The Battle Against Click Fraud
Many experts agree that the biggest threat to search engine marketing (SEM) is click fraud. The presence of invalid clicks generated by paid SEM campaigns is so pervasive that Google even has mentioned it in its financial statements. When you consider the explosive growth of SEM and the vast dollars invested in it by so many companies, it's easy to see why this is a hot topic.
In this column, we'll explore some frequently asked questions on this subject. Hopefully, this will help you more easily understand, identify and prevent click fraud from damaging your SEM efforts.
The Easy Questions
How prevalent is click fraud?
According to Scott Boyenger, president and CEO of Click Defense, a newly formed company designed to identify and stop click fraud, it accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of all SEM. So if you spend $100,000 each month, you could be wasting $20,000. While no search engine is immune to this plague, Google seems to be affected the most because of its dominant share of search volume and its aggressive use of distribution networks.
What are the causes?
There are currently two major origins of click fraud.
Competitors: This could be considered the equivalent of corporate sabotage. Many companies are finding that their competitors are driving invalid clicks on their links with one simple goal—deplete the company's SEM advertising budget.
Distribution Networks: Boyenger attributes 70 percent of all fraudulent clicks to the search engine distribution networks (sometimes known as affiliates). Since traffic (and therefore search inventory) is so limited on major search engines, they expand their inventory by distributing advertising links to other Web sites. Any revenue the search engine generates from clicks on those links is shared with the Web site. To boost their revenue, some sites artificially generate invalid clicks.