The massive growth of online marketing has created more instances of click fraud and digital ad fraud.
We will be discussing several fascinating, need-to-know click fraud statistics everyone needs to know in this article.
Since click fraud isn’t something that most people are aware of, we are going to provide the most accurate and current statistics that will be useful to our readers.
The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.
What is click fraud? Click fraud is a form of digital fraud where bots are used to repeatedly click on ads.
This practice can also be perpetrated by an individual, a specific exploitive script, or a computer program.
What is the goal of click fraud?
The primary purpose for committing click fraud is to fool a service or platform into believing that real users are engaging with an app, ad, or webpage.
It often occurs are a massive scale where each link is clicked multiple times, instead of just once. Also, multiple links are usually targeted for click fraud.
Who commits click fraud?
The most common culprits in click fraud are cybercriminals, a company’s competitors, customers, website publishers, or anyone targeting said company to exhaust their advertising budget or raise the revenue of a hosting site.
Regardless of who, what, where, and why click fraud occurs, it’s an illegal practice that isn’t a victimless crime.
Cybercriminals are most likely to practice illicit click fraud to raise the rankings of a malicious website to make them seem legit.
In some cases, click fraud has caused a company to go out of business because of the costs it generates that make it impossible for a company to continue advertising.
Now that you have some background about click fraud, we will look into some important statistics.
Key Click Fraud Statistics
- 14% of all PPC Clicks are fake.
- 52% of brands and 36% of agencies consider click fraud in in-app advertising to be a major concern.
- The highest instances of click fraud on smartphones is for 480 x 320 sized advertising units.
- For every $5 spent on digital ads, $1 gets lost to click fraud.
- The forecast regarding click fraud is that the cost of worldwide fraud will rise to $44 billion in 2022.
- Research has revealed that 90% of all Google and Bing PPC campaigns are impacted by click fraud.
- The finance industry experiences the most bot traffic at more than 22%.
- Display ads with CPM rates of over $10 have been shown to be 39% more vulnerable to bots.
- Data from 2020 revealed that PPC advertisers lose $51 million daily because of click fraud.
- Digital agencies lose 10 times in click fraud than SMBs, at an average of $207,000 per year.
Click Fraud Statistics in 2024
We’ll get down to sharing the click fraud statistics we found through research.
1. 14% of all PPC Clicks Are Fake.
Global findings about click fraud revealed that 14% of PPC isn’t valid.
Invalid clicks come from various sources such as conventional web crawlers, competitor clicks, click farms, ad fraud schemes, and malicious bots.
These instances are perpetrated against the enterprises with the highest spending accounts, which are hit the hardest by advanced fake click fraud.
This 14% invalid click rate is known to be spread across marketing campaigns around the globe among all industry and niche sectors.
The percentage was discovered when analyzing each market’s PPC marketing campaigns based on their invalid activity rates and from interviewing PPC marketers.
(University of Baltimore, 2020)
2. In 2016, Studies Found that Almost 20% of The Total Digital Ad Spend Was Wasted.
Whether this issue arose from bot or human clicks is irrelevant to the advertisers, websites, and companies that lost billions in 2016 due to click fraud.
The reason that 20% of all digital ad spending was wasted is due to “invalid traffic” that comes from click fraud.
There is no doubt that these figures have risen since 2016, but so far, no new data has been made available about wasted ad spend in the digital ad realm.
Even with specialty software that can be used to prevent most types of click fraud, it still happens today.
3. 52% of Brands and 36% of Agencies Consider Click Fraud in In-App Advertising to Be a Major Concern.
Since mobile advertising campaigns are widely used these days, fraud is the main concern of 56% of brands and 36% of agencies.
It makes it impossible to measure ad viewability.
Therefore, it obviously affects analytics and costs.
According to Paulina Klimenko, GM of PubMatic, “Mobile campaigns are run across mobile and web without splitting them out.”
