Varos Glossary

Invalid Clicks

What Are Invalid Clicks

Invalid Clicks is a catch-all term for any click on an ad that Google identifies as illegitimate or fraudulent. Google may flag any of the following as an invalid click: 

  • The click originates from a click bot, automated software designed to drain advertising budgets.
  • A user unintentionally taps or clicks on an ad. 
  • An advertiser clicks on a competitor's ads to increase that competitor's costs. 
  • A website owner clicks on a hosted ad to generate revenue. 
  • A user with no conversion intent clicks on an ad after being incentivized through some external reward. 
  • The click originates from a 'click farm,' a coordinated service designed to artificially inflate an ad's clickthrough rate. 
  • The click originates from an unauthorized source. 
  • The click originates from an ad placement that violates Google's advertising guidelines.

Invalid Clicks vs. Invalid Traffic

When advertising on Google, invalid traffic and invalid clicks are often closely related to one another — the latter creates the former. Consequently, invalid traffic can be useful in identifying invalid clicks. With that said, it's important to understand that invalid traffic is far greater in scope than website traffic.

It refers to a range of illegitimate engagement activities and tactics, including:

  • Artificially inflating the number of impressions an ad receives. 
  • Artificially inflating traffic through the use of bots. 
  • Link farming. 
  • Affiliate fraud.

Am I Charged for Invalid Clicks?

Generally, no. Google Ads' invalid click protection tends to be fairly robust, and Google is usually accurate when it comes to identifying them. Any click it identifies as illegitimate is automatically removed from invoices. 

However, no system is perfect, and even on Google, an invalid click may occasionally make it through. The onus is on you to identify the invalid click and claim a refund from Google. You can view refunded clicks under the Reports section of your Google Ads Dashboard by comparing Served Cost and Billed Cost.

How do Invalid Clicks Impact Ads on Google?

Many of the metrics and KPIs you'll track as part of your ad campaign are calculated with clicks in mind, so a flood of illegitimate clicks can easily distort your data. 

Like most black hat search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, invalid clicks are generally ineffective at actually sabotaging anyone. However, they can cause several problems when it comes to tracking and analytics: 

How to Prevent Invalid Clicks

The first step to protecting yourself from invalid clicks is to keep track of how often they appear in your reports — this can be viewed through the following steps: 

  1. On your Google Ads dashboard, click on Campaigns. 
  2. Click on Columns, then navigate to Performance. 
  3. Select all metrics tagged with the word Invalid, then click Apply. 
  4. You can now view a list of all invalid clicks associated with your campaign. 

Next, compare these metrics to your Served Cost and Billed Cost under Reports. This will allow you to identify if you've been erroneously charged for clicks that were flagged as invalid. If you have, you can request a refund by submitting a Click Quality Form to Google — make sure you collect as much evidence as possible prior to submitting this form. 

With that in mind, other methods for tracking invalid clicks include:

  • Investing in click fraud prevention software. 
  • Monitoring your website for suspicious or unusual user behavior. 
  • Assessing the origin of website traffic, and flagging any that originates from a suspicious location. 
  • Paying attention to unusual or unexpected increases in traffic, impressions, clicks, etc.   

Bear in mind that per the Google Ads TOS, any refund claims must be submitted within 60 days of the invoice date to be considered valid, and any credits issued as a refund must be used within 60 days of issuance. Approved refunds may take up to two weeks for Google to process, and your bank may require additional processing time.