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Facebook’s Click Fraud?

Facebook is one of the largest advertising platforms today, but in comparison to other advertising platforms, it has quite a low percentage of click fraud, unlike PPC fraud from search campaigns.

In this Thread, we will go in depth into why this is and Facebook’s click fraud.

First, most of Facebook’s revenue is generated from advertising. But Facebook has a rather low CTR (click through rate) for advertisements in comparison to other advertising platforms such as Google. Facebook average CTR is about 0.04% (400 clicks for every one million pages) while Google Adwords’ is much higher, standing proudly at an average of 8% (80,000 clicks for every one million searches).

This CTR can usually be attributed to younger users who enable certain ad blocking extensions in their browsers and also their expertise at ignoring ads. Pair that with the main purpose of the platform as a social communication one rather than content viewing and you’ll end up with a very low CTR rate.

That being said, the platform is still a very useful and powerful tool that has the ability to promote even the smallest of businesses. In order to prove this point, a man by the name of Rory-Cellan Jones, a technology correspondent for BBC conducted an advertising experiment called “VirtualBagel” In order to measure the “power of a like”. Basically, he created a non-existent bagel selling business and tried to promote it through Facebook.

The description was as follows: “We send you bagels via the internet- just download and enjoy.”  He paid $100 to Facebook worth and the likes roll in.

But, what he discovered was that most of the clicks he received were from developing countries (Egypt, Sri Lanka, Philippines, India) and of those clicks he had near zero engagement.

Engagement and Likes

Receiving a like on your page has a positive influence on the probability that your page will be displayed to many other users with the same interest as the one who liked your page. However, a low rate of engagement from the same account who liked your page could trigger Facebook’s algorithm to downrate your page altogether.

As for the likes themselves, there are two major ways of obtaining likes- the legitimate way and the illegitimate way.

The legitimate way is done by paying Facebook a certain sum of money (like the owner of VirtualBagel did) in order to advertise and promote your business. The illegitimate way is done by “buying likes” through certain services that often employ click farms in order to boost likes on your pages. But as you can imagine, this activity is prohibited by Facebook and once detected, the fraudulent user and all of his accounts will be banned.

So how can they avoid detection?

These “click farmers” often try to mimic the behavior of a real genuine Facebook user, they mask their fraudulent “liked” page in a torrent of random other pages likes and in doing so, making it much harder for Facebook to detect them.

This is exactly what happened in the “Virtualbagel”s case. Although the owner promoted his page legitimately, he failed to exclude certain countries from being exposed to his page- attributing for the large influx of likes from these developing aforementioned countries.

For those who didn’t follow- those fraudulent sources clicked on his ad as part of their way of masking their activity. They had no need to actively engage with his bagel selling business.

The Bottom Line

So the question remains- is there actual fraud on facebook?

The answer is yes if you are buying likes from illegitimate sources.

However, when it comes down to your competitors’ clicking on your ads, that is highly unlikely because Facebook is the one who decides which ads will be shown in the specific account, unlike what happens in search platforms such as Google and Bing where your competitors can look for your ads by searching for specific keywords.

That being said, as an advertiser, it is highly advised to know your target audience beforehand and to direct your ads to be shown to that audience exclusively. Otherwise, what happened in the “VirtualBagel” case might reoccur and may affect your page very negatively due to the probable zero engagement mentioned beforehand.

As long as you are using search PPC campaigns as a source of traffic (and customers) then you should be aware of the dangers of search click fraud such as seen in this video.