About invalid traffic
Invalid traffic refers to clicks and impressions on AdWords ads that we suspect aren't the result of genuine customer interest. Examples of invalid traffic include clicks and impressions performed by automated tools, as well as accidental clicks – for instance, if someone double clicks your ad. We don't charge you for invalid clicks and impressions because we think they have little or no value.
Types of invalid traffic
Below are some types of clicks and impressions that we consider to be invalid:
- Accidental clicks that provide no value, such as the second click of a double-click
- Manual clicks intended to increase someone's advertising costs
- Manual clicks intended to increase profits for website owners hosting your ads
- Clicks and impressions by automated tools, robots, or other deceptive software
- Impressions intended to artificially lower an advertiser's clickthrough rate (CTR)
How Google protects you from invalid traffic
We help protect advertisers from invalid traffic by working to isolate and filter out potentially invalid clicks before they ever reach your account reports. Each click on an AdWords ad is examined by our system. Google looks at numerous data points for each click, including the IP address, the time of the click, any duplicate clicks, and various other click patterns. Our system then analyzes these factors to try to isolate and filter out potentially invalid clicks before they ever show up in your account.
How Google handles invalid traffic
When our system detects invalid clicks on your ads, we automatically filter these out of your reports so that you're not charged for them. However, you still have the option to view invalid click data if you'd like to. See the section below about "Viewing invalid click data" for information on how to view invalid click data in your account.
If we find invalid clicks that have somehow escaped our automated detection in the past two months, we'll give you credit for these clicks. To view these credits for invalid clicks, click the Billing tab. Any invalid click credits you've received will be labeled "Invalid activity" on the transaction history page and will be credited to you.
If we find any invalid impressions in your account, this data won't affect the CTR used for determining your keyword's Quality Score.
You can see the number of invalid clicks your ads have received by adding the Invalid clicks and Invalid click rate columns when viewing your campaign statistics. Remember that you aren't charged for these clicks, so they don't affect your account statistics.
- Click the main Campaigns tab.
- You can view invalid click data for each of your campaigns, or view the data by time period.
- To view data by campaigns, click the Campaigns tab.
- To view data by time period, click the Dimensions tab. Select the appropriate view by clicking on the View dropdown in the toolbar above your statistics table. Choose a time period such as "Day of the week."
- Click Columns, then Modify columns.
- Click Performance, then click Add next to the following options:
- Invalid clicks: See the number of invalid clicks filtered during the selected time period.
- Invalid click rate: See the percentage of your total clicks that were filtered during the selected time period.
- Click Save.
Invalid click data should now appear in your table. If you'd like to download the data, click in the toolbar above the table.
More about creating reports »
Introducing the Report Editor
There’s a new way to visually slice and dice your performance data: the Report Editor. The Report Editor is an analytical tool that allows you to engage with your data through multi-dimensional tables and charts.
- A simple drag-and-drop interface lets you quickly build and manipulate multi-dimensional tables and charts, reducing the need to download your data for deeper analysis.
- Multi-segment analysis lets you slice and dice your data with finer granularity in your tables and charts.
- Custom charts let you quickly visualize the patterns and trends in your data.
- Advanced filtering and sorting allow you to filter on segmented metrics (e.g., mobile clicks) and sort by multiple columns.
Find out how to explore your data with the Report Editor.
Monitoring invalid clicks yourself
If you're worried about invalid clicks in your account, there are a number of things you can do to monitor your account's activity.
- Track invalid clicks in your account statistics: As described in the section above, add the invalid click data columns to your campaign statistics table to see the number and percentage of invalid clicks in your account. Remember that you aren't charged for these clicks, so they don't affect your account statistics.
- Optimize your account: Your first line of defense against invalid activity is to optimize your account so your ads receive only the most targeted clicks and impressions. Keep in mind that conversion rate is one of the best indicators of successful advertising. Identifying and correcting low-conversion areas in your account will also work towards identifying potential areas of invalid activity.
- Monitor your account with Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a free tool that helps you monitor various aspects of your AdWords account, including conversion rate, visitor behavior, and campaign performance. Google Analytics provides reports that you can use to refine traffic to your ads. You can also use auto-tagging to help track the performance of your keywords.
- Monitor conversion rates on the Display Network: For campaigns opted into the Display Network, monitor your ads' conversion rates on Display Network sites with the placement report. If you notice that clicks from the Display Network aren't converting as well as clicks from Google or the Search Network, consider reducing your Display Network bids. If you find that a particular Display Network site isn't converting well, consider excluding it from your campaign.
