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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wired: Google vs Click Fraud

One thing I enjoy about the holidays is having some time to catch up on reading. I just skimmed the January 2006 issue of Wired which has "Google vs Click Fraud" on the front cover. The article is really about more than Google but Google is the hot buzzword these days. In the table of contents, they list the article as "The Click Fraud Cold War" and on page 138 it's called "How Click Fraud Could Swallow the Internet." Ok, enough hyperbole. Click fraud is a problem. True. However, even with a handful of fraudulent clicks, I'd argue that PPC (pay per click) advertising is still more effective than many traditional forms of advertising.

Having said that, I am disappointed that the major search engines, Google and Yahoo, are not more proactive in dealing with PPC click fraud. In fact, I believe they perpetrate click fraud themselves. Think about search ads running on parked domains. These clearly aren't search ads. No one actively typed in the keywords to find something. Sure, they typed in a domain name directly. That's not the same as typing keywords into a search box. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Read the Search Engine Watch blog entry Google AdSense For Domains Program Overdue For Reform for more information on this issue. I think this is click fraud, perpetrated by Google itself. If Google AdWords advertisers could opt out of ads being displayed on parked domains, then this would not be fraudulent.

I had a case earlier this year for one of my clients where they received a spike in traffic from their Yahoo Search Marketing ads. Examining their web server logs, I was expecting to find some click fraud. Instead, what I found was a pile of traffic from Yahoo's buzz index. Essentially, Yahoo's staff writes about the top searches. For my money, clicks from the Yahoo buzz index should be content clicks, not search clicks. None of the people clicking from there had actively typed in my client's keywords. By creating editorial content about search, Yahoo was artificially inflating traffic to certain keywords. Unless the ads being displayed were content ads, my view is that this was click fraud, perpetrated by Yahoo. The behavior of the visitors to my client's site certainly looked like click fraud. This particular search keyword phrase was one of my client's best converting. They spent a month's worth of advertising in one day with no conversions. If that's not click fraud, I don't know what is.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Click Fraud is one of the best topics - one which i have prevented! One which will cost you an estimated 20% of your ad budget.
This is an interesting article with valuable information. I have used both clicktracks and adwatcher to prevent clickfraud. What we and many other webmasters are starting to do is invest our marketing dollars into clicktracks, adwatcher or other ad tracker software.
If you are looking for more information on adwatcher or clicktracks i recommend you take a look at: they have full reviews on both clicktracks and adwatcher!

Mike Baker

Sun Aug 06, 04:31:00 PM EDT  

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