That is one reason it makes viewability signals inaccurate.
On the other hand, on mobile and desktop web browsers, viewability of ads are more easily tracked for analyzing them.
4. In April 2017, 75.6% of Clicks on 300 X 600 Sized Ads Were Found to Be Fraudulent.
Unfortunately, over three-quarters of the clicks received by three of the most popular desktop advertising sizes traded via programmatic were proven to be fraudulent in 2017.
Likewise, of the 160 x 600 sized ad units for desktop, 51.7% proved to be fraudulent.
Moreover, out of all advertising clicks on the 728 x 90 sixed ads were found to be click fraud.
Finally, 42.6% of the 320 x 250 sized ad units generated a click rate of 42.6%.
These digital ad fraud statistics show that click fraud is a bit higher on desktops than it is on tablets or mobile phones.
However, the concern over click fraud shows that it’s growing and becoming problematic across all screens and devices.
5. The Highest Instances of Click Fraud on Smartphones Is for 480 X 320 Sized Advertising Units.
In April 2017, 23.4% of the 480 x 320 sized ads for smartphones traded via programmatic were proven fraudulent.
The next size in ad units for smartphones that experienced 8.8% click fraud was the 320 x 250 units.
You can see how much lower this is than on desktop, but due to the growth in click fraud, it has and will impact more smartphones in the future.
Likewise, the 320 x 480 sized advertising units generated 7.7% click fraud, and among the 320 x 50 sized ad units, that rate was 7.2%.
The 320 x 250, 320 x 480, and 320 x50 sized advertising units that generated fraud stayed at under 10% in 2017.
6. According to 2017 Research, Click Fraud Is Perpetrated on Tablets Occurs the Most on The 480 X 320 Sized Ad Units, at 20.1%.
Yes. Click fraud happens on tablets as well as smartphones and desktops.
The rates are lower than on desktop, but a little higher than what we see on smartphones.
On tablets, the size that experienced the most click fraud in 2017 was 480 x 320 units at 20.1% of all clicks.
Among ad unit sizes 320 x 250, the click fraud rate was revealed at 18%. Likewise, the 320 x 50 sized ad units showed a 14.4% rate of click fraud.
When analyzing the 320 x 480 sized ad unit set, this size had the lowest click fraud rates compared to the other ad sizes for tablets, at 7.9%.
7. In 2017, It Was Reported that One in Five Ad-Serving Sites Are Visited Solely by Fraud Bots.
The Verge cited that ad fraud websites account for around 20% of ad serving websites online even though they experience no human traffic at all.
That means that these sites much money exclusively from traffic bots.
Traffic bots are created to mimic human site visits, which helps the website generate ad revenue. Just so you know, this practice is illegal and unethical.
Apparently, traffic bots have been problematic for many years in internet advertising, which is also called click fraud.
It’s been proven that that it’s the most problematic related to desktop video ads where 22% of these ads were solely seen by traffic bots, not human beings.
(The Verge, Bloomberg)
8. Click Fraud Has Been Shown to Be an Inconsistent Issue with Some Level of This Practice Making Companies Vulnerable to It.
According to Ilan Missulawin, Co-founder and CMO of ClickCease, “Most companies are subject to some level of click fraud on their Google or Bing Ads, it’s just a case of how much.
It’s not always constant or consistent, but it happens, and much more regularly than people may think”
Overall, Missualwin says that at ClickCease they see between 4% to 20% of their PPC ads being subjected to click fraud.
He also suggested that if a company has a marketing budget of $20,000, they can expect that about $3,000 of that budget will go to click fraud perpetrators.
(Search Engine Journal)
9. For Every $5 Spent on Digital Ads, $1 Gets Lost to Click Fraud.
The problem of click fraud is worse than organizations, advertisers, marketers, and retailers think.
This is obvious with $1 going to fraudsters for every $5 spent on advertising.
No company in any industry wants to lose that kind of money, but it’s happening.
