E-commerce Insights: All You Should Know About Click Fraud
Legitimate competitors have too much to lose by perpetrating click fraud themselves. But a smaller competitor might click your ads to drain your budget, run you off the page and degrade your economics.
And while your legitimate competitors are unlikely to commit direct fraud, they might unknowingly employ a disreputable agency or affiliate.
Core search goes beyond ads on the search engine’s own pages. Engines also syndicate search ads to distribution partners.
For example, Google powers AOL search. While syndication to reputable partners shouldn’t concern advertisers, whether intentionally or by accident, core search ads sometimes are syndicated to less reputable sites. ClickTrack’s Stebbins described a situation where, for a brief time, his non-content Yahoo! ads were syndicated to a spammy toolbar. So, be sure to watch your referrer strings and follow up on inbound paid clicks from unexpected sources.
How prevalent is click fraud on core search?
ClickForensics’ Cuthbert estimated 14 percent during the third quarter of 2006. Authenticlick’s Leonard suggests that 5 percent of clicks probably are bogus. ClickTracks’ Stebbins also cited 5 percent prevalence. And while Google’s Schnitt didn’t provide a statistic, he assures that “the number is very small.”
Contextual search is a totally different beast than core search. In contextual search, engines syndicate search ad results to hundreds of thousands of publisher sites, matching ad keywords to page content. The engines, in turn, share revenue from the click fee with publishers.
For example, Google shares back about 80 percent of click fees with publishers, with most of this money going to major media sites. Typical AdSense publishers are believed to receive 10 percent to 20 percent of the advertiser’s click charge.
Content networks are wonderful for legitimate publishers. Search engine payments support a slew of interesting Web businesses. Such businesses provide free services to consumers.