Ad Fraud and Ad Blocking: Examine The Challenges And Learn Strategies For Mitigating Risks And Optimizing Ad Spend

Advertisers and websites interested in the PPC revenue stream face two major obstacles: click fraud and ad blockers. 

4 mins to read

Pay-per-click advertising, or PPC, emerged in the early days of the Internet, and it’s stuck around for good reason. It is easy to implement, and its metrics are easy to track. The advertiser pays a fee when a reader clicks on an ad or a page. Advertisers and websites interested in this revenue stream face two major obstacles: click fraud and ad blockers. 

Also called digital ad fraud, click fraud stacks up fake leads that don’t become sales. The ad host generates revenue, but the advertiser pays for nothing. 

Ad blockers come from individual users. Site visitors who use an Adblock program, often an extension installed on their web browser, never see ads. The host makes no money, and the advertiser misses a potential sale.

The Pay-Per-Click Model and Digital Ad Fraud 

The pay-per-click model is useful but exploitable. Every single time a user visits a page with an ad, the advertiser pays the site owner a small fee. Advertisers pay to display text, image banners, and popup videos and put them on search engines, websites, and social media. PPC doesn’t differentiate between clicks that generate sales and those that don’t. The advertiser still pays for fake clicks. 

Defrauding Pay-Per-Click 

Click fraud generates clicks, which force the advertiser to pay their host money for clicks without sales. The wasted money hurts ad spend ROI. Competitors may seize the opportunity to force their competition to waste money. Ad hosts commit fraud on their own sites to boost their income through high-volume fake clicks. 

In either case, PPC fraud generates fake clicks through one of many different approaches. 


View and click bots are simple automated scripts that click on ads, re-access the site, and repeat the process. Bots can generate thousands of payable clicks in a few minutes. But bots never buy a product, leading to useless ad spend. 


Modern security systems detect bots and shut them down fast. Some fraudsters work around bot-detection software and have real people click on ads. Most click farms appear in areas with minimal labor costs. Hosts may also crowdsource their click fraud and ask their audience to click on ads for them. 

Mobile games often display ads between gameplay rounds. Users are not interested in the ad content and want to return to their game as soon as possible.  

Site Modification 

Malicious web design defrauds advertisers who incentivize page clicks over ad clicks. “Pixel stuffing” displays many ads from multiple advertisers on the page simultaneously. These ads are only a few pixels large, so visitors will never see or click on them. Some hosts take a less obvious approach and place legitimate ads on top of one another. In “ad stacking,” visitors only see and click on the first ad—but advertisers pay the site for each one.  

Recognizing and Preventing Click Fraud

Click fraud is illegal in only a few jurisdictions, so advertisers must take matters into their own hands. Security programs recognize and highlight high clickthrough rates from the same ISP or area, which point to an ad farm nearby. A skewed view-conversion ratio is another telltale sign of click fraud. Some software automatically blocks these fraudulent clicks after it recognizes a pattern. 

Overcoming Ad Blockers 

Ad blockers are software installed on a web browser or network that detects and removes ads from the page display. They have existed since 1996, with several popular releases later in the 2000s. In 2024, ad blockers have millions of loyal and active users, which cause enormous revenue loss—probably. The actual results are almost impossible to quantify. 

Advertisers and developers compare ad block circumvention to a game of whack-a-mole. Adblock users despise ads, and legions of open-source developers do everything in their power to filter new methods as soon as they appear. 

Why Adblocker Circumvention Fails 

Adblocker circumvention makes users angry. It’s very difficult to convince angry people to do anything, especially when they could visit other sites. 

Vendors to help companies bypass Adblock often go out of business quickly. Ad blockers have won. Advertisers should look for other ways to maximize their ad spend at this stage. 

Alternatives to Adblock Circumvention 

Increased ad presence and “Adblock walls” both force users to view more ads. These shortsighted solutions generate short-term revenue but drive more users to block ads or redirect traffic after implementation. 

More Ads 

Higher ad density shows more ads to users without AdBlock. It drives ad spending to value-dense users, who are less tech-savvy and either can’t install an Adblocker or don’t know it’s possible. However, a cluttered page can harm the user experience. Eventually, web viewers get fed up and look for an Adblocker. 

Worse, ad-dense sites require more bandwidth, increasing load time. Bounce rates skyrocket when load times increase, potentially doing more harm than good.

Adblock Walls 

Adblock walls crawl a browser for an Adblock extension and disable user access until they shut it off. This approach has a low recovery rate and infuriates most users. It can even land major websites in legal trouble. 

Acceptable Ads 

Ad blockers know what their users want better than anyone. Acceptable Ads, operated by the quintessential ad blocker AdBlock Plus, shares that information with advertisers by creating guidelines for non-disruptive ads. They help advertisers and hosts build ads that encourage clicks but don’t spoil user experience, then let those ads through their blocking program. 

These strict guidelines require hosts to mark their advertisements as ads. They may not exceed specific sizes determined by the ad’s position and the user’s viewing device (mobile, tablet, desktop, etc). Finally, ads may not fill more than 15 percent of the webpage’s visible space. 

Advertisers who let AdBlockers dictate the terms expand their audience by millions of potential leads. These potential leads are happy to see advertisers cater to them and respond appropriately. 

Design Acceptable Ads to Complement Your Digital Marketing Strategy, Built by Alan and Company 

Alan and Co. Marketing is a digital marketing agency in the US specializing in marketing SMBs and drug rehab SEO. Marketing for drug rehabs teaches hard lessons about accuracy, honesty, and applicability, which Alan + Co. takes to heart. 

Agency social media marketing is already one of the best ways to maximize ad spend. Contact Alan and Co to build an unmatched digital marketing strategy to reach new leads. 

May 15, 2024

Jackie Rosu


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