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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Monster Chiller Click Fraud Horror Theater

The click fraud legend grows, and my clients couldn't be happier.

All of a sudden, our competitors are paying closer attention to the traffic they're bidding on. Some are being deterred from participating in the auction at all. Lo and behold, the relentless increase in PPC costs begins to reverse itself, and once "impossible" campaigns become profitable.

No question about it. This job is a headache a day. Junky clicks are the scourge of the PPC game. But I don't know of any marketing venue today that hands you guaranteed ROI on a platter. Google AdWords isn't a nice safe Volvo. If you roll down a hill in it, you may not walk out of there unscathed. It's more like a modified Pinto hurtling down an icy road. Only skilled operators need apply.

Worst-case scenario for Google: the 50% of advertisers who are not currently placing enough importance on ROI tracking begin to do so, and Google's revenue growth is impacted to the point where their stock is cut in half. That would put it back to the IPO price.

Unfortunately, we'll probably still be having this conversation a year from now because of how dependent Google has become on its AdSense (content targeting) program. Reporters (and no-nonsense marketing specialists like Godin) know when they are onto a real story. I can't see that story getting any quieter until Google acknowledges that they built the content program too quickly, and takes steps to pare it back. Trust me, if the only publishers who are participating in the program are owned by media companies of decent size, there will be no equity for any proverbial or real "armies of Indian clickers."

Unscrupulous small publishers in jurisdictions with extradition treaties to the US might want to consider this disincentive to defrauding Google and their advertisers, too: how about jail?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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