What is conversion fraud?

September 27, 2022 ∙ 4 minute read

Online advertising has a fake conversions problem, especially fake leads which waste advertisers' time and money. In this article we explain why these fake conversions exist, and how to stop them.

What is click fraud?

Before we explain conversion fraud, we need to understand click fraud, and why click fraud is the reason conversion fraud exists.

Click fraud is an online scam which steals tens of billions of dollars from online advertisers every year. Criminals create genuine-looking websites, and open publisher accounts at advertising networks like Google Ads and Microsoft Ads. These publisher accounts allow the criminals to place advertisements on their websites, enabling them to earn money every time an advertisement is clicked.

Instead of waiting for people to visit their websites and click on the ads, the criminals create bots - software pretending to be human - and send these bots to their websites to click on the ads. As far as the advertising networks are concerned, the bots are real people, so the clicks are valid.

The bots generate millions of fake clicks every day, creating huge profits for the scammers, and massive losses for the advertisers.

What is conversion fraud?

A problem faced by the criminals is the fact their bots never purchase anything at the advertisers' websites. If the advertising networks notice this, they may close the scammers' publisher accounts due to poor quality traffic. To get around this problem, the bots try to create no-cost conversions, such as filling out leads forms or signing up to mailing lists, in an attempt to trick the advertising networks into believing the traffic is real.

In other words, a bot goes to a criminal's website, clicks on an ad, gets redirected to an advertiser's website, and looks for a leads form to fill in. This creates a fake conversion, and the advertising network is fooled into believing the bot is a real person.

How to prevent conversion fraud?

As we have seen, conversion fraud is a part of the click fraud process, therefore the key to preventing conversion fraud is to prevent click fraud. If you can stop the fake clicks, you won't have any more conversion fraud. Additionally, click fraud costs you money, so it's in your interest to prevent fake clicks.

The first way to stop click fraud, and in the process prevent conversion fraud, is to stop advertising on the Google Display Network, Microsoft Audience Network, and other publisher websites. As we saw earlier, conversion fraud occurs because publisher websites are trying to trick advertising networks into believing their fake clicks are real, therefore by preventing publisher websites from displaying your ads, you'll eliminate most click fraud.

To display your ads on the Google Search Network only, follow the steps below:

  1. From within your Google Ads account, choose a campaign and click on Settings.
  2. Click on Networks.
  3. Uncheck Include Google search partners and Include Google Display Network.
  4. Click Save.

To display your ads on the Microsoft Search Network only, follow the steps below:

  1. From within your Microsoft Ads account, choose a campaign and click on Settings.
  2. Navigate to Other settings.
  3. Decrease Audience Ads Bids by 100%.

A problem with the above methods is they limit where your ads are shown, resulting in fewer clicks and reduced sales. A better solution is to continue advertising on publisher websites, however use Polygraph to prevent click fraud, and in the process stop conversion fraud such as fake leads forms.

How does Polygraph prevent conversion fraud?

Polygraph uses a four-step process to protect your ads from fake clicks and conversion fraud:

  1. Polygraph uses advanced click fraud detection - better than any system used by the advertising networks - to detect every fake click. That means if a bot, or some other form of trickery, is used to click on your ads, Polygraph will log the date, time, IP address, referrer, and technique used by the scammer.
  2. Polygraph tells you which of your ad keywords are currently being targeted by click fraudsters, so you can remove the ad keywords from your campaigns, or price the fraud into your product.
  3. Polygraph gives you the domains of the scam websites targeting your ads, so you can block the websites from displaying or clicking on your ads.
  4. Finally, Polygraph helps you get click fraud refunds from the advertising networks, so you no longer have to worry about wasting your ad budget on fake clicks.


Criminals are generating fake clicks on ads, and doing fake conversions, such as filling out leads forms, to trick advertising networks into believing their worthless clicks are real. The way to stop conversion fraud is to prevent the fake clicks from happening in the first place. Polygraph makes it easy to prevent click fraud, protect your ad budget, and stop wasting time sorting through fake conversions.

Click here to start monitoring your ads for click fraud.