Pay per click search engine advertising is one of the
most popular ways to promote a website. With Overture
and Google leading the pack, the industry as a whole
has grown immensely in the past few years. According
to a report by PriceWaterHouseCoopers, they estimate
that Internet Advertising brought in more than $9
billion in 2004 alone.
With PPC advertising you choose "keywords/phrases,"
then bid how much you'd like to pay for each click.
When a searcher goes to a search engine and types
in one of your keyphrases, your short text ad appears,
and if they click on it your account is then charged.
In a "perfect world" this is the way it would work,
but thanks to unscrupulous people, there's a dirty
little secret known as "click fraud."
Click fraud is simply the act of clicking on ads
for the direct purpose of costing the advertiser
money. It's similar to paying out cash for false
leads. According to InternetWeek.com, 60% of those
who responded to a survey conducted by the "Search
Engine Professional Organization" had stated that
fraud is a problem when it comes to PPC advertising.
So where does click fraud come from? Well, there
are actually a few different sources:
1) AdSense Users: Google Adsense has a program
called "Adsense" that pays website owners to
run their Adwords ads and compensates them per
click. Google does monitor this and it's against
their terms of service to click on any of the
ads on your own site. If they find a publishers
doing this, they will lose their accounts, but
some may still be clicking under the radar.
2) Your Competitors: Your competitors could be
clicking on your ads over a period of several
days in order to deplete your ad budget.
3) Software: There are those who use automated
clicking tools, such as robot programs, to
click on PPC listings.
In some Asian countries, people are often paid to
click on PPC ads for hours. Many don't know why
they do it, and don't care, only that they'll be
well rewarded for their efforts. If you do a search
on any search engine you'll see plenty of sites
looking to hire people for just this purpose. For
more on this see...http://tinyurl.com/2ka5g
Most PPC networks have measures in place to protect
you against click fraud. Overture tracks more than
50 data points, including IP addresses, browser info,
users' session info and what they call "pattern
recognition." They have a "proprietary system" in
place for detecting fraud and a specialized team
that monitors things and works with the advertisers
to stop it.
Google offers suggestions to avoid click thru fraud,
such as "using negative keywords" to keep your ads
from showing up for products and services that are
unrelated. They also suggest adding tracking url's
to your links so you can track the traffic coming
from Google. An easy way to do this is to add a ?
to your links along with the identifier. For example,
a tracking link to identify Google would look like
If you go through your log files, you'll be able to
see your Google traffic at a glance.
If you suspect fraud, Google asks that you contact
them right away, as they have a team of researchers
that will investigate. They also take action to block
future impressions from anyone they identify as
committing click fraud. Like Overture, they also have
"proprietary technology" that distinguishes between
normal clicks and invalid ones. Google never bills
you for any "bad clicks" that are caught by their
So what's an honest website owner to do? You need
to be alert to any "suspicious activity" by
researching your server logs or stats. If you're
experiencing a lot of clicks and no sales you'll
also want to take a closer look. You need to watch
for any spikes in traffic, usually on one keyword
or phrase and coming from only one PPC source. You
need to measure and track all of your PPC accounts
If this sounds like too much work, you may want to
look at an outside service to take care of it for
you. A variety of new services have opened recently
to help combat the click fraud problem.
1) Keyword Max: http://www.KeyWordMax.com
Offers up a service called "Click Auditor," which
monitors the activity on your PPC accounts and
alerts you to any suspicious activity. You can
request a free demo at the site.
2) Click Detective: http://ClickDetective.net
A website monitoring service that uses sophisticated
tracking mechanisms to determine whether "visitor
behavior" is normal or not. Offering a 15 day free
trial. Easy to use, you just copy and paste a snippet
of code on your page and add a campaign ID by logging
into your account.
3) Click Assurance: http://ClickAssurance.com
An Internet Security Firm that specializes in click
fraud. They will audit your PPC accounts and go
after any refunds you are due because of fraud.
4) Who's Clicking Who: http://WhosClickingWho.com
An independent auditing service that tracks individual
users for fraud. Can also detect abuse coming from
proxy servers. A one month subscription is
$79.00, which includes free installation and up to
50,000 transactions per month.
5) ClickLab: http://ClickLab.com/products/click-fraud
This service isolates bad clicks with a scorecard
based detection system. Pricing starts at $50.00
per month and is based on the number of sites you
need to track and their page views.
ClickLab also has a nice white paper you should
download while visiting: "How to Defend Your Website
Against Click Fraud."
Click fraud isn't going away anytime soon. If
anything, it will probably get worse before it
get's any better. It's up to you as a vigilant
website owner to do what you can to keep your
PPC advertising costs down. You can't stop it,
but with the right tracking in place, it can be
managed and controlled, and hopefully kept to a
"Must Have Marketing Resources" Ebook by Merle
is loaded with VALUABLE online resources you need
to know about, when it comes to running your web
business. Get your copy now at ...