With PPC advertising you choose "keywords/phrases," then bid how much you'd like to pay for each click. When a searcher goes to a search engine and types in one of your keyphrases, your short text ad appears, and if someone click on it your account is then charged. In a "perfect world" this is the way it would work, but thanks to unscrupulous people, there's a dirty little secret known as "click fraud."
Click fraud is simply the act of clicking on ads for the direct purpose of costing the advertiser money. It is recognized as the biggest problem today in PPC marketing. According to InternetWeek.com, 60% of people surveyed by the "Search Engine Professional Organization" have stated that fraud is a problem when it comes to PPC advertising.
PPC marketing can cost you a lot if you do not administer it right. Bad targeting plus fraud can be a costly problem. The main sources of click fraud are the following four:
1) AdSense Users:
Google Adsense has a program called "Adsense" that pays website owners to run their Adwords ads and compensates them per click. Google does monitor this and it's against their terms of service to click on any of the ads on your own site. If they find a publishers doing this, they will lose their accounts, but some may still be clicking under the radar.
2) Your Own Competitors:
Your competitors could be clicking on your ads over a period of several days in order to deplete your ad budget. This way they neutrilize your advertizing campaigns.
There are those who use automated clicking tools, such as robot programs, to click on PPC listings.
4) Paid Clickers:
In some Asian countries, people are often paid to click on PPC ads for hours. Many don't know why they do it, and don't care. The only important issue is that they will be well rewarded for their efforts. If you do a search on any search engine you'll see plenty of sites offering to hire people for just this purpose. Type in 'earn rupees clicking ads' in Google and you get quite a few leads.
Most PPC networks have measures in place to protect you against click fraud. Yahoo's Overture tracks more than 50 data points, including IP addresses, browser info, users' session info and what they call "pattern recognition." They have a "proprietary system" in place for detecting fraud and a specialized team that monitors things and works with the advertisers to stop it.
Google offers suggestions to avoid click thru fraud, such as "using negative keywords" to keep your ads from showing up for products and services that are unrelated. They also suggest adding tracking url's to your links so you can track the traffic coming from Google. If you go through your log files, you'll be able to see your Google traffic at a glance.
If you suspect fraud, Google asks that you contact them right away, because they have a team of researchers that will investigate. They also take action to block future impressions from anyone they identify as committing click fraud. Like Overture, they also have "proprietary technology" that distinguishes between normal clicks and invalid ones. Google never bills you for any "bad clicks" that are caught by their system.
All honest website owners need to be alert to any "suspicious activity" by researching their server logs or stats. If you're experiencing a lot of clicks and no sales you'll also want to take a closer look. You need to watch for any spikes in traffic, usually on one keyword or phrase and coming from only one PPC source. You need to measure and track all of your PPC accounts closely.
A variety of new services have opened recently to help combat the click fraud problem. Some of them also offer web analytic tools that help improve your advertising productivity. You may want to look at these outside services to take care of problems for you. Here are some links:
1) Keyword Max: http://www.KeyWordMax.com
Offers up a service called "Click Auditor," which monitors the activity on your PPC accounts and alerts you to any suspicious activity. You can request a free demo at the site.
2) Click Detective: http://www.ClickDetective.com
A website monitoring service that uses sophisticated tracking mechanisms to determine whether "visitor behavior" is normal or not. Offering a 15 day free trial. Easy to use, you just copy and paste a snippet of code on your page and add a campaign ID by logging into your account.
3) Click Assurance: http://www.ClickAssurance.com
An Internet Security Firm that specializes in click fraud. They will audit your PPC accounts and go after any refunds you are due because of fraud.
4) Nami Media: http://www.NamiMedia.com
Specializes in post-click actions and landing page optimization technologies. Offers to increase sales and give marketers the ability to intelligently define landing pages to achieve business objectives. Works on ASP platform.
5) Who's Clicking Who: http://www.WhosClickingWho.com
An independent auditing service that tracks individual users for fraud. Can also detect abuse coming from proxy servers. A one month subscription is $79.00, which includes free installation and up to 50,000 transactions per month.
6) ClickLab: http://www.ClickLab.com/
This service isolates bad clicks with a scorecard based detection system. Pricing starts at $50.00 per month and is based on the number of sites you need to track and their page views.
ClickLab also offers white papers you should download while visiting, get them at the resources section.
7) Tracking ROI: http://www.TrackingROI.com/
TrackingROI’s Content Personalization System is truly a technological innovation that targets site visitors more closely. This system allows you to segment visitors to your site into groups and then provides personalized content through a Microsoft Word like tool! Your visitors can be segmented based upon each individual campaign. It offers ad tracking, site optimization, as well as click fraud control.
Click fraud isn't going away anytime soon. Most probably, it will get worse before it get's any better. It's up to you as a vigilant website owner to do what you can to keep your PPC advertising costs down. You can't stop it, but with the right tracking in place, it can be managed and controlled, and hopefully kept to a minimum.
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