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Search Companies Team Up Against Click Fraud

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the lawyers-make-life-more-like-frogger dept.

84

isabotage3 writes to tell us that the top three search companies, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, have teamed up to create an alliance to combat click fraud. The fact that these three bitter rivals can team up shows just how serious the industry has become about preserving the current online advertising boom that is currently underway. From the article: "Click fraud has attracted an increasing amount of attention amid class-action lawsuits and industry studies asserting advertisers have been collectively overcharged by more than $1 billion for bogus sales leads during the past four years. Google and Yahoo contend that those estimates are gross exaggerations generated by opportunistic lawyers and online advertising consultants hoping to cash in on the anxieties triggered by their calculations."

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84 comments

"True Intent" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833274)

"In some cases, the true intent of a click can be identified only after examining deep psychological processes, subtle nuances of human behavior and other considerations in the mind of the clicking person," wrote Alexander Tuzhilin in a 47-page report submitted last month to an Arkansas state court.

...or you could simply check if the visitor clicked a few times (and purchased the item or not), or clicked a billion times.

47 pages. Looks like someone is trying to justify his cultural studies degree.

A New Refutation of the Very Possibility of Algore (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833291)

Bark! Bark, bark, bark!!!

Re:"True Intent" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15834461)

true intent my ass, googles true intent is click fraud, just check the 'active' regions of their ads, the ads are sensitive to clicks *anywhere*, not just on the text. They make money on it, as long as the ship is afloat that is.

47 pages (1)

LinuxDon (925232) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835721)

looks like someone has actually written something usefull about it.
Remember the usual thousands of pages of garbage company's often hand in to stall the courts?

Redundancy... (4, Funny)

hawkeye_82 (845771) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833284)

....gross exaggerations generated by opportunistic lawyers and online advertising consultants hoping to cash in on the anxieties triggered by their calculations"

I can't put my finger on it, but that sentence seems to have a lot of redundancy built into it.

Re: Re:Redundancy...dundancy.... (2, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833322)

"I can't put my finger on it, but that sentence seems to have a lot of redundancy built into it."

Not only that, but there might possibly be some duplication in the meanings of the words. In the sentence, no less.

Re:Redundancy... (1)

andrewman327 (635952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833523)

How can I mod a comment "+1 Redundant"?


I must confess that I have been known to click on a banner ad simply because I really liked the site, but 1 billion dollars of clickfraud is a lot of people working to intentionally increase their own revenues substancially. It is nice to see the big three (combined with well over 90% of the market) takign this seriously.

Google's Own Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833302)

What about the other side of this story?

Countless numbers of us are getting our accounts suspended by Google for no reason, accusing the webmasters of clicking their own ads without legitimate proof. Many times (myself included), Google confiscates any remaining balance in our accounts to penalize us. I personally lost several hundred dollars because of Google's shameful acts of fraud towards me.

This is about the right amount where its too much effort to sue for but enough for Google to do in large numbers to line their own pockets by ripping off the content producers who show their ads.

Re:Google's Own Fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833763)

Its good to hear from the other side: the small time click fraudsters. What did you think was going to happen when you ran that perl script?

An advertising model that farms out all the work to an unscreened group of websites like AC Industries, above, is just asking to be abused.

Re:Google's Own Fraud (1)

Kiaser Wilhelm II (902309) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833947)

Are you a retard? There are countless numbers of people with the same or similar experiences.

Just a small sampling [google.com] .

It seems that if you don't follow the Google Groupthink around here then you get flamed.

Re:Google's Own Fraud (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835216)

9 hits. Yeah, that's a bit small, all right. A web search [google.com] turns up 37,400 which is more like it. (I express no opinion as to what extent, if any, Google has actually done what it is accused of.)

...An obvious solution (5, Funny)

Zweideutig (900045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833316)

Have users register before they can view ads.

Re:...An obvious solution (1)

zlogic (892404) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834119)

Well, on Google I usually stay signed in with my Gmail account so that Google can record my search queries. Quite a useful thing, I use it to look up what I was doing or thinking some time ago.

Re:...An obvious solution (1)

Jahz (831343) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835179)

Well, on Google I usually stay signed in with my Gmail account so that Google can record my search queries. Quite a useful thing, I use it to look up what I was doing or thinking some time ago.

