Facebook advertising has become the go-to for small businesses looking to get their products seen by today’s consumer. The company’s reach is unparalleled, the platform is easy to use, and it offers ways to interact with potential customers that are lacking with Google Ads.
However, this advertising method does not come without pitfalls. One of the biggest is click fraud. Research from the University of Baltimore concluded that click fraud costs digital marketers as much as $35 billion  in lost ad dollars per year. Here’s what you need to know to defend your ad budget.
What Is Click Fraud?
You’ve likely heard of fake traffic before, but if not, this usually refers to traffic generated by bots. In some cases, these bots are utilized to crash competitor websites, but on Facebook, they are used exclusively to cut you out of the advertising market.
These bots, or even sometimes click farms of low-cost human workers, spam-click on ads to drive up your costs and run you out of business. Many small-business owners are left scratching their heads as to why their advertising is not converting into sales, and consequently abandon the advertising channel.
These shady business practices crush smaller competitors, allowing larger companies with heftier wallets to control all of the advertising space. However, all is not lost, and there are ways for small businesses to fight back.
How Can Small Businesses Combat Click Fraud
While it’s impossible to eliminate all click fraud, there are a few things you can do to make sure your ads are getting to real consumers. Here are a few strategies to implement:
Optimize for Conversions and Not for Clicks
While using software that automatically optimizes your ads for the best converting audience is very useful, it’s not perfect. This is because software is only as smart as the human that trains it. If you tell the software that you want to maximize clicks on your ad, then that’s exactly what it will do. Unfortunately, it can also hone in on fraud clicks and create a profile that targets the very traffic that you are looking to avoid.
You can alter this behavior and greatly improve your campaign’s performance by optimizing your ad campaigns for conversions instead of clicks. This means that instead of the end goal being getting someone to interact with your ad, an action that invites bots to take a bite out of your budget, you will instead be optimizing for those who make a purchase or perform another desired action such as an email sign-up.
This takes a bit more time to set up, obviously, but it’s well worth doing. Not only will this action help to eliminate click fraud from your campaigns, but it will also help you to see how profitable your ad campaigns actually are.
Use a Landing Page
In addition to optimizing for conversions and not for clicks, using a proper landing page can also reduce click fraud. This is because bots are often programmed with very simple objectives in mind. They know how to click on the ad, and that’s about it. They are not sophisticated enough, in most circumstances, to complete further actions like a human would, and even if your competitor is utilizing a human click farm, they likely won’t bother.
So, while you will still have to pay for any initial bot clicks, the software will begin showing your ad to the kinds of people who will interact with the landing page and not just click the ad. This landing page will also be useful in separating traffic you acquire through sources other than your paid traffic, such as organically or through social media. Using this information, you can make better judgments concerning your ad campaigns.
Be Wary Of Facebook’s Audience Network
The audience network is intended to push your ads to a larger number of people. While this sounds like a great idea at first, the system does not always push your ads to the right people. In fact, it often pushes them out to big pages, which are frequently populated by bots.
In most cases, having tighter targeting not only reduces bot traffic but also ends up being a lot cheaper for you. Laser-targeted ads get better conversion rates, and this reduces your cost per click on the Facebook ads platform significantly.
Target Multiple Interest Sources
It’s a popular and very effective strategy to target the audience of similar brands who are already successfully advertising on Facebook. Unfortunately, bots have taken up residence here as well, even on legitimate pages.
You can, however, help yourself to avoid becoming a victim by utilizing multi-interest targeting. This means you’ll be dialing in a very specific audience who matches several different qualifying criteria rather than just one.
For example, if you were advertising a new music festival, you might target the fans of other similar events. However, you might also cross-target fans of artists, both big and small, who have played at those shows and further qualify leads by the location of your festival. It’s far less likely that bots or click farms will meet all of these criteria, so you can get a higher quality advertising audience.
One of the great things about Facebook is that they really allow you to narrow down your search parameters to just the right people, thanks to interest targeting. Make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the options that are available to you.
Make Liberally Use of the Block List
Did you know that in your Facebook ads account, you can block specific people, demographics, and countries from clicking on your ad? This one is a definite no-brainer if you only sell products in one country. Blocking traffic that can’t convert is easy and reduces fraud substantially.
However, even if you have a global business, you may still wish to block demographics or countries that just aren’t converting for you. For example, maybe your product is too expensive for them, or perhaps it just doesn’t resonate in that locale.
Whatever the case, there’s no reason to waste ad spending on this traffic whether they are bots or not. If you have any locations with a large number of clicks and no conversions, consider adding them to the block list to conserve your precious ad dollars.
However, just blocking countries like India or Pakistan will not eliminate click fraud altogether. Many bots are actually run in the United States by competitors themselves, or they are using user-agent spoofing, a process which masks the user’s true location. This means that rather than editing your ad campaigns using broad brush strokes, you’ll instead need to dig a bit deeper and learn how to cut where it really counts.
Make Use of Custom Audiences
Do you already have a solid customer base on Facebook? If so, you can have Facebook specifically target more people like your existing customers. Facebook is great at using data, and this can be a fantastic way to attract more of your kind of people.
When combined with the other tips above, this method can be used quite effectively to expand your audience, and having the Facebook pixel installed on your website pulls double duty for you, as it allows you to retarget existing customers for future sales.
While retargeting won’t get you new customers directly, nurturing an existing customer and alerting them to new product offerings can be more profitable. In fact, an existing customer is 50% more likely to try a new product from you than a new customer is.  Retargeting is also a great way to make sure your ad dollars are contributing to your sales goals and not click farms because these ads target people who have already converted before.
In conclusion, reducing click fraud is really about making yourself more involved in the advertising process. While being able to set it and forget it would be fantastic, a successful ad campaign needs proper management and fine-tuning to remain profitable.