‘Google…Law Suit…Click Fraud?, are alarmingly repeated buzzwords coming from search engine marketers these days. It’s understandable how unsettling it may be for search marketers to hear Google is being sued for click fraud for the first time in five years.
Not to mention, Click Forensics released a report on the overall click rates for the paid search industry showing how click fraud rates have climbed from 17.4 percent last quarter to 18.6 percent in the second quarter of 2010. Anchor Intelligence released a report a few weeks prior stating click fraud rates have actually dropped to 28.9 percent compared to 29.2 percent last quarter. Depending on the source and how click fraud is defined, these numbers can easily be skewed.
Click Fraud vs. Non-Performing Traffic Source
Before online marketers start to panic, let’s define click fraud before discussing how to prevent it:
“Click fraud is the practice of clicking on ads for the sole purpose of earning money directly and/or causing harm to another company’s advertising campaign.”
First and foremost, search marketers need to understand that even if your clicks aren’t converting, click fraud should not be the assumed culprit right away. Slow down and evaluate your traffic sources first. Non-converting clicks are often mistaken as click fraud, but usually it’s just a non-performing traffic source.
A perfect example of a seemingly fraudulent scenario: You sell digital cameras. You receive 10,000 clicks and nothing converts. Since this quarter’s click fraud percentages were released and reported ‘on the rise’ and too high for your liking, a search marketer may think this was just another case of click fraud.
Diving deeper, you discover the clicks came from a prominent children’s website. Ah ha, a non-performing traffic source for your digital cameras.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a non performing traffic driver or click fraud because in the end they both hinder the performance of the campaign. The key will always be: Identification and Elimination.
So how can search marketers prevent click fraud from damaging their campaign?
Every industry has some type of ‘fraud’ to worry about. It is inevitable. When it comes to advertising in print media, it’s difficult to uncover the true readership numbers. Let’s say you put your ad in a paper, and a hotel decides to distribute a complimentary newspaper (with your ad inside), to all of their occupants. How can you guarantee these papers will be read and your ad will be seen? These unread newspapers can be categorized as irrelevant ‘traffic’ and the readership numbers are exaggerated without the advertiser’s knowledge.
When dealing with online advertising, the tracking tools and technologies being developed are focus primarily on click fraud elimination. Since search marketers are given the resources to track campaigns, there are a few things to keep in mind when tracking your campaign:
? Make sure you track your campaign using proven industry tools, to ensure you are identifying click fraud correctly. Along these same lines, interpreting the results are even more imperative in eliminating the fraud. If you don’t understand the analytics, then chances are you can’t identify the problem.
? Work closely with your traffic vendor to understand what type of traffic is coming in. Know the sources, discover what works best, and decide what doesn’t work. The snake in the grass will become clear allowing you to identify and eliminate the fraud and/or non-performing traffic.
? Work with a company that has devoted time to researching and developing their own click fraud prevention technology. Whether the engine is big or small, there should be some type of internal platform to eliminate click fraud specifically on their network. A company’s in-house fraud prevention technology does not only learn and keep up with the evolving trends of click fraud, but also allows marketers to dissect and understand the traffic stemming from their network.
? In-house technology or not, there always needs to be a 3rd party presences to validate and support the results coming in from any in-house platform.
If you stay above the curve when dealing with click fraud and find a company with the same attitude, the right individuals will help you consistently maintain clean, qualified and performing traffic for your advertising campaign.