Sure, we’re a little obsessed with bots on this blog. But we definitely keep tabs on another major ad fraud culprit: human click farms.
What is a click farm? What should you know about click farms? How can you detect (and avoid) click fraud from these farms?
What is a Click Farm?
A click farm is a fraud organization that leverages large groups of cheap workers to manually click on paid ads online.
Like their bot counterparts, human click farms wreak havoc on the digital advertising ecosystem. Click farms have people clicking on ads with no intent of converting. They just visit sites and rack up worthless impressions.
Click farms may leverage form bots to fill out forms with bogus information, generating false leads, creating a real nightmare for online advertisers who need reliable leads.
Click Fraud Protection: Understanding Click Farms
Human fraud detection is tough. Unlike bot activity, human behavior is more nuanced and less predictable. This makes it considerably harder for simple click fraud protection tools to reliably identify and stop click fraud from these farms.
In the early days of click fraud, platforms like Google and Yahoo quickly put filters in place to stop automated clicks. But the filters did a terrible job at blocking fake clicks made by what seemed like real site visitors.
Naturally, fraudsters took advantage of this flaw, launching operations we now recognize as click farms. Under the direction of an owner, or “farmer,” low-paid workers browse the web, performing payable actions like clicks, form fills, and account signups.
Watch this video to learn a bit more about how click farms work:
Traditionally, human click farms operate in two ways:
1. Attacking Competition
Sometimes, outside “customers” hire click farms to sabotage their competitor’s digital ad campaigns.For a certain price, farm workers click through ads in an effort to eat up the competing advertiser’s budget. Once their competitor’s funds run dry, the farm customer’s ads have a better chance of ranking higher than the competition.
2. Generating Revenue from Ads and Fake Social Profiles
Click farms are also used to directly benefit the farmer financially. Some fraudsters create websites built strictly for advertising purposes, using networks like Google to sell ad space. Once legitimate ads run on the page, the farmer directs their workers to interact with the ads, in turn generating revenue for themselves.
In recent years, click farm antics have invaded social media too, as we’ve seen with click fraud on fake Facebook profiles. Clicks farms on Facebook may hit a lot of likes, but they can drive down engagement rates and hurt your company’s Facebook profile in the long term.
Look up “click farm facebook,” and you’ll find a list of stories about click farms being used on Facebook, advice for avoiding click farms, and other information about these false click operations.
Instead of clicks, many farms now sell profiles, users, or accounts. Because these accounts are created by actual human users, often with seemingly legitimate information, they can successfully pass security filters on social platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
How to Detect Click Farms
So, you know that click farms are a threat that can eat up your online ad spend at a frightening pace… What can you do to detect them early so you can stop them? One thing that you can do is to keep an eye out for the warning signs of click fraud.
Some signs of ad fraud from click farms include:
A high number of clicks with few conversions;
A large drop in leads-to-sales ratios;
A large amount of traffic is coming from unknown sources; and
Activity for a specific campaign suddenly spiking without an apparent cause.
Many of these signs are similar to the signs of a click bot being used on your campaigns. However, there will be some differences since there are real people behind the activity – so they may fill out forms and generally behave like normal prospective customers clicking on ads, just without any intent to ever close a deal.
Unfortunately, this can make detecting click farms early a big challenge since it takes time to collect data for manual review — and some patterns aren’t obvious at first. This is where having an ad fraud detection solution can help.
The right ad fraud software can detect click farms early on, helping you catch them before they can consume all of your online ad spend budget.
How to Avoid Click Farms
Immediately, you might think to block sketchy traffic sources as a way to avoid click farm activity. For instance, since many click farms set up shop in developing nations like Bangladesh, Thailand, and India, blocking traffic coming from suspect locations seems ideal. But that might not work, as some fraudsters use ad fraud in the cloud to mask their real locations using virtual private networks (VPNs) and other IP masking and spoofing tricks.
Blocking traffic also means you might be blocking good users with the bad, especially if your campaigns aren’t targeted strictly to specific regions or demographics.
So what can you do?
Instead of focusing on the source, turn your attention to individual users. Your best bet is to implement an ad fraud solution that analyzes key data points, such as IP addresses and device information, and determines if users are legit or not.
This way, you can block the individual users who are a part of the click farm operation – managing ad fraud without negatively impacting your legitimate users who are genuinely interested in your products and services.
Obviously, eliminating all forms of fraud just isn’t possible. However, with the right tools in place, you can guard your campaigns from those pesky click farms.
Anura Ad Fraud Detection Software
Anura enables marketers to identify fraudulent website traffic and optimize their digital ad spend. By leveraging hundreds of data points Anura can accurately differentiate between real and fraudulent traffic.
This identification allows marketers to make better business decisions based on the behavior of real clients and customers. This information reduces wasted ad spend while maximizing resources on channels that produce real results, ultimately improving bottom lines.
Contact us to learn more about how Anura can protect your business from the malicious actions of click farms, ad fraud, and more. You can also learn more about how to protect your business against affiliate marketing fraud by downloading The Rise of Affiliate Marketing Fraud whitepaper at the link below: