I’m often asked about click fraud on Baidu. How can I know if my account is receiving fraudulent clicks? How can I protect my company from click fraud? What does Baidu do to prevent click fraud?
How Does Baidu Deal With Click Fraud?
To reduce fraudulent clicks, Baidu has developed a sophisticated system to detect suspicious patterns coupled with a click fraud department of over 3,000 dedicated staff.
Kaiser Kuo, Baidu’s director of international communications, states that Baidu is quite advanced when it comes to dealing with click fraud.
“Click fraud is a problem for all search marketing platforms, and here at Baidu we take the issue very seriously. Paid search is our lifeblood, and allowing click fraud to turn into such a serious problem that it impacted our business and scared off customers would be suicidal.
The most common manifestation of attempted click fraud on Baidu is of course competitors who try to run up a customer’s bill by repeated clicking on a paid search link. We have a three-tier defense to ensure that customers aren’t victims of this sort of thing.
First, we monitor all clicks and look at activity for unusual patterns – for instance, repeated clicks from a single IP address or cluster of IP addresses – and any suspicious clicks that are detected simply aren’t counted as clicks.
The second line of defense is regular monitoring of logs, looking at data in those logs for suspicious patterns through algorithmic comparisons covering longer periods of time. We’ll look across different keywords bought by a given customer, at clicks from IP addresses from known past offenders, for clicks that exhibit patterns that suggest botnet activity and so forth. Then we’ll credit back money for suspicious clicks, without the customer having to alert us to possible click fraud first.
Finally, in cases where we’ve already been paid, we’ll examine on a case-by-case basis any activity flagged by customers: a run-up in costs without a commensurate run-up in leads, for instance. This can result in the discovery of new patterns and we certainly encourage any customer who suspects they may have been victim to such practices to let us know. We’re as eager as our customers to address these issues!”
What Should You Do to Protect Yourself From Click Fraud?
Watch Out for Sudden Changes
Watch out for sudden increases in daily spending or clicks for a certain keyword or group of keywords. If you see such an increase, you can first check your website usage. If sales went up with clicks, it’s obviously not a problem!
If the increase in clicks was quite pronounced, and did not result in greater sales or website usage, you should ask Baidu or your pay per click management provider to help you investigate.
Make Use of Baidu’s Invalid Click Report
Baidu also provides an “invalid click report” that can help you see which clicks were automatically considered invalid by Baidu. Of course, you aren’t charged for invalid clicks.
The columns in the image below show the date, total clicks, filtered clicks, the percentage of filtered clicks and the price of the invalid clicks you would have paid if they had not been filtered out.
Take Measures to Limit Your Campaign
You can also proactively place limits on your campaign to reduce the risk of click fraud. The measures below are not specific to click fraud. They will help decrease expenses by only displaying ads to people that are most likely to make a purchase.
1. Limit your daily expenditure.
It’s best practice to put a cap on your daily expenditure so that you don’t exceed your budget. Although rare, it is possible that a competitor with advanced click fraud tactics could suddenly ramp up your costs. Limiting your daily spend will protect you against this. However, remember that this would also result in your ads not being shown to valid potential customers after you reach your daily limit.
2. Impose time restrictions.
I usually recommend that ads be active while employees are available to take customer inquiries. This is especially important in China, where Internet users expect a live person to talk to via chat box, QQ messenger or phone
3. Only choose keywords relevant to your business.
Use negative keywords to filter out traffic not relevant to your business.
4. Manually create a white list or black list of websites that content network ads appear on.
Both Baidu Union and the Google AdWords content network place ads on websites that are seemingly more advanced at performing click fraud than Baidu and Google are at preventing click fraud. These should be monitored and corrected for.
There are also applications available to help reduce click fraud, such as SEM 360 (Chinese). I’ve tried such software in the past and have not been impressed with the results. The reason is that it blocks valid traffic as well as invalid traffic. Plus, it blocks traffic that Baidu won’t charge for anyway, such as duplicate clicks from the same IP address. If you know otherwise, let me know what kind of great click fraud detection software there is out there in the comments.
Final Tip: Don’t Always Blame Click Fraud
I’ve seen click fraud blamed much too often. From my experience, when visitors aren’t converting, there is almost always something other than click fraud that is the culprit. I advise that you look to click fraud only if there is a pronounced increase in traffic that isn’t bringing value to your business. Other times, you should focus on improving your website navigation, ad creatives, website copy and PPC bids. There are quite a few links in the chain from search to purchase and all need to be optimized.