Other estimates say that it’s even higher than $1 for every $5 spent.
Some are claiming that the amount lost can range from $1 to $3 for every $5 spent on advertising.
Statistics like this hit home for all businesses around the world.
It’s crucial that we all know that we need to take steps to detect, identify, and combat click fraud.
(Retail Info Systems)
10. The 2022 Forecast Regarding Click Fraud Is that The Cost of Worldwide Fraud Will Rise to $44 Billion in 2022.
While this statistic is from the Business Insider India outlet, the fact remains that globally, by 2022, it’s estimated that digital click fraud will cost brands and advertisers $44 billion across all fraudulent activities.
This data comes from the mFilterIt Brand Safety Report for 2021.
It includes ad fraud problems such as awareness, brand infringement, fraud, investment, and placement.
A startling 42% of brand curators aren’t sure about who is responsible for brand safety.
(Business Insider India, 2021, mFilterIt Brand Safety Report, 2021)
11. Research Has Revealed that 90% of All Google and Bing PPC Campaigns Are Impacted by Click Fraud.
ClickCease uncovered that 90% of all PPC campaigns on Bing and Google are impacted by click fraud in some way.
It’s no longer in doubt that there is an enormous sector that has come from fraudulent activities through programmatic advertisers and ads.
Click farms have popped up all over the world because they sell inflated services for followers and likes for social media accounts.
However, the exact same method used for social media is also used for illicit financial gain through click fraud.
There are literal “enterprising gangs” who have made a career out of click fraud.
(Facebook, Negate Page, ClickCease, 2022)
12. The Finance Industry Experiences the Most Bot Traffic at More than 22%.
According to data reported by Bloomberg Law, the industry that experiences the highest amount of bot traffic is the finance industry.
The finance industry experiences over 22% malicious bot attacks.
It should come as no surprise that the finance industry where money is translated in various forms would experience click fraud and malicious bot activity through website bots that relate to click fraud.
(Bloomberg Law, 2023)
13. Display Ads with CPM Rates of Over $10 Have Been Shown to Be 39% More Vulnerable to Bots.
It’s been found that display ads offered by publishers with higher CPM rates costing over $10 are more vulnerable to bots by 39% than lower cost display ads.
This should not be surprising since click fraudsters are always looking for ways to exploit higher cost assets like publishers with higher CPM rates.
It doesn’t matter if bots, humans, or competitors are committing this click fraud because it’s all unethical, illegal, and considered cybercrime.
It can damage a company’s reputation and cost them enough in recovery to do irreparable harm.
14. When Examined by Integral Ad Science, It Was Discovered that 8.3% of All Impressions Were Phony.
According to a 2016 survey by Integral Ad Science, 8.3% of all ad impressions were identified as fraudulent, compared with publisher-direct sold ads where 2.4% of ads were identified as fraudulent.
While these ad fraud statistics are focused on impression ad fraud (CPM), which are 1 x 1 sized pixel ads that click fraudsters use to hide ads.
Fraudsters are also known to stack ads on top of each other to magnify the impressions.
Click fraud also comes from cookie stuffing seen in Affiliate CPA ads, conversion fraud seen in CPL ad fraud, and other types of fraudulent ad tactics.
15. In 2017, Pixalate Reported that Smartphone Click Fraud Rate Rose 102% Between January and April 2017.
We already addressed the fact that fraudulent activity on clickable ads is more prevalent on Desktop devices, but this statistic from 2017 tells us that smartphone instances of click fraud saw an increase of 102% in just four months.
Additionally, both tablet and smartphone video click fraud increased almost by three times.
Tablet display click fraud saw an increase of 50%. Furthermore, video click fraud and display click fraud rose to 26% and 17% respectively.
(Pixalate, 2017 2)
Newsworthy Click Fraud Statistics
This section will discuss some click fraud statistics and facts that made the news.
