23 August 2006

Yet another click fraud lawsuit (YACFL)

Why am I not surprised to read about yet another click fraud lawsuit?

This eweek article mentions a proposed class action against Google by one Samuel Lasoff. He seems to be an advertiser but the article talks about aggrieved publishers:
"and accuses Google of exposing publishers to click fraud following a breach of contract,"
I can't find the original filing in the PA courthouse (what a quaint, 1990s web site!) so I can't tell if he is a publisher or advertiser. He certainly appears to be an affiliate, so I suspect he had Adwords pointing to his sites.

Let's see what happens.

15 August 2006

Click! Mouse fraud bytes web advertisers

Emma Connors and Mark Jones have written about click fraud in today's Australian Financial Review. Unfortunately the article cannot be viewed online for free. They write that Nielsen/NetRatings is starting research into this issue in Australia. They are going to look at the behaviour of IP addresses, exactly what I said in the same article!

Also quoted is ClickSentinel, which claims that 30% of clicks are fraudulent. I wonder if Shuman Ghosemajumder's team at Google will look into this claim next. :)

Baidu accused of click fraud

China Search Engine Watch blogged about a demonstration by advertisers outside Baidu's Beijing offices: (sic)

On August 4, 2006, some advertisers gathered outside Chinese search engine Baidu's office building and demonstrate against its click faults. From the post boards presented by the demonstrators, it was said that 70% of clicks on Baidu's paid ads were invalid. The claimed data was notarized by Beijing Notarization Bureau. The advertisers came to the building during lunch time and were expelled by the security guards.

09 August 2006

Google's analysis of click fraud detection

This 17-page report from Google's click quality team makes a lot of sense. Look at the US search engine conference speaker list for the past three years and witness the same names saying much the same things. Most of them represented click fraud detection services. I don't blame them for promoting their services and I don't claim to know how good they all were. There had been this figure of 30% click fraud bandied around as an industry norm. I have not seen this in the few accounts I have access to but I am not in a position to guess what it might be.

The Google report on third-party click fraud auditing is critical of poorly substantiated estimates of click fraud. Quote:

Over the last year, these estimates have received widespread media coverage. A different kind of report (from Outsell, Inc.) has also been widely cited for estimating the scope of the problem. But in fact that report did not measure click fraud – it was an opinion survey of advertisers asking them to guess at the extent of the problem. Thus the report’'s conclusions about the percentage of fraud and financial loss for the industry are essentially a poll of the perception of the size of the problem (with the backdrop of the previous coverage of high estimates) rather than actual size of the problem. This is analogous to estimating crime rates in a country by asking some residents how much crime they think there is, and averaging those guesses to state that number is the actual rate.

The main problem seems to be fictitious clicks of two kinds:

  • Fictitious clicks due to detection of page reloads as ad clicks.

  • Fictitious clicks due to conflation across advertisers and ad networks.
The page-reloading behaviour problem is handled very nicely by Visitlab. Their reporting shows a visitor's path through the site and shows the initial paid click and subsequent traversals of the same page as internal clicks. A poorly designed click fraud detection mechanism might show each reload as a separate click.

In the early days of Visitlab, such clicks showed as multiple (suspicious) clicks but no more.

I have not seen the second kind of problem, where each click goes through a third party audit service and clicks within the site are counted, as are clicks arising on another advertiser service such as Overture/Yahoo.

07 August 2006

Blatant invitation to click ads

This was seen two days ago at a publisher site and the AdSense is still showing regular ads. Search for the text you can see in the image and find the URL.

03 August 2006

IAB announces the formation of industry-wide Click Measurement Working Group

It is heartening to read about the formation of a working group comprising the major PPC ad companies including Ask.com, Google, LookSmart, Microsoft and Yahoo!. They will initially define Click Measurement Guidelines, thereby defining a click.

Although this is a start, I'd like to see a consortium of such companies team up with other major web sites such as Amazon and eBay to develop what I loosely refer to as an "IP address score". It would be a multidimensional, not flat numeric, score, and be available to consortium members to use as an additional input to their own proprietary click quality algorithms. It could have other uses outside this click fraud space.