Me too, but I think the that OP was being sarcastic. I chuckled.

These companies (2, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833329)

Can work together even though there's no love lost between them. Slashdot on the other hand has to persist with its juvenile logos.

Re:These companies (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 7 years ago | (#15837271)

Slashdot prints M$ marketing material practically on a daily basis. When microsoft.com does the same for OSS software then maybe you might have a point. M$'ofties really are such hypocrites sometimes.

---

Vista: Billions of marketing words and no delivered product.

Click fraud? errr... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833336)

Click fraud? What's clicking? I can't recall the last time I saw a banner ad worth clicking on.

Re:Click fraud? errr... (1)

tehwebguy (860335) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833376)

well since these contextual advertisers have only recently started using banners, and fosus mainly on text ads, your comment doesn't quite ad (LOL) up.

There are text ads? Yeah... I see now! (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833703)

Text ads? I notice those even less than the banner ads. I had to double check Google after a search to make sure I had seen them before. I've gotten so good at tuning them out that I just think of them as part of the white space at the edges.

Re:There are text ads? Yeah... I see now! (1)

Sparhawk2k (680674) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834412)

And that makes you special? It really doesn't matter. A lot of people (namely, the ones they're targeting) do notice them. And because of that, the services remain "free" while they continue to see a good return on their investments.

Not just picking on you, but why do people always need to point that they don't click or see ads? You don't need to look at them but I don't see why its such a great thing that needs to be shared with the world.

Re:There are text ads? Yeah... I see now! (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835803)

And that makes you special? It really doesn't matter. A lot of people (namely, the ones they're targeting) do notice them. And because of that, the services remain "free" while they continue to see a good return on their investments.


I guess the quesiton is, are that many people really clicking on/noticing ads? Or is a good portion of it fraudulent?

-matthew

Re:There are text ads? Yeah... I see now! (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15838778)

The problem is the advertising done by the search engine companies promoting their advertising. The users of the product are finding that the returns from their advertising dollars are not in line with the expectations generated by the marketing of the search engine companies.

Much frustration at the money spent without returns, as well as the unrealised sales that the search engines convinced them would result from those adds.

The big problem is that search engines are selling advertising to all comers rather than being selective and controlling who they will advertise for, hence devaluing their product. If a particular marketing stream advertises crap than any other products being advertised in that same marketing stream will be tarnished by it.

The frustration at the lack of results has just lead to the inevitable litigious approach not so much for resolution but for revenge.

Logging IP Addresses (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833349)

Ok, I don't know exactly how the advertisers track their click throughs, but wouldn't they notice if someone got 10, 100,1,000, etc... click throughs from one or a few IP addresses? It would take some really sophisticated worm/malware to get that many machines these days to do that kind of fraud.

Yes? No? Someone who's in this business educate us, please.

Re:Logging IP Addresses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833393)

It wouldn't work in large environments where you 'share' your outgoing IP.

Re:Logging IP Addresses (1)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833434)

It would take some really sophisticated worm/malware to get that many machines these days to do that kind of fraud.
errr....

IP Spoofing???

Re:Logging IP Addresses (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835881)

IP Spoofing???


Theoretically possible, but is it practical with TCP connections? Maybe I'm not up on my security, but don't most modern OSs use difficult to predict TCP sequence numbers? And dont' clickthroughs often require more than one connection to complete? When you spoof an IP address, you are working blind. You can never see a response from the server you are talking to. Any HTTP redirects will be lost.

Seems like it would be a whole lot easier to uses a botnet for click fraud.

-matthew

Re:Logging IP Addresses (2, Interesting)

teflaime (738532) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833557)

Google does measure this sort of thing, to the extent they can. I have a friend who runs a lot of Google ads on his site. He said their TOS says if anyone at his IP like clicks on the ads, they don't get paid, and if they click on the ads too often, he gets booted from the program.

Re: Logging IP Addresses (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833973)

wouldn't they notice if someone got 10, 100,1,000, etc... click throughs from one or a few IP addresses?

Yes, 10,000 clicks from a single IP are easy to catch. The bad guys know that too. They also don't sent the clicks exectly one second apart either. They're not dumb.

You ever hear of malware that installs itself on your computer and waits for remote instructions? One the the things they are used for is as click bots, so that X number of automated clicks come from Y different IP addresses (one of them yours) and the X:Y ratio is low enough to not raise any flags.

