What is 'Click Fraud'

Click fraud is the act of illegally clicking on pay-per-click (PPC) ads to increase site revenue or to exhaust advertisers’ budgets. Click fraud is different from invalid clicks (those that are repeated or made by the ad's publisher) in that it is intentional, malicious and has no potential for the ad to result in a sale. Click fraud happens with pay-per-click advertising and may involve either humans, a computer program or an automated script pretending to be a legitimate user and clicking on paid search advertising with no intention of purchasing something.


Click fraud is committed for two reasons, either to reduce competition among advertisers or to generate revenue by gaming the PPC advertising system. For example, Advertiser A can engage in click fraud to use up Advertiser B’s ad budget and space on irrelevant clicks, leaving Advertiser A as the sole advertiser. This is an example of non-contracting party click fraud.

Another example is maliciously attempting to make it look like a publisher is clicking on its own ads, which may cause an advertising network to end its relationship with that publisher. Since PPC advertising revenue is the primary source of income for some publishers, this practice can put a publisher out of business. Click fraud may also be committed to vandalize a publisher without a financial motive or when friends, family or fans of a publisher click on ads on a website to generate revenue. Both can be difficult to detect.

Click Fraud: Gaming Ad Revenue

Another reason would be for site owners (publishers) to commit click fraud to increase their ad revenue. This arrangement involves three parties: an advertising network, such as Google's AdWords/AdSense or Yahoo! Search Marketing, which places the ad; the publisher that publishes the ad and an advertiser that creates the ad and contracts with the advertising network to place the ad. Click fraud under this infrastructure happens as publishers click on ads that have been placed on their own website to generate revenue. 

Click Fraud in Practice

The easiest, least detectable way to commit click fraud is to create a website that hosts banner ads and click on those ads as much as possible to generate revenue. Some companies will hire low-cost employees — often located abroad — to manually click ads all day. Others will write or use scripts to automatically click on ads. Both of these methods are easily traceable unless the user or script masks the computer’s true IP address. Another popular way is by using computer viruses to surreptitiously take over a large number of computers and to have those computers click ads. 

  1. Advertising Appropriation

    Advertising appropriation is the portion of a total marketing ...
  2. Fraud

    Fraud, in a general sense, is an intentionally deceptive action ...
  3. Banner Advertising

    Banner advertising refers to the use of a rectangular graphic ...
  4. Securities Fraud

    Securities fraud is a form of white-collar crime that disguises ...
  5. Comparative Advertising

    Comparative advertising is a marketing strategy in which a company's ...
  6. Association Of Certified Fraud ...

    The Association Of Certified Fraud Examiners is an organization ...
Related Articles
  1. Tech

    Blockchain Unlocking Advertisers’ Profit Potential

    In online advertising’s current paradigm, there is an unavoidable conflict of interest. Enter blockchain.
  2. Small Business

    How is Programmatic Advertising Changing Media?

    Understand what programmatic advertising is as well as the technology that drives it. Learn about the top four ways programmatic advertising is changing media.
  3. Retirement

    What Social Security Fraud Costs You

    Taxpayers lose billions of dollars every year, according to Social Security fraud statistics. What to look for.
  4. Investing

    Verizon, AT&T Added to List of Companies Suspending Google Advertising

    The company changed its ad policies after several advertisers pulled their ads off its network.
  5. Insights

    How the TV Advertising Industry Works

    Things have definitely changed since the early days of “Mad Men,” when one TV ad could change the world—or at least change a company’s sales numbers.
  6. Investing

    Amazon Earned $2.5B From Digital Ads: WPP Chief

    This is the latest estimate for what could become an increasingly important part of Amazon's business.
  7. Small Business

    Where Are Advertisers Spending Their Money?

    We list five outlets where advertisers are spending their money, and how these trends developed.
  8. Small Business

    Digital Advertising Is The Future, But Why? (ZNGA, GOOG)

    Digital advertising has outgrown the internet.
  9. Investing

    Facebook Takes the Knife to Twitter Over Ad Sales

    Analysts are predicting Twitter's stock price to halve as Facebook's popularity for advertisers grows.
  10. Investing

    Twitter's Self-Service Ad Platform Improving Global Engagement (TWTR)

    Find out how small- and medium-sized businesses around the world use Twitter to gain new business. Twitter now offers its advertising platform in 200 countries.
  1. How do Internet companies profit if they give away their services for free?

    Learn how companies in the Internet sector make a profit when service, content and user applications are offered at no cost ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does revenue sharing work in practice?

    Find out how revenue sharing works as profits are distributed among associated business partners. Learn how revenue sharing ... Read Answer >>
  3. How Do People Make Money on YouTube?

    Are you interested in making money on posting videos on YouTube? Learn how YouTubers monetarize their videos through ads ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center