On the surface, Facebook is a place to get your business and products in front of "people." Easy enough, right? Let's assume you've tried to run your own ad. After following the proper directions and selecting the right options, you turn your ad on—while quietly cheersing yourself with a nice stiff drink, or is that just me? The ad runs precisely, and now, you've reached your advertising goals. Sound right? Probably not, and you're not the first or last person to notice this. Heck, it's something I've experienced, hence, the stiff drink.

Disclaimer: One should never bite the hand that feeds. However, when the food is poisoned, bite that hand and move on to something more nourishing or teach that hand to feed you some broccoli.

While Facebook has provided me with tools to help business owners for the past 10+ years, it's important for business owners—and more importantly, digital strategists—to acknowledge that the product Facebook used to sell is now pretty f*[email protected] tainted. From the overall decline of organic reach to the lack of transparency in Ad Metrics, it's a desert out there, and instead of finding water, Facebook is offering a mirage at a high cost, like water at a stadium. That's not to say that it doesn't have its place or that you shouldn't use, but instead to proceed with caution and set proper expectations for your business goals and growth.

Related: Click here for the state of Facebook bot traffic in 2021 →

Facebook Ads and Fake Clicks

In order to understand why you have fake clicks coming from your Facebook Ads, you have to know how to identify bot traffic. Note: If you have 5% or more of bot traffic, you will pollute your data and limit your ability to re-target/re-market your users, so push this problem to the top of your list.

Image via B2B Marketing Lab

Look for a high bounce rate and a low average session duration. If you have Goal Conversions or Ecomm tracking set, look to see a 0% conversion rating as well. This is indicative of bot traffic.

The short answer is that while you do have limited resources due to some of Facebook's less than transparent behavior, you can take small steps.

To stop fake clicks from your Facebook Ads, re-examine your:

  • Location Setup
  • Daily Match
  • Broad Targeting/Demographics

Facebook Ads Fake Clicks

Fix Facebook Ads Location Targeting

Sometimes, it's not always the fault of the platform. You may have a location targeting error. To fix this, inside your Facebook Ads Editor, select "People who live in this location" in order to limit your ability to reach bot traffic. The default is "Everyone in this location," which includes people moving through the location who may live outside of your target area...and bots.

Check your Google Analytics reporting to see where your target demographic lives in order to tune your target more precisely.

Here's why it may be an issue with Facebook: If you have properly selected your location, and you're still seeing bot traffic, it's important to know that Facebook's last investor slide deck and using basic subtraction, according to Aaron Greenspan.

Facebook is not growing anymore in the United States, with zero million new accounts in Quarter 1 2019, and only four million new accounts since Quarter 1 2017. That leaves the rest of the world, where Facebook is growing fastest “in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” according to Facebook CFO David Wehner.

What does that mean for advertisers and small business owners who are wondering why their Facebook Ads are bringing in bot traffic? The people you aim to reach may not exist in the platform. And just like TLC, "I don't want no scrubs" in my website traffic. #nono

Check Your Daily Match: Too Low or Too High

Taking another look at your Ads Editor, in the right corner, you'll see the estimated daily results (see below).
Facebook Ads Fake Clicks Daily Reach

If this number is too low—often the case in re-target/re-marketing audiences, your ad won't run. If your number is high, your audience is too broad, and you are likely to bring fake bot clicks into your website ecosystem. To fix this, hone in on your target demographics, adjusting geo-location and additional behaviors. If your target is too low consider using email campaigns, Google AdWords, or another platform like Pinterest for re-targeting.

Click for more on defining target audiences →

Here's why it may be an issue with Facebook: Although Facebook uses this number to determine if it will run your ad, it's actually a "made-up PR number" according to a Confidential Witness in Singer v. Facebook, a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California alleging that Facebook has been telling advertisers that it can “reach” more people than actually exist in basically every major metropolitan area.

According to the documents, “those who were responsible for ensuring the [accuracy reach numbers] ‘did not give a shit'.” Another individual, “a former Operations Contractor with Facebook, stated that Facebook was not concerned with stopping duplicate or fake accounts.”

Facebook Ads Bot Clicks

Check Your Ad Placements

When you place an ad on Facebook, it can appear in multiple places beyond Facebook. Some of these places are a honey pot for bots. On the surface, places like Audience Network give advertisers great results in terms of clicks, but many of those clicks are bot traffic. Facebook will also account for more clicks than you can see on Google, and they blame the Google Analytics interface for not properly attributing sometimes thousands of website clicks (insert eye roll).

It's this kind of placement that allows unethical advertisers to present smoke and mirrors to their clients.

Click here to see which Facebook Ad Objective works for your business →

To fix this, inside the Ads Editor, select Facebook feeds or only Instagram feeds, nothing else. If you want to run your ad elsewhere, create it as a different ad set. The same applies within the same network. Separate mobile ads from desktop ads to get more detailed data. In other words, your ad groups would be:

  • Facebook Feed Mobile
  • Facebook Feed Desktop
  • Instagram Feed

Now create one ad, and run it in all three ad groups. Now, you'll know exactly how much it costs per platform—something Facebook otherwise won't tell you because they provide an average cost—and what the engagement is per platform. For some of my clients, I've found the target demographic will engage with content coming from mobile, but purchase on desktop. The same may apply to you or vice versa. People behave differently depending on what device they are on, and that's important for your ROI.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying the whole network is a throw away, it can be a powerful tool when used as part of a holistic approach. Using it to re-target audiences can be a home run, but using it as your first point of contact for new users may be a quick way to throw away money to fake users. And unlike the coin operated arcade games, there's no "Game Over" to let you know your ads are a bust.

Facebook Ads, Fake Clicks

Photos by Ashley Burns

Need help laying out a strategy or maybe you don't know where to begin with Facebook Ads, especially with those costly bot clicks? Shoot me an email or fill out the form below. I'm here to help!

Gabrielle Nickas