Re:Logging IP Addresses (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15834024)

No, for a few reasons, the most obvious being NAT. One external IP address for ??? users behind the firewall. If your site is one of the main financial services providers, you can probably expect large numbers of users to be coming from one organization like a bank.

Lazy customers. My mom, not realizing its an ad that will charge amazon to get money, always clicks on the amazon banner when she searches for it on google (which is how she and many people find it... many people are too lazy to be bothered w/ the http://www./ [www.] thing- they just set their homepage to google and type the site into the search box.

Obviously there are clear cases where this can be avoided. If you see you are getting 100 hits a day from an IP traced back to skaterdudezRus.com and you sell skateboard accessories, well then thats obvious fraud. But if your competitor was just looking to make your day a little miserable, and just took the opportunity whenever he could to get his friends to click on your ads here and there, that is much more difficult to detect.

Odd thing to measure anyhow (4, Insightful)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833352)

If you read the article, one of the things they say is how hard it is to determine the "intent" of the person clicking the ad. Are they serious shoppers, casual browsers, or even one of those teenagers who sign up for those click-for-profit type schemes. Well duh! Of course you can never know this. To me it's all quite silly. The point of online advertising is the same as the point of any other advertising medium - drive up sales (or, notoriety). And that information is readily available to the client companies. They know what their ad budget is and they know what their sales are (and polls tell them what their notioriety is). In the end they should have enough data to make their own determinations as to how valuable online ads are to them, and then they should pay accordingly. I know this is all easier said than done when the prefered pricing model seems to be click-based. But, at some point the numbers should tell the story, and if it means the online ads aren't worth what they are costing, then spend they should reallocate their ad dollars elsewhere. Eventually the pricing will align with value.

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833454)

Well you're forgetting that any system needs feedback to work properly. Sales are "after the fact" measurements. Clicks measure "before the fact" effectiveness of an ad. Polls and surveys help, and they're used before an ad is created as well as after, but they're too course grained. The problem as most problems are isn't with the technology, but humanities driving tendency to abuse any technology given to them. e.g. click fraud, P2P, usenet, E-mail, etc.

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (1)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833555)

Well you're forgetting that any system needs feedback to work properly.

I agree. However, I think that in many cases sales can provide that feedback. And this is especially true in the online ad world, since there is no latency in the delivery channel, unlike the print media. Also, online ads are "on demand" unlike the broadcast media where, if you weren't listening/watching at the time, you miss it, so there is a timing element. Anyhow, I guess what I'm saying is that sales are a pretty good metric to provide ad feedback, and uniquely with online ads, that feedback can even be quite timely.

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835866)

In fact, sales are the only metric that counts. all other measurements are proxies for sales.

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (2, Informative)

zootm (850416) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833473)

The report on the click-fraud investigation around Google [blogspot.com] (PDF, I'm afraid) has a lot of good information regarding this. It goes into the different payment models possible for online advertising, and makes a good case for the usefulness of each of them — as it points out, Pay-Per-Click is a good model for many advertisers provided it works, which is why there's an onus on cracking down on fraud.

If advertisers think that the ads working, they will pay the right price for them — if fraud is prevalent, it reduces demand and makes price (and value) of ads go down. So in a way, the advertisers are determining what the ads are worth to them and paying accordingly, in as practical a way as possible without just letting them name their price after-the-fact ("zero dollars, please!").

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833485)

If the computer says that the average age of your customers is 23.00006 years than it must be true and a way to more effectively target your intended market of 22 year olds must be devised.

Promotions available to anyone who can drive this number down to 23.00005.

KFG

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833497)

If you are in the business of selling online ads (as Google and Co are in), then you obviously want to increase the value of this kind of advertising by reducing click fraud.

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (2, Informative)

cbrew (628146) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833642)

Bruce Schneier has pointed out [schneier.com] that the underlying problem with click fraud is the way that the incentives are set up. If it is in the fraudster's interest to try to spoof the system, this is going to happen, and both fraudsters and would-be fraud-busters are going to spend time and effort on an "arms race" that has no winners. He recommends that Google and co.

