By definition Click fraud is a kind of online crime that occurs in PPC (pay per click) online advertising when an individual, computer program or automated script imitates a user of a browser clicking on an advertisement, for the intention of generating a CPC (charge per click) without having genuine interest in the objective of the advertisement’s link. Click fraud is the focus of controversy and increasing court cases, due to the advertising networks being a key beneficiary of the fraud whether they like it or not. In February 2007, Google uncovered its up to date click-fraud estimates for its advertising program; $1 billion in lost revenue annually. This can actually run a small-time advertiser out of business.
Let’s understand briefly how this type of advertising works:
When an advertisement shows up with search engine results, it’s because an advertiser has purchased the keyword or phrase being typed into the search box. For example if someone is looking for a new mobile phone, and he typed "T-mobile" into search box, the advertisements that show at the top and to the right of the search results are paying to be coupled with the word "T-mobile". When seeker clicks on any of those advertisements, search engine charges that company for the click. It’s called CPC (cost-per-click) system. Different keywords or key phrases sell for different amounts based on their floating cost. "T-mobile," is a medium-value keyword. Lots of people are searching for it everyday, and people who click on an ad associated with “T-mobile " are most likely considering a medium-cost purchase. A “T-mobile" advertiser could be paying Google $20 per click, whereas a company that purchases the keyword might only pay 10 cents per click.
If your monthly advertisement bill goes up by 50 to 100 percent then the reason behind can be the click fraud. But other times, it’s more sensitive. There are few companies out there committed to detecting click fraud. You can hire any such company to track all of your ad clicks and look for fraud. There was one interesting instance happened in Oregon in 2004, A Web-based insurance-consulting firm owner suspected he was the victim of click fraud. He hired a private company for investigation and found out that a huge number of his ad clicks were coming from a single IP address, which was costing him hundreds of dollars a month. The company confirmed the suspect IP address, and set up the ad so that the next time the person with the offending IP address clicked on it, a message popped up saying, "Stop, you weasel! I know who you are and have reported you to the proper authorities." It got the problem solved for him.
Use of a computer to commit this type of Internet fraud is a crime in many jurisdictions, for example it is covered by Penal code 502 California, USA, and the Computer and internet Misuse Act of 1990 in the United Kingdom. There have been arrests relating to click fraud with regard to malicious clicking in order to reduce a competitor’s marketing funds.
Malicious intent is the backbone that drives click fraud. Often it is the competitors of an advertiser who indulge in click fraud in order to make the advertiser pay for clicks that are not valid. The intent behind click fraud here is to harm the competitor financially with the hope that this would weaken their competitiveness. At other times, click frauds can be done in such a way that it is made to look as if the publisher is clicking on their own ads but in reality it is the competitor of the publisher. If a publisher is found to be clicking on their own ads, that could lead them to loose their clients.
A significant root of the problem is the disagreement amongst search engines and other parties involved about the graveness of click fraud as a problem in the Internet marketing world. While some say that it is a very serious problem, others say that even though it is a problem, the fact that the Pay Per Click industry is booming proves that it is not a problem that is big enough to hinder the industry. Either ways, the questions is, can anything be done about click fraud? And more importantly, what are search engines doing to prevent click fraud?
Problems Proving Click Fraud
Despite access to technology, proving click fraud is not an easy task. It becomes difficult to segregate the genuine clicks from the fraudulent ones. Though it is a tough problem to tackle, there are a few things search engines can do to minimize.
There are softwares that search engines can use in order to filter out bad activity from the good ones. The kind of patterns that these websites look for are suspicious activities like too much clicking within a time period or other such activities. In addition to that, search engines can appoint data analysts who can work out the patterns of clicks on websites to figure out if these patterns are problematic.
One problem that search engines have with regard to click fraud is that the logs of clicks they collect are private information. Some experts believe that if they were to reveal this information to clients or other valid third parties, it might be easier to prevent click fraud.
The answer to “can search engines counter click fraud” lies in the future. As technology advances more methods of preventing click frauds are being devices. Search engines are doing their bit to tame the devil that is click fraud. There is, however, a long way to go before click fraud is completely wiped out and becomes a thing of the past.