Discerning click fraud

Discerning click fraud

by Ann MacDonald, December 2009

Now that you advertise your business online, you think any click is a good click, right? Well, that is not always the case thanks to the advent of click fraud. You instead may be discovering that your competitors are getting into the game of clicking to deplete your marketing budget. So, what do you need to know about it.

Pay-per-click advertising works on a simple premise. You advertise in search engines or on web sites that perhaps have high traffic or have content appropriate for your product. Let's take search engine marketing for example. With search engines,you typically identify the search terms with which you would like the appearance of your link to be associated. When someone clicks through from that site to your product site, you pay a fee to the site where the click originated.

Many web advertising firms have created automated systems for ad placement and click tracking. However, others are taking advantage of loopholes in these systems.

For every business opportunity that the Internet opens, a fraudulent back door is opened too. In turn, a new business is created to monitor and stop fraud. In the case of pay-per-click fraud, advertisers have provided incentives for peopleother than customers to click.

Take for example, the marketing manager who would click on his competitor's ads. With each click, he had no intention of buying anything. Instead, he knew that each click was costing his competitor money and depleting the amount of money in their advertising budget, in turn ensuring that the ads would be seen by fewer actual customers.

To a lesser extent, some web sites that carry ads are perpetrating click fraud.Since they get paid for every click, they ask friends, family or employees to click on their advertisers' links regardless of an interest in the product.

Some fraudulent clickers have gone so far as to automate the process. They use robots or web crawlers to search through web sites and click on certain links.These bots look for certain URLS or search terms and exclude others, costing some companies money with each automated click. Other companies have hired inexpensive workers, usually in third world countries, to manually click on links.

It can be difficult to catch click defrauders without help. Tell-tale signs include large numbers of clicks coming from a single IP address or a block of addresses. Now, new Internet services have been established to monitor clicks.These auditing services, which work in conjunction with most of the commonly used pay-per-click advertising services, can alert you to multiple clicks from a single source.

In addition, programs such as the one provided by Whosclickingwho.com displays a window to anyone who has clicked on your link multiple times. This customizable window can inform the potentially fraudulent clickers that you are tracking them and suspect them of click fraud. Auditing software can detect duplicate links even when they come from different origin sites and even those using proxy servers. If a firm suspects any fraudulent clicks, it is worth monitoring since each click is costing money.