Change the rules of the game so that click fraud doesn't matter. That's how to solve a security problem.
and suggests that Google's experiments with cost-per-action [betanews.com] are indicators of how things might go forward.

cf. http://www.schneier.com/essay-119.html [schneier.com] for Schneier's own words

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (3, Interesting)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833999)

If you read the article, one of the things they say is how hard it is to determine the "intent" of the person clicking the ad. Are they serious shoppers, casual browsers, or even one of those teenagers who sign up for those click-for-profit type schemes. Well duh!

I often find myself clicking on many links for sites I dislike, knowing that each click is costing them money; just 'cause I feel like it :-/

Also, opening a page in a Firefox tab, and closing the tab (without viewing it), is also a pretty nice way to run up costs for some sites. And if thousands of people do this per day...

It's a silly business model these advertisers have.

Re:Odd thing to measure anyhow (1)

feenberg (201582) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834149)

You are exactly right. For the search engine site, Google could avoid a lot of misunderstanding by auctions off "days" rather than "clicks". Advertisers could bid for a word or word combination, for a particular day or week. The advertiser could easily discover if his ad was running, and what the sales results were. Revenue for Google would be the same - the ads wouldn't be worth any more or less to be priced this way, but Google wouldn't be rewarding click fraud, and wouldn't have to worry about suppressing it. Trouble is, this auction won't tell Google how to divide up the money among the "ads by Google" sites. Still it solves part of the problem.

Bogus leads? (4, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833358)

advertisers have been collectively overcharged by more than $1 billion for bogus sales leads during the past four years.

Then maybe those advertisers should think before they agree to be advertised on those get a free ipod sites. I mean seriously who doesn't cancel those agreements as soon as you sign up for them. I wouldn't pay these people a nickle if I was an advertiser, yet they make enough to cover the cost of free ipods or free laptops even.

Bogus customers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833592)

"I wouldn't pay these people a nickle if I was an advertiser, yet they make enough to cover the cost of free ipods or free laptops even."

But you wouldn't have a problem with getting a free Ipod or laptop? Do unto others before they do unto you.

Removing Click Fraud (2, Insightful)

Slashdotgirl (912338) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833374)

The best way to stop click fraud is to stop using the system.

Re:Removing Click Fraud (1)

EveLibertine (847955) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833558)

>The best way to stop click fraud is to stop using the system.

Yeah, and the best way to stop losing money is to stop making it. You can't lose something you don't have.

How about.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833399)

how about google stp charging me $10 for clicks that costed me 0.10 cents last week. Now thats fraud.

In my opinion (-1, Offtopic)

also-rr (980579) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833410)

The biggest and most serious form of click fraud is the kind that manages to take you unknowingly to visit the Goatse man.

Spend Here, or Spend There. (5, Interesting)

fragmentate (908035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833450)

The primary concern about "click-fraud" is that you're being charged for clicks that were meant to intentionally drive your costs up. In essence this means wasting money, since you can't really track who meant to click and who didn't. This adds up to tens of thousands of dollars very quickly.

The irony is that many of the companies that are uncomfortable with this medium for advertising is that they're perfectly willing to spend millions on TV and print advertising where they can't even reliably track anything. And worse, they have to hope the people that actually give a damn about their product or service are even in the market. I don't know about you, but I get my drink, go to the bathroom, and pop popcorn during commercials. With online advertising -- especially on search engines -- people only see your commercials [ads] because they were looking for something related. (I could go on a tangent here about how a clothing company will bid on keywords related to automobiles... maybe later.)

Having worked in the online advertising/marketing industry (tech sector) for over 2 years now, this problem is not easily solved. The fraudsters know all about proxies, onion routing, and a host of other tricks to drive up the costs of competitors. Then, there are those that simply think it's clever to generate traffic (on IRC we called them spammers, floodbots, etc.).

We provide our clients with click-fraud reporting using our algorithms. They're pretty accurate. But, this accuracy is based on a model, which is based on 50% hard data, and 50% conjecture. What's missing with our reporting is that Google, Yahoo!, and MSN don't give it any weight, and frankly dismiss it.

I'm hopeful that this "coming together" will help client confidence so they can move away from [nearly] untrackable advertising on TV, print, and radio. It all starts with "the big 3" -- if they're willing to assist, it's much better than a 3rd party trying to decipher 3rd party results and then have to prove it to "the big 3."

