What is click fraud and how click fraud bots work

What is click fraud and how click fraud bots work

By Ana Gonzalez

Click fraud is a common occurrence that negatively affects many websites on the internet today. Since it is easy to automate, click fraud can be extremely harmful to a business’ ad budgets and website analytics. With that said, in this article we will look at what click fraud is and how click fraud bots work. 

Click fraud is when either a person or programmed bot clicks on one or more links, multiple times, on a website. It is usually done with the intention of tricking the website into thinking it is an actual user, and click fraudsters have different motivations for doing so. In some cases, competing ad companies may participate in click fraud for the purpose of using up the pay per click ad budget of their competitors. In other cases, malicious websites may use click fraud to appear higher in the rankings or make a website seem more popular than it is. According to an article on The Verge, click fraud bots exclusively visit about 20% of websites online with the intent of ad-fraud. In addition, the influx of traffic from these fraudulent visitors often affects website analytics, creating inaccurate data. This unfortunately prevents a company or business from truly seeing how engaged their audience may be with their content or products. 

So how do click fraud bots work? As mentioned above, click fraud bots are usually programmed to click on the website’s links. While some click fraud bots may be quite simple, others may be very complex and have the goal of passing as a human user. These bots may use different IP addresses, take pauses as they navigate the page, and include mouse movements, all with the intention of making it appear as if each bot is a different user. The networks that try to mimic being different users are called botnets and may be running on a person’s device as a result of a virus or malware. While click fraud botnets that use a single IP address may be easier to identify and shut down, individual bots with multiple IP addresses are much harder to uncover. In some cases, it is possible that human beings and not programmed bots are responsible for click fraud. Usually, human users that participate in click fraud do so with the intent of their activity passing as that of a more legitimate user.  However, this is not very common given that it is not as efficient to scammers as the click fraud bots are. Although click fraud and click fraud bots can be quite frustrating, organizations such as Google have been able to help prevent and attack click fraud in recent years. Thanks to software that uses machine learning, click fraudsters are a lot easier to identify and be shut down as quickly as possible.

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