Invalid Clicks on Google Ads: What They Are and How to Prevent Them

Maddie Tovar Written on September 7th, 2023, Last updated on October 10th, 2023

PPC ads do what they say on the tin – you’re expected to pay per click. That means every time a user clicks on your Google Ads link, you’ll be charged a small fee by the search engine giant. At that point, the main job of Google is done, its down to your site to then convert that click to a conversion. Once thats done, Google will then optimise its targeting to show ads to similar people who are more likely to become a conversion.  

But businesses looking to set up a PPC campaign will likely have one key concern – what happens if there’s an unintentional click on my site or a click from malicious software?

After all, if your ad receives clicks but you’re not really in with a chance of converting the visitor to a paying customer, it’s a waste of your money. With this in mind, let’s explore why these clicks happen and how to prevent them. 

What Are Invalid Clicks?

An invalid click is an accidental click, duplicate click, or a click performed by malicious software and, naturally, they’re a worry for Google Ads customers. They don’t generally result in conversions because they’re not generated by a genuine interest in your site and they may even be intended to hurt your PPC campaigns. 

While some invalid clicks result from mobile users simply reaching for a link and tapping an ad instead; others are genuinely fraudulent. Some publishers have been known to pay users to click on ads to increase impression counts. Traffic that’s caused by these tactics adds no value to advertisers or the customer experience. 

Why Do Invalid Clicks Happen?

There’s no one reason why invalid clicks happen – they can be a result of different activities, accidental or fraudulent.

Invalid traffic can come from automated or malicious software such as bots. Useless clicks, such as the second click of a double-click also count as an invalid click, as it adds no further value to your ad. 

In some cases, competitors will even click the links of other businesses in their industry as a means of increasing the advertiser’s costs and reducing their conversion rates. Meanwhile, some website owners manually click their own websites to earn money on hosted ads. 

Will I Get Charged for Invalid Clicks?

You don’t get charged for invalid clicks. Google takes invalid activity seriously, so for the most part, you can expect the search engine giant to notice invalid clicks thanks to their complex algorithms. These clicks will be removed from your reports and payments, so you won’t pay for them. 

Rarely, though, an invalid click might slip through the net and appear in your reports. In these instances, it’s up to you to notice the invalid click, report it, and request a refund. 

How to Notice Invalid Clicks and Request a Refund

To find invalid clicks in your reports, start by logging into your Google account then follow the steps below. 

  1. Navigate to the Campaigns tab
  2. Click on Columns
  3. Navigate to the Performance section
  4. Select these metrics; invalid clicks, invalid click rate, invalid interactions, and invalid interaction rate. 
  5. Click Apply. 

You’ll see any invalid clicks that have made their way into your reports here. 

If you find invalid clicks and want to request a refund, carry out the following process: 

  • Check whether Google has already refunded you. 9 times out of 10, your refund will already have been processed. You can check this by looking at the Served Cost and Billed Cost for the campaign on Reports. If the billed cost is lower than the served cost, it means Google has refunded you. If you’ve seen invalid clicks but the billed and served costs are equal, you could be due a refund. 
  • Collect all the necessary data. If you’ve established that you’re due a refund, collect all the necessary data to collect your case for Google. Include information such as customer IDs, dates of fraudulent clicks, the campaigns affected, and affected ad groups and keywords. 
  • Submit a Click Quality Form. You can find the official form to report suspicious clicks to Google here. You’ll need to include all the information Google asks for before submitting your request. Once you’ve requested a refund, it should arrive with you within two weeks. 

Why Are Invalid Clicks a Problem?

The best decisions are made with data at their heart. But if the data you have isn’t accurate, how can you make effective data-driven decisions?

If invalid clicks make their way into your reports, they can distort the data. You might, for example, see an increase in click-through rate, but a decrease in conversion rate if the people clicking on your link aren’t genuine leads. 

There’s also the issue of potentially paying for invalid clicks if they slip through the net and make their way into your payments and reports. In this instance, though, you can request a full refund from Google. 

How Google Deals With Invalid Clicks

Google has a specialist team and complex algorithm dedicated to identifying and preventing invalid clicks while ensuring you’re not incorrectly charged for them. When Google finds an issue, the team aims to deal with it as soon as possible by suspending or disabling invalid accounts.

Google also works closely with industry groups like the Media Rating Council, Trustworthy Accountability Group, and Interactive Advertising Bureau to develop industry standards for advertising traffic worldwide. 

How to Prevent Invalid Clicks

While Google, for the most part, does a great job of preventing invalid clicks, you’ll still need to do your part to ensure your advertising costs aren’t negatively impacted. Google closely the virtual gate to stop scammers from entering, but it’s your job to lock it! 😉

Here are some things you can do to prevent invalid clicks from occurring. 

Keep an eye on your key metrics

As outlined above, it’s worth monitoring metrics related to invalid clicks to your report to check that you’re not being charged for invalid clicks that Google failed to detect. 

Get to know your campaign activity so you’re able to identify jumps in clicks or unusual activity. 

If you suddenly spot changes in your KPIs and you haven’t adjusted your creative or ad placements recently, this could be a red flag. 

Use tracking software

If you don’t fancy reading raw web server logs to look for evidence of invalid traffic, there’s software to do it for you. Google Analytics, for example, uses JavaScript to prevent the data in an easily-digestible way. 

There’s third-party tracking software you can use, too, but look for ones that require auto-tagging to be enabled. 

Add a CAPTCHA to your forms

If you want to be sure the leads you’re getting from forms on your website are legitimate, add a CAPTCHA. That way, you can bypass activity from bots. 

Enable auto-tagging

If you use Google Ads to drive traffic to your landing pages, it’s a good rule of thumb to enable auto-tagging. Doing so attaches a GCLID parameter to the URL of each landing page to identify the page view as the result of a click on your ad. 

If you have auto-tagging enabled but you don’t see this parameter in your site activity, that means these visits didn’t result from your ad.

Lack the Time to Look After Your Google Ads?

That’s what we’re here for! Not to brag, but at Bind Media we really are experts in all things paid media. If you find keeping up to date with your Google ads too time-consuming or difficult or you simply don’t know where to start, we can look after your accounts for you. 

We increase business conversion rates, boost brand awareness, and help get your business noticed through the power of paid media. Don’t just take our word for it – we were voted the UK’s number 1 agency in 2022! To find out how we can help you outperform competitors, get in touch with our team to get your proposal today


Maddie Tovar Hiya, I’m Maddie 👋 Brand Marketing Executive at Bind Media. Started my career within PPC four years ago, however, did a 180 and now my day-to-day consists of SEO, content creation and social! Fun fact: I’ve got an obsession with making weirdly specific playlists on Spotify and talk in TikTok references only.

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