I'm reminded of a quote (2, Informative)

Comboman (895500) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833608)

The irony is that many of the companies that are uncomfortable with this medium for advertising is that they're perfectly willing to spend millions on TV and print advertising where they can't even reliably track anything.

I'm reminded of a quote: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half." ~ Viscount Leverhulme, Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963)

Pay-per-click isn't the only way (3, Interesting)

The Famous Brett Wat (12688) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833812)

The irony is that many of the companies that are uncomfortable with this medium for advertising is that they're perfectly willing to spend millions on TV and print advertising where they can't even reliably track anything.

Woah there! You had it right in the first paragraph when you said that the problem was "being charged for clicks that were meant to intentionally drive your costs up". Now all of a sudden you're on a completely different subject: the question of whether you can measure viewer response to the ad. If you sign up for a traditional TV, print, or radio ad, you can only estimate your response rate based on market research, but you know exactly what your outgoing costs are. With pay-per-click web ads, the situation is pretty much the other way around: you get good data about user activity, but your costs can only be estimated, and are subject to escalation by fraud.

But pay-per-click isn't the only revenue model out there. Pay-per-impression is considerably less prone to fraud (it can't be easily targeted if ads are randomised), and pay-per-day returns costs to the known-in-advance state. Both of these still allow tracking of user activity.

As a small-time ad-space provider, I'd far rather be hosting this kind of fraud-proof ad. That way the ad-broker can't arbitrarily accuse me of click fraud and suspend my account. It hasn't happened to me, personally, but I'm acutely aware that it could happen at any time without notice, and this precludes me from even considering it as a reliable source of income.

Pay-per-Action might be the way (1)

fragmentate (908035) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833898)

Pay-per-action [aka pay-per-conversion] is an even better model. You only pay if people perform the action that justifies the cost.

"Actions" and "Conversions" are subjective. For some companies this is a sale. For others, it's a reservation. Yet others view signing up for a mailing list, or forum as a conversion.

You can read up on Google Checkout [google.com] here. However, in order for this to work you have to have a third party handling your conversions [transactions]... in this case, Google.

Re:Pay-per-Action might be the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15835988)

Pay-per-action is unfair to the site hosting the ads. Why should the site be responsible for how effective or popular an advertiser's product is? Really all a site should be responsible for is providing the viewers, just like with magazines and newspapers.

Re:Pay-per-Action might be the way (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#15839859)

This is highly abusable by the advertiser. At one end of this abuse we have advertisers that might not properly track or report the conversions. At the other end are products that such tracking really cannot be done for in the first place.

A lot of products are really the kind of thing that impression advertising is the only way to do it. Examples include grocery products you buy in a store.

What if Pepsi or Coca-Cola were to purchase advertising through Adsense and put up ads that just kept the name recognition in front of people, with no effort at doing any kind of click through or action conversion? They would, in effect, get a free ride, and the publisher sites would get nil.

I am often seeing ads on web page that do interest me, but not so much as to divert my attention. I just remember what it is and go visit the site later. In effect my action as a viewer is quite the opposite of click-fraud. Intsead of overpayment, my action results in underpayment. But that's just the way it is because by the time I have finished the current quest and decide to pursue what I saw in the ad, it's gone.

Re:Pay-per-click isn't the only way (1)

rickett81 (987309) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833986)

If you dont like the advertising rate . . . .

Dont buy advertising with (insert company name here)

Re:Pay-per-click isn't the only way (1)

neonfrog (442362) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834359)

If a big car company buys an ad during the prime-time news, they pay for a "value" based on some calculations and some voodoo (little Nielsen's Ratings dolls are boku powerful!). A competitor buys an ad in the spot right after. They pay for a certain voodoo value based on "getting the last word." The 1st ad's value is diminished .... but they already paid.

Unmeasurable clicks (some are fraud based on a witty competitor) are voodoo, too. A "click" measurer contains no more real value than a Nielsen rating (perceived value is something else entirely). Is it fruad if you went to the bathroom during the ad? No, but the ad was paid for based on some wacky theoretical eyeball math. Both types of ratings have a theoretical max number of eyeballs that don't reflect the real total.

You pay to play, and judge how you'll pay or play next time on your perceived value of the success of the gamble.

Re:Pay-per-click isn't the only way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15834533)

The 1st ad's value is diminished .... but they already paid.