16. Polygraph, the Click Fraud Detection and Protection Service, Has Been Detecting More than 100 Million Click Fraud Instances per Month.
Polygraph is only one of several services that are designed to detect and prevent click fraud.
The service’s head of marketing, Trey Vanes claims that click fraud bots have been using proxy services from residential areas to mask their real IP addresses that can generate a unique IP for each phony click.
As advertisers find better ways to detect and prevent click fraud, cybercriminals and other fraudsters are advancing their game as they strive to stay under the radar.
However, service providers that help find and prevent click fraud, like Polygraph, are making things easier for advertisers and brands to protect themselves.
17. In Ad Fraud News, a Huge Ad Sense Fraud Campaign Was Discovered Where Over 10,000 Word Press Sites Were Infected.
The goal of this instance of click fraud is to synthetically boost traffic to sites and pages that use the AdSense ID which is how users of Google Ads get revenue.
The details were initially exposed by GoDaddy back in November 2022.
This was a malicious SEO campaign.
It was revealed that the malicious actors behind this attack use black hat redirect malware in their ad campaign using 70 plus fake domains that mimic URL shorteners and infected 10,800 websites.
They even used Bing search along with the Twitter link shortener for further the treat.
(The Hacker News, February 2023, The Hacker News, November 2022)
18. The Latest News Reports that The Ad Fraud and Detection Tools Market Is Predicted to Grow Substantially by 2028.
Premium Market Insights offered new research in 2021 that estimates a growth of 17.1% in the Ad Fraud and Detection Tools market.
In fact, this news cited that this market, worth $252.92 million in 2021 is expected to reach $762.89 million by 2028.
That should give advertisers hope for the prevention of click fraud.
This market is focused on all kinds of ad fraud, which includes click fraud at all levels.
A few of the players in this market include FraudScore, Adjust GmbH, Interceptd, and TrafficGuard.
There are others, but these are on the list.
19. Recent News Cites Malicious Google Ads Place AWS Phishing Websites Into Google Search Results.
If you have seen an uptake of phishing emails that are showing that they are from Amazon Web Services (AWS), you are not alone.
There is a new phishing campaign that is targeting AWS logins, abusing Google ads to place malicious phishing sites into Google Search.
The goal is to steal your login credentials.
Sentinel Labs analysts found the campaign on January 30, 2023, and saw these malicious search results.
These malicious ads were ranking second in the search results for “aws” just behind Amazon’s real promoted search results.
It started by linking the ads directly to the created phishing page, but as it evolved, it included a redirection state to try to keep Google’s ad fraud detection system from discovering them.
20. News from September 2020 Revealed that Polygraph Caught Click Fraud Offenders Targeting UK and Ireland Advertisers.
The cybersecurity company, Polygraph that helps advertises to detect and prevent click fraud issued warnings to companies in Ireland and the United Kingdom that their digital ads were at risk.
This occurred on September 19, 2022, which means most advertisers were notified.
The CMO of Polygraph, Trey Vanes said, “In the past, most click fraud targeted advertisers in the US, mainly due to the size of its market.
However, we’re now seeing more and more criminals expanding the fraud to other countries, including the UK and Ireland.”
The main concern is that at that time, advertisers in these regions weren’t aware of click fraud, therefore they hadn’t taken action to protect their efforts.
The Costs of Click Fraud
In this section, we will discuss some of the costs associated with click fraud. How much do advertisers lose?
21. Data from 2020 Revealed that PPC Advertisers Lose $51 Million Daily Because of Click Fraud.
According to data, the global digital advertising industry shows losses of roughly $51 million daily because of click fraud.
The global industry of digital advertising has seen significant growth and has achieved $390 billion per year.
Cybercriminals are willing to do unethical and illegal things to get their piece of that 390-billion-dollar pie.
Juniper Research has already estimated the ad fraud losses for 2023, which amounts to $100 billion yearly.
Additionally, because of click fraud and other ad fraud, these ads may never even be seen by human eyes.
