Minimising Invalid Clicks in Google Adwords

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Remove Apps Adwords Targeting Options

One of the key skills for any Google AdWords advertiser is the ability to create highly targeted campaigns that minimise the potential for invalid clicks. “Invalid clicks” is a definition within Google Adwords used to describe clicks that were the result of both accidental ad clicks and also clicks performed by suspicious users in an attempt to drive up Google AdSense revenue for unscrupulous display advertisers.

In my experience the greatest source of invalid clicks are apps, in particular gaming apps. There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. Firstly, ads are often highly conspicuous within apps and are easily clicked accidentally. This is especially true when an app is being used by a child is a game app.
  2. The second most common reason is the deliberate abuse of the AdSense system (Google’s system for displaying ads on websites and in apps served by Google Adwords). This happens when creators of apps with dubious intentions agree to display Adwords advertising only to abuse the system by clicking on ads in their own apps to drive up their AdSense revenue. While Google employs a multi-tiered system to combat this practice there is always some risk that some of these clicks will get through and chew into your budget.

As I mentioned above the app types most likely to cause accidental clicks to occur are gaming apps. That said I’ve found that most app types are of little benefit to advertisers unless you are promoting an app yourself. You also should consider the frame of mind people are in when using apps but that is a topic for another discussion.

The point to take away from this is; if left unchecked ads shown within apps will exhaust a daily AdWords budget in no time and will result in a bounce rate somewhere in the 90% range in almost every case.

Again – unless you are promoting something targeted to a gamer audience or apps themselves then avoid the app audience when targeting your Adwords campaigns.

Protecting your Adwords campaigns

So how can you protect yourself from invalid clicks or clicks from apps that you really don’t want?

There are 2 things that you can do to immediately improve the situation:

  1. Add the following URL as a placement exclusion in your display campaigns: adsenseformobileapps.com
  2. Turn off these Site Category options (under the ‘Display Network‘ tab) in your display advertising campaigns (see screenshot below).

Turn Off Adwords Categories

If you don’t manage your Google AdWords campaigns then ask your PPC account manager to do this for you.

While Google is good at catching invalid clicks and will refund any clicks determined to be invalid, these clicks have the unwanted side effect of exhausting daily budgets in the short-term, potentially causing your campaigns to be paused until more budget becomes available or a new day begins. It follows then that it is wiser to avoid the problem in the first place.

Proactive campaign monitoring

If you want to know just how badly this issue has affected you in the past then review the history of your Adwords PPC campaigns and take a look at the placements where your ads were served. If you notice a lot of apps, in in in particular game apps, then you will probably notice very few if any conversions from these clicks and a very high bounce rate for clicks from these placements. The suggestions above will address this issue.

It is considered good practice to keep an eye on the number of clicks your ads receive and to account for any surges in click activity. If you can’t explain a spike in clicks after your own investigation then you can contact Google and request another assessment of the click activity however in all but the rarest of cases this is usually unnecessary.