Click fraud: A good reason to avoid Google's content network

A new study has come out that suggests that the problem with click fraud is much bigger than what Google and Yahoo! are admitting to. This article is an interesting read all the way through, but AdWords advertisers will want to pay especially close attention to the end of the piece:

Click fraud doesn't appear to be a major problem when the ads appear on Google's and Yahoo's respective websites, Milana said. The trouble starts cropping up once Google and Yahoo deliver the ads to other websites that are part of their vast marketing networks. "They just don't know what happens beyond their own firewalls," Milana said of Google and Yahoo.

What does this mean to you? Disable content network distribution of your ads! Surely, there are advertisers who are getting great returns from their ads being displayed on the AdWords content network, but it's not for the feint of heart.

A good practice is to run some tests with content network distribution, monitor the metrics of those tests, then judge your ROI form there. This is not recommended for new AdWords users–get your accounts tuned for performance first, then experiment with more advanced techniques such as this.

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Google loses $1 billion a year to click fraud

According to a post over at Inside AdSense, Google loses about $1 billion US a year to click fraud. Google's business product manager for trust and safety, Shuman Ghosemajumder, also reported that the rate of click fraud is at less than 10 per cent and,

"We are disclosing these network-wide figures in order to provide greater transparency to Google advertisers and the marketplace as a whole… the figures illustrate the significant level of proactive protection we provide, and how this has resulted in minimizing the actual impact of click fraud on advertisers."

Ghosemajumder then reveals the inner workings of Google's 3 part click fraud detection system. This is worth a look for PPC advertisers everywhere.

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Google click fraud settlement update

If you purchased AdWords advertising between January 1, 2002 and the present, you are a class member in a class-action lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Miller County, Arkansas. If you didn't receive it already, you should be receiving an email shortly from clicksettlement@xmr3.com containing links to further information about the negotiated settlement and how you can claim an award of advertising credits under the settlement. For more information, see:

There are some reports out there claiming that this email from clicksettlement@xmr3.com is a phishing scam–not so! It's legit, so if you feel you've been a victim of click fraud via AdWords, head over and read the legalese.

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Click fraud detection companies

Understanding how to thwart click fraud via metrics alone is a complex and laborious task. Click fraud detection companies offer an affordable and effective option for marketers who want to initate auditing without having to understand all the mechanics behind it.

  • WhosClickingWho.com – This fraud detector tracks all PPC search engines, detects multiple IP's. They also provide a deter feature that pops up a "ClickMinder" after suspected click abuse.
  • ClickDetective – ClickDetective allows you to monitor click-throughs from all sources, detect and deter potential click fraud, and manage your campaigns. Real-time reporting is a standout feature.
  • ClicklabClicklab provides PPC advertisers and publishers with managed click fraud detection, custom web analytics software, and professional services to help you increase online marketing ROI.
  • Click Defense – Click Defense provide click fraud and web analytics services. Their systems utilize over 50 proprietary filters giving you true insight into your search engine visitor behavior.

Click fraud is an unfortunate side effect of PPC marketing, and wise marketers know that click fraud auditing is an important part of an overall PPC strategy.

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Sr VP of Marketing at BlowSearch.com on click fraud

It's a longer read than the average blog post, but Joe Holcomb's assessment of the current state of click fraud is worth more than a glance. It's interesting to hear the observations of someone who sits on both the advertiser and PPC engine side of the fence.

The solution to click fraud according to Joe?

"The solution to the click fraud problem lies solely on the shoulders of the PPC’s to invent the technologies necessary to stop click fraud from taking place. The pay per click industry is looking awfully dirty lately. How do we clean it up? Force the engines to change their ways. Speak with a louder voice and withhold your ad dollars from the engines that don’t comply. Work with SEMPO, the SMA-NA, and other marketing organizations to bring these issues to the forefront of the industry. Nothing speaks louder than money. Choose not to spend a dime until the engines solve this problem."

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Google wins click fraud case

Google has won its suit against Auction Experts, an AdSense partner publisher that Google accused of deliberate click fraud. Google alleged that Auctions Expert hired dozens of people to click on the site's ads, totalling upwards of $50,000 in click revenue. More information from WebProNews.

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Click fraud victims need powerful allies

I was just reading an article over at Wired penned by Adam Penenburg about click fraud. What stood out for me was the last paragraph:

"What can a victim of click fraud do? One solution bandied about at the conference seemed simple enough. Contest the charges on your credit card as fraudulent. If enough merchants did it, they could enlist powerful allies: American Express, Visa and MasterCard, who would likely pressure the other search engines to do something about it."

Sounds like a great idea to me! 

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Google sued over click fraud

On June 24, Click Defense Inc. filed a lawsuit, which also seeks class action status, against Google claiming that the search engine giant has failed to protect users of its advertising program from click fraud.

As Nathan Weinberg of BlogNewsChannel points out, Click Defense's actions are curious given that they profit from click fraud–without it, they wouldn't have any services to sell. Publicity stunt or the act of a good samaritan looking out for AdWords clients everywhere?

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How to detect and deal with click fraud

PPC fraud seems to be everywhere in the news these days. What can advertisers do to detect and deal with click fraud? Marketing expert Dr. Ralph Wilson recommends looking for patterns in your clicks that might indicate fraud and present that data to the PPC engine you're dealing with. He also suggests partnering with click fraud auditing firms.

Read more on Web Marketing Today: How to Detect and Deal with Click Fraud

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Tracking Clicks and Click Fraud

Tracking your ads' clicks gives you reliable information about how well your campaign is performing. PPC engines include some detailed tracking information in your advertiser's control panel. To capture a maximum amount of data, it is advisable to also install statistical tracking on your website and record your referring URLs.

Most of the time, you'll notice that the number of clicks tracked by yourself is 15% to 30% more than the clicks the PPC engine reports. This is because reputable PPC engines have installed anti-fraud mechanisms that can catch competitors who are repeatedly clicking on your listings and wasting your bid budget. They will count multiple clicks within a timeframe originating from the same computer as only one click through, while your own log will usually register the multiple clicks.

In addition to competitors who will click away your budget, there are actually businesses set up where workers do nothing all day but click on pay-per-click ads placed by their clients' competitors in order to run out an account's budget as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, click fraud is a reality with current PPC technology, and even though the PPC engines attempt to squash it, advertisers must be vigilant in monitoring their campaigns and reporting suspected fraudulent activity.

Related to ad click tracking, AdWords recently unveiled a ROI tracking mechanism that places a small amount of JavaScript code on your lead completion pages (for example, a "success" page that a user arrives at after completing a request form on your site). When a visitor who clicked one of your ads arrives on your completion page, a notification is sent back to your AdWords control panel allowing you to see which clicks were converted into leads.

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