Google Ads, previously known as Google Adwords offers users the ability to exclude unwanted IP addresses from their campaigns, prohibiting traffic from those IP addresses from viewing their ads. When used correctly, it’s a great tool to protect your campaigns from invalid traffic and improve the chances of your ads being seen by potential buyers, instead of bots and fraudsters.
Notice we said, ‘when used correctly’. This is because if you block IP addresses based on a hunch or without enough evidence on invalid activity, you run the risk of blocking a legitimate source of traffic that may represent an entire network of people, leading to restricted ad reach and business growth.
Why IP address lookup and other manual techniques put your business growth at risk
There are some articles on the internet suggesting manual techniques to identify IP addresses of competitors or other fraudulent sources. These include:
- Looking at your web server logs
- Using incoming email headers, and
- Online IP address finders and IP lookup websites
While these might look like easy solutions, understand that finding IP addresses is not as straightforward because of several reasons, discussed below. Blocking IP addresses without clear evidence and only based on findings from webserver logs, online IP address finders/lookups, etc. can put your business growth at risk by blocking legitimate sources of potential buyers.
Let’s look at the challenges and risks of manual techniques to lookup IP addresses:
- Shared servers & IP addresses: Due to its low cost, many businesses prefer to use shared server infrastructure which could mean traffic from one IP originating from many different businesses. In this case, blocking an IP address that you have identified as your competitor’s could inadvertently block prospective customers from reaching your ads.
- Obfuscated IP addresses: Your competitors could be accessing your ads on different wifi or a cellular network. They can also easily anonymise their browsing using VPN. In which case, blocking their office IP address won’t stop them from clicking your ads and draining your ads spend.
- Dynamic IP addresses: Dynamic IP addresses allow a single IP address to be shuffled between many different devices. This means the same device may have a different IP address every time it reconnects.
- Click Farms: Click farms involve thousands of devices programmed to perform searches, clicks, and installs over and over again in order to steal your ad spend. These devices operate from multiple locations and use various different servers. If your competitor is trying to drain your ad spend, they can easily enlist the help of a click farm on various online marketplaces for a small fee, making it nearly impossible for you to manually track down all the (right) IP addresses.
- Exclusion limit: You can only exclude 500 IP addresses from Google Ads at a time. When you manually identify IPs for exclusion without any evidence, you may end up exhausting your exclusion limit on the wrong IPs while still leaving out the ones posing threats to your business.
- Lost ad spend: If you depend on manually identifying IPs, you have to wait for fraud to happen which basically means you are leaving money on the table for the fraudster. As well as taking longer, manual methods are not as reliable as automated ad fraud detection. Missed threats can end up wasting a lot of your ad spend.
The evidence-based approach to finding IP addresses for exclusion
Even though there may be a few manual techniques available on the internet, we can tell you right off the bat, that without a trusted ad verification tool in place, it is hard to know which IPs are sources of invalid traffic. Unfortunately, neither Google Ads nor Google Analytics provides this level of visibility.
Ad fraud is getting more and more sophisticated every day. Fraud techniques are constantly evolving to mimic human behaviours and avoid detection. Your ad fraud defence should involve more than just blocking what you think could be your competitors’ IP addresses. Besides giving you a false sense of security, blocking IP addresses without clear evidence also increases the probability of legitimate traffic sources getting caught in the process.
Rather than blocking an IP address that you have determined is of a competitor, a more reliable approach to fraud prevention is the analysis of engagement patterns and behaviour over high volumes of traffic. In doing that, we can see when there is a high volume of engagement on your advertising with no genuine user intent and stop the source of that traffic – regardless of whether it appears to be generated by a competitor. That type of analysis not only results in much more reliable invalidation, it is also much faster. Working with a specialist ad verification vendor like TrafficGuard also alleviates that burden from your team so that they can get back to what they do best.
TrafficGuard’s PPC protection benefits from both, the immense scale of data and the expertise behind our enterprise performance ad fraud prevention solution. We are continuously strengthening machine learning models using the intelligence gained from processing over 3 trillion data points a month to offer the most sophisticated and reliable fraud detection.