that can be given is to make sure that you are pre-active rather re-active. Identifying trends and invalid spikes early on and using the following hints and tips could really help you save that spend for the right users:

  1. Monitor your conversions and metrics closely. See if there are any sudden changes in your campaign activities, if there are massive drops in conversions, in ad costs. If traffic is dropping in outside of your targeted location and, you’re sure your locational settings are correct, escalate this further and act on this.
  2. Cross-reference your data with Google Analytics and website stats. Google Ads only gives one side of the story but for a more in-depth breakdown investigate the quality of your ad and organic traffic in Google Analytics and the back-end of your website. Spot trends and similarities. Take action based on the kind of invalid clicks you’re seeing.
  3. Exclude IP addresses. Once you have spotted a repeat offender, the best course of action would be to exclude the IP address. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find IP addresses in Google Ads or Analytics but either in the back-end of your website or through third-party tools you can find the IP address and exclude it. Please note that this is for static IP addresses and does not work if a user has a dynamic IP, uses a VPN or has recently their IP address
  4. Adjust your landing page quality. Ensure that your pages are at the best they can be as these poor performing landing pages could be conflated with invalid clicks throwing another spanner in the works. On-page optimisation, high-quality images and quick page speed are some of the key components that impact performance.

Hopefully, this breakdown offered some insight into how to manage pesky invalid clicks but if you ever need a hand with your PPC campaigns, feel free to give us a call or drop a message via our contact form. We are the best digital marketing agency in Manchester and see for yourself how we can help.

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