Click fraud has been discussed among the affiliate and search engine marketing (SEM) communities for several years. Yet many online media buyers are unfamiliar with the term. Admittedly, when I began researching this topic, the first thing I learned was that I've got a lot to learn about click fraud.
I'm willing to bet you do, too.
Why is click fraud important? Simple: Click fraud means someone is cheating you and your clients. If we're vigilant protectors of our clients' interests, that should be important to us.
Click fraud is the practice of artificially inflating the number of clicks or conversions in an online campaign. This often occurs in search and affiliate marketing. The problem hasn't been discussed much outside of those environments. But click fraud potentially extends into any performance-based display advertising environments.
How prevalent is it? I've seen different figures stating up to 10 to 50 percent of click activity is suspect -- an astonishing number. In other words, your CPC (define) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) buys are potentially half as effective as they could be because of fraud.
Who's stealing from you and your clients?
How can you prevent click fraud? For the most part, companies offering solutions are focused on the affiliate and search marketing arenas. I predict they'll expand their services to encompass performance-based display advertising very soon.
Here are some ways to get ahead of the curve:
ClickAssurance is an Internet security firm specializing in preventing click fraud. It audits SEM campaigns on contingency. If it finds evidence of fraud, it negotiates a rebate with the search engines. ClickAssurance is compensated with a percentage of what it gets back for you and your client.
I met with ClickAssurance's Jorge Zuniga for a short lesson on what click fraud means to our industry. His message can be summed up in one of the first things he shared, "Click fraud is a much bigger problem than people think. It's unlikely that we can prevent it altogether. But it can be controlled."
ClickAssurance hasn't yet addressed performance-based advertising beyond the search realm. Yet Zuniga assures me it's something his technical team has taken a keen interest in.
Ideally, big third-party ad servers will buy companies that specialize in the detection and prevention of click fraud or build the capability in-house. It would be so convenient if all the auditing necessary to prevent click fraud could be done in one place. For example, when this problem is detected on a campaign and the advertiser is owed a credit from the publisher, it could be handled in much the same way we currently handle other discrepancies.
Click fraud is something of a ticking bomb and carries the same sort of reputation-besmirching potential as pop-ups and spam. If we address the issue now, we can get a handle on it before the industry panics. The last thing we need is yet another issue that causes people to lose confidence in online advertising.
There's a lot to learn about click fraud and how to control it. The good news is there's a lot of information out there on the topic. The best places to start are affiliate and search marketing sites and forums. The important thing is you be the one to bring the issue to your clients' attention, as opposed to them asking you about it.
Let me know how it goes.
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