(Bloomberg Law, 2021)
22. The Global Travel and Tourism Sector Was Expected to Lose $2.6 Billion Due to Click Fraud.
Education experiences the highest percentage of click fraud instances across sectors, at 30.46%.
Second to education is travel and tourism which averages 16.84% in invalid clicks for all campaigns.
The travel market is also vulnerable at 16.84%, which comes at a cost of $2.6 billion at the global level because of invalid clicks.
In the United States alone, the travel and tourism sector was expected to lose one billion dollars by the end of 2020 because of click fraud.
The medical industry experiences 10.19% of click fraud and the retail and ecommerce sector is fifth at 9.67%.
23. The Global Ecommerce Sector Experiences 9.7% of Click Fraud Instances and Was Expected to See Losses of $3.8 Billion in 2020.
The global ecommerce market has a 9.7% share of click fraud and is expected to have experienced $3.8 billion by the last quarter of 2020.
In the United States alone, the ecommerce market was predicted to lose a massive $1.4 billion in 2020.
These figures should make you want to find better ways to get your ads seen without losing more money to the click fraud criminals.
The numbers and statistics show how serious this issue is and the importance of being proactive.
24. Small to Medium Sized Businesses Lose an Average of $14,900 per Year Due to Click Fraud.
As we are discussing the costs and losses incurred by click fraud, the figures are overwhelming.
Depending on the business, the SEO used, and its exposure, the losses will see a wide range of losses from low to high.
As for small to medium sized businesses (SMB), that loss accounts for an annual figure of $14,900.
While $14,900 may not seem like a lot of money in the scheme of things and how much larger advertisers lose, it’s a lot of money to an SMB.
In this instance, an SMB is defined as a business that employes fewer than 50 people.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
25. Digital Agencies Lose 10 Times in Click Fraud than SMBS, at An Average of $207,000 per Year.
Digital agencies came in second as the biggest victims of click fraud with an average of $207,000 in losses.
What makes it seem worse is that the loss affects the clients that these agencies service, not the agency itself.
Therefore, it’s the client that loses due to click fraud in these cases.
This data doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t use digital agencies to help run their ads.
It means there should be more protection against click fraud in place.
Awareness of this problem should open some eyes to better results and fewer losses.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
26. SME Businesses Are the Biggest Victims of Click Fraud by A Long Shot with Losses of $705,000 Annually.
Sadly, the biggest victims of click fraud fall under the category of SMEs, which are companies that make more than $10 million annually.
Just because they have higher revenues doesn’t make the $705,000 in click fraud losses less important than the $14,900 of small to medium sized businesses.
It’s all financial loss due to illegal activities.
It’s common for click fraud to cause higher financial losses due to the scale of ads that are run.
Therefore, losses are also scaled up according to the company’s budget. The more digital ads that are run, the more click fraud criminals can gain.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
Click Fraud Bonus Statistics
This section will cover some bonus statistics not mentioned in other sections.
27. In 2019, Australia and India Saw the Highest Increase in Click Fraud in The World.
There are several factors that affect the prevalence of click fraud. One involves the sizes of ad markets.
In 2019, India and Australia experienced a rise of 37% of all global click fraud, which put them at the highest in increases in this illegal activity.
Geotargeting is part of advertising campaigns.
Whether the ads are targeting the home country or outside countries, they can be picked up by cybercriminals who want to get financial gain from them.
This data comes from 2019, so we should be aware that as new data is available, we will learn more.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
28. The Number One Form of Click Fraud Comes from Bots at 38%.
In 2020, bot fraud and automated bots accounted for most of the click fraud that occurred. Next, was categorized as “other fraud”.
The third and fourth types of click fraud came from publisher and app fraud (19%) and competitors (17%).
As mentioned in a previous section, there are enormous criminal gangs that have no problem wreaking havoc by committing click fraud and profiting from it.