This may be true, but it misses the point. The value of a traditional ad may be subject to unpredictable change, but the cost is known. Pay-per-click is different in that the cost is an unknown, and can be maliciously influenced by competitors. The fact that estimations of value are more voodoo than science is quite beside the point: the issue is click-fraud.

Re:Pay-per-click isn't the only way (1)

neonfrog (442362) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834663)

My point was to illustrate that no matter which direction the advertiser is peering at the puzzle, from the "cost" side or from the "value" side, it is the advertiser relying on someone else's valuation.

Your competitor causes you to pay more by engaging in click fraud = you don't really know what your ad was worth using that metric.

Nielsen numbers are used to charge you, but you don't really know how many people took a whiz while watching your commercial = you don't know what your ad was worth using that metric.

Since you don't know in both cases, you make a further value judgement and decide to pay or play later.

With Nielsen, you are banking on hope and a reasonable percentage because you can't really know how many eyeballs consumed your ad. Nielsen will tell you that UP TO 4 million may have, and give you guidelines about how many probably did. You say "Okay, I guess."

With click-through you don't want hope. You want the computer to tell you when the views were real or fraudulent. Again, you don't know how many eyeballs actually consumed your ad, and the click-through counter can tell you that UP TO 4 million may have, but you want the probability guidelines to be more exacting. Why the difference?

Click-fraud sure sounds like it might be addressable, but is it really any different than relying on any other advertising medium? If a TV station tells you they reach 4 million homes, but they only hit 3.89 million, are they engaging in fraud?

Re:Spend Here, or Spend There. (2, Funny)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834455)

"but I get my drink, go to the bathroom, and pop popcorn during commercials."

There are too many commercials for this to be a viable long-term strategy. And anyway, didn't you mean to say, "but I get my Pepsi, go to the bathroom (wiping with Charmin of course), and pop Orville Redenbacher's popcorn during commercials.

Dedicated products/service to reduce click fraud (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833549)

Came across this company pushing their "Clickrisk" solution to combat fraud of this type while reading the 360is Security Newsletter. here. Its under the Successful Operations section. Extract: Click fraud is expected to reach $1.1B for 2005. By 2008, this is estimated to grow to $1.6B, an increase of over 45%. (Source: Clickrisk).

Not So Difficult (2, Interesting)

bloobamator (939353) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833566)

Click fraud detection is not so difficult. You don't have to examine "...deep psychological processes, subtle nuances of human behavior and other considerations in the mind of the clicking person..." That's just a bunch of academic navel-gazing.

All you have to do is focus on the publishers who are profiting from click fraud. If a no-name site is getting a disproportionate amount of click traffic, then you know something is wrong. And it's only the no-name sites that commit click fraud. Large, well established websites have nothing to gain by click fraud.

Google's problem is that they do not screen their publishers. Screening would actually cost money, and would also limit their click revenue. So they let any sleazebag with a website sign up for their pay-per-click programs. That's why they have so much click fraud.

Re:Not So Difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833718)

"Google's problem is that they do not screen their publishers. Screening would actually cost money, and would also limit their click revenue. So they let any sleazebag with a website sign up for their pay-per-click programs. That's why they have so much click fraud."

Kind of like email and spam?

Don't forget their other approach (3, Interesting)

The Famous Brett Wat (12688) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833586)

It's impressive that these rivals have banded together to address click-fraud, but don't forget that Google has other tricks up its corporate sleeves. As seen here a little while back, they are also looking into "cost per action" ads [betanews.com] , which would eliminate the fraud unless the action itself could be performed in a fraudulent manner. (Bruce Schneier mentioned it in a commentary [schneier.com] about click fraud.)

Are they.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15833619)

..teaming up to filter ads containing Mama Fratelli and the Joker?

Pardon the idiotically obvious answer... (1)

The Last Gunslinger (827632) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833748)

...but someone please explain why these marketing genuises are complaining about the tribulations of their "pay per click" commission structure?

That just sounds like a moronic compensation paradigm to me. Here's a novel idea: how about you implement a "pay per transaction" model? Instead of paying chump change for each (probably) meaningless click, offer nothing for them but provide a more sustantial payout for clicks that actually result in a purchase! Yes, I'm aware there are technological issues around associating referral identifiers that far through the transaction cycle...but surely these would be cheaper/easier to address than the legal bullshit involved in attempting to devise some codifiable standard for ascertaining "clicker intent."


