The Evolution of Click Fraud Zombies – Increasing Traffic

In this analysis, I delve into the complex world of click fraud and its evolution. Initially, I witnessed simple exploits like embedding ad banners on irrelevant websites to generate clicks. Over time, these tactics evolved into sophisticated methods involving automated clicking programs (HitBots), used to artificially inflate traffic and ad clicks. I discuss how these tactics not only affect website analytics but also impact the financials of online advertising. This guide provides insights into the challenges of identifying and combating click fraud, highlighting the need for vigilance and advanced analytics in digital marketing.

Since the birth of the internet, the need to increase visitor traffic to the new website has been paramount. To facilitate this necessity, methods were introduced to do just that. Some of the most common of these are described below.

  • The 90’s saw big-name companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft introducing affiliate cost-per-click (CPC) programs paying the website owner to host their respective banners and those of their clients.
  • The concept of relevant keywords used on your landing page to increase your site’s position on related search engine queries. Today, it is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
  • E-mail marketing took its cue from traditional snail-mail content but saw the advantage in instant reception to the target audience. But taken too far, these reach-outs become Spam emails.

When the internet was still young, the tracking and identifying legitimate traffic was exceptionally difficult. Not because of a lack of skill, effort, or determination, but for the lack of foresight. Of course, no one could be expected to accurately predict what was to come, especially with an untested newly introduced product. In the end, we go back to that age-old saying, “with the good, must come the bad”. Where there were many legitimate website owners employing good practices, there were just as many people who wanted to make the quick buck.

These individuals or organizations could hide behind a blanket of safety, knowing that even if they are discovered, no one is coming after them and by the time anyone got any wiser, it would be too late. So these “innovators” decided to exploit the visitor traffic increasing methods to their ends.

Click Fraud Zombies and their Evolution:

In the past, banner Ads was one of the only ways to advertise target audiences. It came under the umbrella of affiliate cost-per-click programs, which is now commonly also known as pay per click (PPC). Today PPC is split between search engine results ads and banner ads.

For more on PPC and Banner Ads You can follow these Links:

When a visitor comes to a site which has an Ad Banner and decides to click it, a click is registered on the website’s own affiliate account. The first exploit of this that I witnessed happened more than a decade ago.

When website owners successfully signed up for the program, they would receive the banner’s image and the respective URL code. After this point, the criminal entrepreneur would go to some swimsuit model’s site, download a picture of her, add a link to the picture using the banner URL sent to them, and proceed to chat rooms in IRC or other chat host sites/service that provided access without registration. There, they would flood the multiple channels with messages that would prey upon unsuspecting chat users who promptly clicked the picture.

Voila, the exploiters’ account would be registered with multiple clicks with as little effort as it takes to cut and paste a seductive few lines and a picture. From anywhere in the world, they would only have to sit back and wait for the cheque from one of the big three (Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google). The number of clicks and the payout is so small that the fraud goes unnoticed or is often attributed as an accident.

Today, the use of automated clicking programs (HitBots) has become the most common. These bots are developed to click on paid listings and generate massive amounts of clicks on their accounts. This method can also be initiated by competing organizations in order to increase the overall cost to the banner advertised company or to deplete the affiliate payout budget for the company.

In fact, Facebook has recently seen click fraud issues with their ad Service.

With the sheer increase in the number of new users on the internet, the more elaborate methods employed, and organized crime entering the scene, Click Fraud has become virtually unavoidable.

However, it is not undetectable. As a WordPress website hosting owner, you could use analytics apps such as Google Analytics, and track who is visiting your site. If there is an unexpected spike in the rate of visitors, don’t just celebrate, investigate.

Also, if you make use of Adword Ads, Google has your back. Google has built a “Three Stage System” to detect invalid links. via. Using data to help prevent fraud.

In case you are looking forward to learning about Banner Ads and PPC advertising, follow this best selling course at Udemy: Google Ads 101: Get More Customers with Search Marketing.

Ankit Prakash
Ankit Prakash

Ankit is a seasoned technology entrepreneur and founder of Aritic and EasySendy. With over 10 years of experience building product-led B2B SaaS companies, he is focused on ambitious goals and bringing innovative platforms to market. As a Principal Founder, Ankit leads product, engineering, marketing, and strategic partnerships for Aritic's suite of sales and marketing automation tools. He has grown the brand to over $120M valuation and $8M+ in revenue since 2015. Ankit is passionate about analyzing and reviewing software to provide readers with authoritative, in-depth insights. His articles cover martech, SaaS, entrepreneurship, and other technologies based on his hands-on expertise. He stays on top of industry trends and best practices in product marketing, performance marketing, inbound marketing, and content marketing. His work has been featured in leading publications including G2Crowd, Scoop.It, Brandvertisor, Martech Advisor, Smart Insights, and more. Driven by a dedication to shaping the future of B2B SaaS, Ankit enjoys translating his experiences building, marketing, and scaling companies into actionable thought leadership.

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  1. according to the recent reports, most of ads are delivering fake results due to click zombies. Thanks for the useful information.

  2. Ankit are there any techniques to detect the clickbots or methbots? If yes then how can one take care of it? How do the businesses get affected by it? I would like to know the impact that fraud zombies have on the business dynamics.

    • Until now not. But there are repositories which companies keep on updating regularly. You can use them to detect clickbots.

  3. If you are looking to save your ad budget from fraud check
    Their service was exactly what I needed.
    They were able to monitor my ads, block attackers automatically (so I would not have to exclude them manually) and even provided me with reports to strengthen my refund claims!

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