Invalid traffic refers to clicks and impressions on ads that we suspect aren't the result of genuine user 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. You won't be charged for invalid clicks and impressions because 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 click-through 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 interactions before they ever reach your account reports. Each interaction on an ad is examined by our system. Google looks at numerous data points for each interaction, including the IP address, the time of the interaction, any duplicate interactions and various other interaction patterns. Our system then analyses these factors to try to isolate and filter out potentially invalid interactions before they ever show up in your account.
More about Google's protection against invalid traffic.
How Google handles invalid traffic
When our system detects invalid traffic with 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 traffic data if you'd like to.
If we find invalid interactions that have somehow escaped our automated detection in the past two months, we'll give you credit for these interactions. To view these credits for invalid interactions:
- Sign in to your Google Ads account.
- Click the tools icon in the top right-hand corner of your account.
- Under 'Setup', select Billing & payments.
Any invalid interaction credits you've received will be labelled 'Invalid activity' on the transaction history page and will be credited to you.
If we find any invalid impressions in your account, then this data won't affect the CTR used for determining your keyword's Quality Score.
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 visualise 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.
Learn how to explore your data with the Report Editor.
Monitoring invalid traffic yourself
If you're worried about invalid interactions in your account, there are a number of things you can do to monitor your account's activity.
- Track invalid interactions in your account statistics: As described in the section above, add the invalid interaction data columns to your campaign statistics table to see the number and percentage of invalid interactions in your account. Remember that you aren't charged for these interactions, so they don't affect your account statistics.
- Optimise your account: Your first line of defence against invalid activity is to optimise your account so that your ads receive only the most targeted clicks and impressions. Bear 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 Google Ads account, including conversion rate, visitor behaviour 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 that are 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, then 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 interactions. 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 behaviour 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 maximise 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, then someone may arrive at your site expecting to find something that you don't offer. Highly targeted keywords and ad text will help ensure that your ads show only to customers interested in your product or service.
- Your campaign may not be optimised for the Display Network: If your campaign is opted in to the Display Network but isn't optimised, then your ads may appear on Display Network sites that are irrelevant to the products or services that you're advertising. Visitors are more likely to make a purchase on your website if your ads pertain to the sites that they're currently browsing. For 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 optimising 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 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 ad. You may see "Google.co.uk" 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 that 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 Google Ads clicks, we recommend using auto-tagging.
Clicks on 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 that 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 average daily budget: If you raise the average 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 that you get.
- Ads are showing on new Display Network sites: If your ad campaign uses automatic placements and has enough average 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 traffic
There are many common reasons for increased traffic that don't involve invalid interactions. However, if you suspect that your account is indeed affected by invalid interaction activity, we'll investigate your account.
Our team of specialists 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 that we look at, an investigation into your account may take several working days to complete. When you request an investigation, please share as much information as you have about the traffic that you're concerned about.