In fact, these gangs are technologically advanced enough to design sophisticated bots to do their dirty deeds without having to do it themselves.
This allows them to put their activities on autopilot and to scale up their fraud.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
29. Click Fraud Criminals Are Always Working to Up Their Game
The future of click fraud isn’t certain, but currently, it seems that these fraudsters show no signs of letting up on their criminal activities.
Even though governing authorities are cracking down on fraud rings, these criminals are continually escalating their methods and finding better ways to hide their fraud.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
30. We Will See an Uptake in New Ad Platforms.
Several new ad platforms are launched each year, so we can expect that trend to continue to grow.
For instance, Snapchat Ads became wildly popular in the marketing sector just a couple of years ago.
In 2020, TikTok took its shot at an ad platform that is still popular.
Unfortunately, as more ad platforms are launched, we will also see more instances of click fraud.
(Search Engine Journal 2020-2021 Report)
Is Click Fraud Really a Big Issue?
Yes, but the instances are based on your industry, geographical location, and the time of year. It also depends on the ad platform you use.
That said, an average of 14% of all clicks are impacted by click fraud.
That may not seem significant since that’s a global average but consider how many advertisers all over the world and that changes your perspective.
Due to the losses mentioned in this article, it’s wise to be aware of the industries that are most affected by click fraud and how to prevent it.
Is Click Fraud Illegal?
In some countries click fraud falls under various fraud laws, but there is nothing specific in the law about click fraud.
Is it unethical?
Yes. It is definitely unethical and involves criminal activity.
For instance, in many European countries and the United States, wire fraud, data manipulation, deceptive business activities, and racketeering are illegal, which click fraud can fall under according to the act.
It’s difficult to prove click fraud in most cases, but lawsuits have been filed against ad platforms because of it.
What Actions Should Be Taken to Handle Click Fraud?
You can use companies like PPC Shield, ClickCease, or others to monitor, detect, quarantine, and prevent fraudulent clicking.
The costs of programs like this are about $50 per month.
What if you can’t afford to pay for this kind of service?
You should be consistently monitoring and tracking your ad campaigns.
Google categorizes clicks as invalid through their system.
You can also view your percentages and numbers of clicks on Google. Always monitor and track your ads.
If you’re using PPC ads, you can set up IP exclusions through Google Ads to cut down on click fraud.
Here are a few other ways to protect yourself against click fraud, or at least reduce the risk of it happening.
Since display ads are the most susceptible to click fraud, think about setting the visibility to those who have already visited your page to ensure real people are creating traffic.
These fall under retargeting ads which can only be seen by visitors that have already visited your site.
The publisher cannot see these ads on their end, so they are unable to click them. It eliminates publisher click fraud.
Focus on Ad targeting to lower your risk of click fraud. The narrower your target audience, the fewer instances of click fraud will occur.
You can also choose to use social media ads since they are less likely to experience click fraud over Google Ads.
How Can You Identify Click Fraud?
•When monitoring your ad campaigns, keep an eye on the clicks. If the clicks are coming from the same or similar ISPs that don’t result in conversions, you can suspect click fraud.
•Look for spikes in your search costs since click fraud drives up ad costs.
•Be aware of unexplainable anomalies in your ad performance data.
There is so much to learn about click fraud that is important for advertisers, brands, and anyone who runs ads.
It’s wise to be aware of click fraud, ad fraud, and all forms of fraud committed related to digital advertising.
With awareness, we don’t know how to detect and prevent click fraud. Raising awareness is one of the goals of this article.
It’s also here to share with our readers the most up-to-date and accurate statistics on the topic.
We want you to be informed advertisers and consumers.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this information about click fraud and that you have learned something new about it.
If you were unaware of, click fraud, we hope you are not very aware of it and how important it is to detect, protect against it, and combat it.
Now that you have these click fraud statistics, you can be proactive about dealing with the problem to be more successful in your advertising efforts.