A low conversion rate doesn't always mean that you're getting invalid clicks. A number of different factors can lead to high levels of traffic but relatively few sales. Here are some common causes of, and solutions to, low conversion rates:
- Changes in market condition, user behavior, and web content may affect your campaign's performance. Some of our advertisers experience a lower return on investment (ROI) as their industries face increasing competition within the Internet advertising marketplace. We recommend that you closely monitor the ROI for each of your keywords and ads and adjust your bids accordingly within the budget that's right for your business. Learn how bidding strategically can maximize your ROI.
- Sites that are difficult to navigate may drive away potential customers. Consider evaluating your site's overall design, layout, and functionality. With Google Analytics, you can see if visitors typically leave your website at a certain point before making a purchase.
- Your keywords and ad text may not be specific enough. If you use general keywords and ad text, someone may arrive at your site expecting to find something you don't offer. Highly targeted keywords and ad text will help ensure your ads show only to customers interested in your product or service.
- Your campaign may not be optimized for the Display Network: If your campaign is opted into the Display Network but isn't optimized, your ads may appear on Display Network sites that are irrelevant to the products or services you're advertising. Visitors are more likely to make a purchase on your website if your ads pertain to the sites they're currently browsing. For the best results, it's important that each of your ad groups contains a short, specific keyword list focusing on only one product or service. Learn more about optimizing for the Display Network.
More about better understanding your ad traffic »
Multiple clicks from the same IP address don't necessarily suggest invalid activity. There are several possible reasons why this happens:
- Return visits: Individuals may click your ad more than once when comparison shopping or returning to your site for more information.
- Shared IP addresses: Multiple clicks from a single source may be due to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigning identical IP addresses to multiple users. Certain ISPs, such as AOL, distribute a relatively small number of shared, rotating IP addresses to a large number of users. As a result, multiple visitors may access your site from identical IP addresses, giving the impression of repeated clicks from a single visitor.
- Web server logs: Your site's web server logs include data for all visitors to your site, not just those who arrived after clicking an AdWords ad. You may see "Google.com" referrers from visitors who reached your site via the Google search results and not via your ad. Rest assured that your account is only charged for clicks your ads receive.
- Third-party software: We've found that some reporting software records clicks between pages as a visitor navigates through your website. As a result, it may appear that you received a large number of clicks from a single visitor in a short period of time. For a more accurate way to track only AdWords clicks, we recommend using auto-tagging.
Some people have asked us whether they're charged for clicks originating from Google IP addresses. No need to worry about that – clicks on AdWords ads from within Google aren't charged to your account. You may see this activity in your web server logs, but rest assured, you aren't charged for this activity. This also applies to Google's web-crawling robots.
Common reasons for increased traffic
Just because you see a spike in the number of clicks or impressions in your account doesn't always mean your ads are affected by invalid traffic. In most cases, these spikes in traffic are caused by other things.
Examples of why you might see an increase in traffic:
- Changes in daily budget: If you raise the daily budget for your campaigns, it'll allow your ads to get more impressions and – naturally – more clicks.
- Changes in maximum CPC for keywords: Raising the maximum CPC (cost-per-click) for one or more of your keywords might allow your ads to show more often. It might also allow the ads to show in a higher position than before. That's also true for ads that show on the Display Network – a higher CPC can result in a higher position and therefore more impressions and clicks.
- Adding new keywords: Adding new keywords to your campaign, especially if the keywords are quite general or correspond to popular search queries, can increase the number of impressions and clicks you get.
- Ads are showing on new Display Network sites: If your ad campaign uses automatic placements and has enough daily budget, your ads' traffic can significantly increase if it starts showing on a new publisher site.
- Seasonal trends or news events: Sometimes a sudden increase in interest in a specific topic can cause increased traffic – for example, if it's a special holiday or if someone famous blogs or talks about a particular topic.
More about valid reasons for increases in traffic »
Reporting invalid clicks
As mentioned in the section above, there are many common reasons for increased traffic that don't involve invalid clicks. However, if you suspect that your account is indeed affected by invalid click activity, we'll be happy to investigate your account.
Our team of specialists will use a variety of different signals including click and impression information to identify sources of invalid activity. Because of the large number of data points we look at, an investigation into your account may take several business days to complete. When you request an investigation, please share as much information as you have about the traffic you're concerned about.
More about requesting a click investigation »