Just don't be surprised when you get sued by the RSAA [Retail Sales Associates Association] for infringing on their trademarked commission model.

Re:Pardon the idiotically obvious answer... (1)

feenberg (201582) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834239)

Pay per transaction is difficult when the sales cycle isn't instant. Suppose a customer clicks on an ad and doesn't buy for days or weeks, or doesn't buy online. How will the advertiser (much less Google) determine if a commission is owed? Even if the sales cycle is instant, Google doesn't want to audit the advertiser to get paid.

Daniel Feenberg

Re:Pardon the idiotically obvious answer... (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834726)

Usually it's cookie based, it gets set when you click the advert and the retailer reads it.

Gotta love laywers... (1)

jhfry (829244) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833756)

...they always have their client's best interest at heart. For example from TFA:

"Tuzhilin was hired to do the study as part of just-approved class-action settlement requiring Google to offer advertisers up to $60 million in refunds. That amount translates into less than 40 cents for every $100 that advertisers have paid Google since 2001. The attorneys who filed the suit will share $30 million."

So if I spent a whopping $100,000 of my annual advertising budget on Google over the last 6 years, I could expect to see a whole $2,400 back. Of course, I don't mind that the people who made my windfall possible made $30 Million... I got $2,400 of my $600,000 I paid Google!

What is this click fraud??? (2, Interesting)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 7 years ago | (#15833856)

What are these ads that people are clicking on? I haven't seen one for a very long time now...

Thank you adblock and adblock filterset.g and me blocking that google script. Life is much better without that crap anyway.

^_^

Re:What is this click fraud??? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 7 years ago | (#15836040)

I share your confusion and also share your love for FF and those extensions, the web is more pleasant now. :)

Search Engine Companies remind me of addicts .. (3, Insightful)

fkx (453233) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834056)

Vigorously defending their irrational actions and behavior while loudly denegrating and disparaging their critics over evidence any sane, straight, clean and sober observer would immediately recognize.

Owning up to the issue honestly would be the better approach than demonstrating your desparation by denying it.

Is profit an addictve substance for corporations?
If so, maybe it sould be outlawed. Like herion is.

Oh boo fucking hoo (4, Insightful)

Durandal64 (658649) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834230)

You mean the people who are constantly looking for ways to ruin my browsing experience with a never-ending parade of Flash ads, pop-up windows and gigantic CSS floating DIVs might be getting overcharged? Excuse me for not feeling sorry for them. Now where's that World's Smallest Violin?

Google gives you click fraud stats (1)

awesomo2001 (991790) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834633)

I haven't seen this posted yet, but recently Google started displaying the number of clicks that they consider fraudulent. You can read more about it in the Adwords blog here https://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?a nswer=44008 [google.com]

Re:Google gives you click fraud stats (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835343)

As far as I know they don't do it the other way and tell publishers information which could be used to stop the fraud happening.

As a potential advertiser, this is keeping me out (2, Interesting)

Presence1 (524732) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834817)

After decades building small growth companies in the software industry, I'm now building another start-up in a different high-technology area. Search based advertising would be IDEAL for our market, and our start-up company size. But the threat of click-fraud keeps us out. Here's why.

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt said about click fraud is that "there is a perfect economic solution which is to let it happen.". The idea is that the price of advertising would eventually settle to an equilibirum, discounting the average rate of click fraud. E.g., if half the clicks were fraudlent, advertisers would be willing to pay half the rate, etc.

This is a good argument, but it is fatally flawed, because there is not a steady average rate of click fraud. It might be true if the only kind of click fraud was scammers trying to drive up their own ad display revenue. This type of fraud could even out to some average, which is easily accounted for by an average discount.

However, the bigger threat is targeted click fraud -- a competitor trying to drive up my costs, or a click-farmer just happening to post ad pages focusing on my market.

These targeted attacks could easily kill us overnight, by turning 10K budget into a $100K bill, or by depleting a capped budget and taking my ads 'off the air'. Either way, it is a complete waste. Worse, this waste is completely unpredictable, I might enjoy low rates and good business, or I might be shot; it is really like Russian Roulette.

