Click fraud is a US$24 billion global problem that involves generating fake ad clicks either manually or via bots, and the issue has been getting worse on mobile devices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, new research has found.
During peak coronavirus months, mobile click fraud increased 62%, according to a study by ClickCease. The research looked at more than 1.8 billion clicks across 5,000-plus online ad accounts in 78 countries. The clicks were analysed using the ClickCease fraud detection engine, which uncovers non-human, fraudulent or invalid clicks.
"Search spend is vital for advertisers, from online retailers to realtors, as we seek to restore growth in an economic downturn," said Ilan Missulawin, ClickCease CMO. "However, a large part of this crucial paid search spend is wasted on invalid clicks, and this is now largely carried out on mobile devices."
While mobile search provides a major source of revenue to businesses, the threat of mobile click fraud remains a significant problem that is costing advertisers around the world billions of dollars in wasted ad spend, according to Missulawin.
Cheq CEO Guy Tytunovich, whose company contributed to the research, said: "Click fraud has grown in sophistication over the past several years which means that fraudsters and other bad actors are extremely aware of spikes in online and mobile activity and are ready to capitalize."
He added: "Changing consumer behavior during the COVID-19 epidemic has led to increased activity on certain mobile-first channels as well as ecommerce consumption. This naturally leads to increased interest on behalf of bad actors looking to exploit the AdTech ecosystem’s innate weaknesses."
Top research findings
- In the analysis of 1.8 billion clicks, 14% of paid search traffic was fraudulent. Of this fraud, 85% originated from mobile devices, compared to desktop click fraud (15%).
- During pay COVID months (May-June), Mobile Click Fraud rose 62% in total.
- Click Fraud on Android devices up from 12% to 29%: Android-based invalid clicks rose from a rate of 12% to 29% between May and June 2020, bringing its share to 81% of mobile click fraud.
- Click fraud on iOS devices up from 2% to 12%: In addition, the study found there was also an increase in the rate of IOS-based click fraud from 2% to 12%