Article by Kirk Bannerman
Pay-per-click advertising has emerged into a highly effective
marketing tool, but it has also developed a darker side. Seeking
a competitive advantage, some advertisers have repeatedly clicked
on a rival’s link in an attempt to drain their marketing budgets.
Other rogue Web sites belonging to the ad networks maliciously
click on commercial links to generate more commissions for
The estimates on the amount of so-called click fraud vary widely.
Critics of the pay per click system say 10 to 20 percent of the
clicks are bogus — done by a person or automated program with no
intention of buying something. Others say incidents of fraud are
Many people with an online business spend large amounts of money
on pay per click advertising only to discover that many of the
people clicking on their ads weren’t really interested in their
products or services.
Bogus “visitors” to a pay per click ad represent click fraud.
This is a serious scam that threatens the viability of the pay
per click advertising business which has become enormously
profitable for all of the major search engine operators, namely
Google, Yahoo/Overture, and MSN.
Click fraud has different twists, but the end result is generally
the same. Advertisers are billed for fruitless traffic
generated by someone who repeatedly clicks on an advertiser’s ad
without any intention of ever buying anything.
The search engine advertising market is currently several billion
dollars per year (and growing rapidly) and estimates vary widely
on how much click fraud is actually going on. Clearly, the
search engine operators would like to downplay the extent of this
problem. Some industry experts claim that a little click fraud
exists, but that it is overblown by advertiser paranoia.
According to third party data compiled by eMarketer, the Search
Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) found that
“the percentage of advertisers who say that click fraud, the
artificial inflation of click through numbers, is a growing
problem tripled in 2005, to 16%. Elsewhere, a survey by
IntelliSurvey Inc. and Radar Research reports that, among
respondents surveyed, 46% of all advertisers with 500 or more
employees have been a victim of click fraud.”
Virtually everyone involved with pay per click advertising sees
click fraud and knows it’s there, but no one is quite sure what
to do about it.
Both Google and Yahoo/Overture acknowledge that the click fraud
problem exists, but claim improved internal controls will prevent
the problem from escalating. Their stated position seems to be
that they are concerned about click fraud, but that it is not a
material issue so far. Both of them are touting their increasing
internal actions aimed at detecting and combating click fraud.
Such reassurances from search engine companies certainly aren’t
surprising, given how much they stand to lose if advertisers
cut back on advertising spending. The stakes are huge and the
search engine companies are actively involved in public relations
campaigns. Industry research firm eMarketer expects $ 7.4 billion
to be spent on search engine advertising by 2008, up from only
$ 108.5 million back in 2000.
It is interesting to note that Google has recently agreed to pay
the equivialent of $ 90 million to settle a click fraud suit.
The incentives for click fraud have increased along with the
money devoted to search engine advertising. Advertising on search
engines has turned into a fast-spreading craze as more and more
marketers have realized substantially higher returns on search
engine ads than on more traditional marketing campaigns conducted
through print media.
Most pay per click advertisers set a spending limit and once the
spending limit is reached, the ads cease to appear in the search
results. Click fraud is a very unethical competitive tactic
where someone repeatedly clicks on a competitor’s ad until the
spending limit is reached and the ad then disappears from the
The success of search engine advertising has substantially
raised prices that advertisers pay for top spots. Unfortunately,
these higher prices have turned click fraud into a dark little
industry of its own. Some crooks have hired cheap overseas
contractors to just sit in front of computers and constantly
click on targeted ads and others are developing sophisticated
software to help automate and conceal click fraud.
If you use pay per click advertising it would be wise to
carefully monitor your traffic to determine if you are the victim
of click fraud. In any event, it’s probably safe to say that
pay per click advertisers are going to have to accept a certain
level of click fraud as just a cost of doing business.
About the Author
Kirk Bannerman operates a successful home based business and
coaches others seeking to start their own home based business.
Visit his website at Legitimate Home Based Business for more details.
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whereby the original author’s information and copyright must be included.
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