This tunable targeted ad model has awsome potential for small startup companies, where the broad image/impression advertising campaigns of major brands make no sense for them. Sadly, the click-fraud seriously poisons the well. You can see it in Google's ad revenues starting to flatten last quarter [google.com] .

If Google actually solves the click-fraud problem, I'll not only use AdSense, I'll also buy their stock. I expect that many others will also start using it once it can be trusted, and their revenue will grow prodigiously. Until that, I'm using other methods.

Re:As a potential advertiser, this is keeping me o (1)

vinn01 (178295) | more than 7 years ago | (#15835407)

The other issue is that cost-per-click is a poor means to advertise a new product. Search advertising assumes that the consumer is shopping for something. And that they are shopping for something familiar.

What's keeping out most internet advertisers is a better advertising model.

Isn't the cost already established? (1)

madcow_bg (969477) | more than 7 years ago | (#15834988)

I don't support click fraud doers, but I think there are two things you should keep in mind:
1) Nobody is oblidged to advertise on the Internet, let alone AdWords.
2) You as an Internet user have not signed anything that prevents you from clicking on ads as long and as hard as you want to.

That said, don't you think that Google has already calculated in the price of the ads the click-fraud money. I mean, if you know that 1% of the money are going to be stolen this way, you just calculate it in the price. If the cost is too high - don't do it!

Moreover, I am sure they have contracts with the sites they can terminate when they feel a click-fraud is being commited.

I really believe these studies and alliances and stuff is just so the advertisers can get a warm fuzzy feeling of being listened to. That is ALL Google can do for them, take it or leave it. Yes, and to terminate a contract or two.

How about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15835079)

the top three search companies team up and combat civil rights in China?...

I guess that doesn't affect bottom line in just the same way.

mod do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15836190)

jcould s4ve it

It seems that... (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 7 years ago | (#15836599)

It seems that worrying about Click Fraud is a waste of time. Why don't the advertisers work fraud into their bids? Google could state that they only garuntee that 75% of all clicks are legit. Also, perhaps Google could switch to a more objective pricing scheme? For example, instead of paying on a per-click model, why not auction blocks of time?

emperors new revenue model (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 7 years ago | (#15837468)

sadly I suspect that, once the numbers are done on ROI, the $ for click through model will wither. Probably end up being eyeballs and actions (I pay you to run my banner and/or I pay you when someone actually spends the money)

Too bad as clicks make lowend blogging a minimum wage job - almost.

mod redundant - I just felt like posting ...

No-Click Fraud is the opposite (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 7 years ago | (#15840004)

Next time you see an ad for something you are interested in, instead of clicking on the ad to visit the site, just open a new window/tab and type the URL in. Now no one gets paid. Is that fraud, too? If intentional, it sure is.

This is also abusable by advertisers themselves. If they are trying to drive up web site visits, they make sure the site URL is in the ad so people will remember it and visit later (knowing that most people won't drop everything they are doing to visit right now). If they sell products away from the web (e.g. Pepsi and Coca-Cola selling drinks in stores and other places), all they need to do is build traditional impression based advertising. Almost no one will click (unless trying to do the fraud thing) and these advertisers get a free right, and the intermediary (Google, etc) and publisher (that might be you) get screwed putting up "click through" ads that are never going to be clicked on.

What we need is impression based advertising. And that's already exactly what they do on TV, radio, and bilboard advertising. Newspaper and magazine advertising is mostly like that, but cut-out coupons do some level of feedback. But such feedback doesn't pay the agency or publisher anything.

The price per impression would obviously be way less than the price per click. Impression is very much subject to the "no look fraud". And unlike TV, which assumes a viewership based on ratings that affect the advertising prices, at least the web can provide a means to measure how many impressions actually take place. What the proportion should be, I can't reliably say. But I've seen ads at various companies go for from 0.5 cent to 25 cents per click, and what little impression ads are available typically going for 1/20 to 1/50 of that, in the range of 1 cent down to 0.01 cent.

One big problem is it's all abusable on the web, whereas on places like TV it's just not always accurate (maybe no one watched all of a given episode of a show). Impression ads can be abused, too. Who reports how many impressions were made (by hosting the images)? The publisher who could inflate the logs? An intermediary that might get blocked easily? The advertiser who could deflate the logs?

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