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Nowadays pretty much every industry advertises on Google with Google Adwords taking the advertising competition online. As we noticed this competitive aspect can take some unusual shapes (or perhaps unethical is a better word).

One of our clients mentioned a couple of years ago that he feared campaign sabotage, specifically by his competition who also advertises with Google AdWords. What he meant by this is that he feared his competition was clicking on his ads to decrease his budget and visibility.

We decided to investigate a little further into this.

We started by identifying visitors by their IP addresses and link them to paid clicks as well as track the online behavior of these specific visitors. We really took our time to look into the behaviors because we wanted to make sure that we would not identify online visitors that are browsing and who are still in the orienting phase of their buying journey and mark them as possible saboteurs.

However, after taking a closer look the numbers and figures showed us the following patterns and behaviors: Certain visitors were visiting the site in high frequency (5+ visits and all via an AdWords click) within a very short time frame, but not really spending much time (mostly 0) on the website itself. We also noticed they were showing the same behavior over multiple days and weeks.

Obviously we had to block these visitors from ever seeing our clients google ads ever again. Not just to stop these abusers from clicking away our clients’ budget, but also to stop them from further damaging the campaign stats and specifically the Google AdWords Quality Score, something which has a high impact on positions (=visibility) and the corresponding click prices.

This first investigation concerned the taxi industry. Very high competition both on the streets as well as online plus we figured taxi drivers have time between jobs for this behavior.

They are not the only culprits though. We know for a fact that there are AdWords campaign managers who deliberately click on the ads of their clients’ competitors, while managing their clients’ campaign.

How to block Google AdWords campaign saboteurs

In the case above we used Statcounter as a tool to manually investigate each paid visitor. Statcounter has a free option with a log quotum of 500. This means that a maximum of 500 page loads are stored, anything registered after that will automatically overwrite the first registered page loads.

A bit tedious, as one visitor could and should have multiple page loads within one session, which means that you need to check every couple of days depending on the size and volume of the campaign you’re tracking.

The first paid option goes for € 4,- / month an gives you log of 50,000.

What Statcounter can do what Google Analytics cannot, is share the IP addresses of the different visitors. This can be setup very easily by adding a piece of html code on every page of the website. In the dashboard they already pre-filtered paid traffic, so you can immediately go there to only see the Google AdWords visitors by IP address and their behavior.

screenshot-statcounter-paid-traffic
This way one can then evaluate each visitor and decide whether it is someone genuinely interested or not so much or worse..

From here it is possible to copy the IP address and exclude them in the Google AdWords campaign settings.

And that’s it, these ‘visitors’ (rather IP addresses) will not be shown your google ads ever again until you remove them yourself from the Adwords dashboard settings.

More information about how Google handles clickfraud can be found here:

Info click fraud & invalid clicks
Invalid click protection

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