You might have seen some headlines in the last couple of days claiming that click fraud, or invalid clicks on online ads, is on the rise in Australia. If you’re an advertiser, does that mean a large percentage of your ad spend is suddenly going to these fraudulent clicks? We want to reassure you that the answer is no!

We use “invalid clicks” to characterize any clicks that Google does not charge to advertisers because they have little or no value. We call these “invalid clicks” instead of “click fraud”, because we have no way to judge the intent of the click and whether it’s deliberately fraudulent or just accidental. For example, some people habitually ‘double click’ when using a mouse. The second click in a double click is not fraudulent, but we still consider it invalid. Regardless of the intent, Google doesn’t charge advertisers for invalid clicks.

Here’s what you need to know about invalid clicks:

The real number: less than 0.02 percent
Invalid clicks are similar to email spam. The absolute volume of spam that exists on the Web goes up and down, but the only number that matters to you is the volume that appears in your inbox. Similarly, the only number that matters when in comes to invalid clicks is the rate at which it goes undetected. That number is minuscule: less than 0.02 percent. Put another way, for every ten thousand clicks on Google AdWords ads, fewer than two are reactively detected cases of possible click fraud. And no matter don’t pay for them.

Advertisers don’t pay for invalid clicks
The most important thing to remember is that advertisers do not pay for invalid clicks. The vast majority of invalid clicks never appear in advertisers’ accounts, and advertisers never pay for these clicks. Google proactively detects and filters invalid clicks so that advertisers never see them. In the relatively rare cases in which advertisers are affected by undetected click fraud, we investigate, mark those clicks as invalid, and refund the advertiser. If you’re an AdWords advertiser, you can see for yourself how many invalid clicks have been proactively filtered from your Google AdWords account.

Google leads the industry in proactive detection
Click fraud protection is something we take very seriously, and it requires a great deal of research and development to do effectively. We believe we lead the industry in our level of investment as well as the effectiveness of our tools. We have a three stage-system for invalid click detection: (1) real-time filters, (2) offline analysis, and (3) reactive investigations. You can read a full description of this system on our Inside AdWords blog.

But is the problem of click fraud getting bigger or not?
As with all things you read, you should consider the source; those hyping the issue are usually those who have the most to gain. It’s true that invalid clicks, like email spam, aren’t a solved problem. We have teams of engineers who continue to innovate and invest in this area of our advertising system to stay a step ahead. It’s in the long term interests of Google and the industry to protect advertisers against invalid clicks.