Originally Posted By: gmerlo
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.
Pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising is one of the ?new 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 PPC Advertising brought in more than $9 billion in 2004 alone.
$9 Billion! Why would a search engine want to put a restriction on that revenue stream? They don?t. Read on.
With PPC advertising you select "keywords/phrases," and then bid how much you would be willing to pay for each click. When a searcher goes to a search engine and types in one of your key phrases, your short text ad appears, and if they click on it - your account is then charged the agreed to bid price. Your account actually is pre-authorized for a considerable amount of money to cover these ?click-costs? on a monthly basis, usually at least $75.00 to $100.00 or more, besides the ?set-up fee? anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand.
Sounds good, but thanks to unscrupulous people, there's a little known secret called "click fraud." The search engines get their money, and your out in the cold. A very creative way to legally defraud you out of your hard earned money, because the search engines aren?t the ones committing the click-fraud, they just provide the forum in which this is done.
Click fraud is simply the act of clicking on your ad for the purpose of costing you, the advertiser money. It is the same as paying out cash for phony leads. According to InternetWeek.com, 60% of those who responded to a survey conducted by the "Search Engine Professional Organization" stated that click-fraud is a serious and rampant problem when it comes to PPC advertising.
So where does click fraud come from? Well, there are actually several different sources:
1) AdSense Users: Google 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 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. This is bay far the most common misuse of this program, and basically, there is little in place to prevent it. What would prevent your competition from sitting back with his/her feet up on the desk while clicking through the PPC ad you have all night, laughing all the way. The search engines get paid their money, and your PPC budget is depleted.
3) Software: There are those who use automated clicking tools, to find and click on your ads, such as robot programs, to click on PPC listings. This is a new sophisticated threat and potentially the most damaging in terms of cost.
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. Once they know we are on to them, the link(s) may change or not work.
Most PPC networks and companies who promote and sell PPC programs have little or no measures in place to protect you against click fraud depleting your advertising budget.
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 this:
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. That is basically impossible. Google doesn't bill you for any "bad clicks" that are caught by their system, but the abusers have to be caught. This scenario is very similar to the fox guarding the hen house.
So what's an honest website owner to do? Do not get involved in PPC programs, basically they are there to make money from an unsuspecting public who are eager to cash in on this ?new form? of advertising that is promoted to them inferring that this is the answer to their advertising and traffic concerns. It will make search engines an inordinate amount of money, without any guaranteed results to you.
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 traff?c, usually on one keyword or phrase and coming from only one PPC source. You need to measure and track all of your PPC accounts closely. But realistically, who has the time, resources and the expertise to do this. Not the average web page owner, or web hosting company, and especially a company who is eager to ?sell? you this type of program.
Click fraud isn't going away. If anything, it will probably get much worse before it gets 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 the question really should be why get involved in the first place.
Our advice, think twice and do not involve yourself in this ?New Age Approach? to getting qualified traffic.
This comes to you as a public service announcement from:
The LazrWeb Team