Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals
Blog Categories (aka Tags) Archive of Traffick Articles Our Internet Marketing Consulting Services Contact the Traffickers Traffick RSS Feed

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Needed: A Detailed Picture of Click Quality

Making recent headlines has been a heated debate between a click fraud auditing vendor, Tom Cuthbert of Click Forensics, and Shuman Ghosemajumder, head of click quality at Google. Who's giving us the straight goods? Cuthbert, who has recently spearheaded an industry group called the Click Quality Council, claims click fraud is growing, and continues to stick by numbers like 10% and 15%. Ghosemajumder has repeatedly presented much lower numbers.

Both parties get into a bit of a side debate about the unique gclid modifier attached to every Google paid click. But to an outside observer, this does little to illuminate the patterns going on inside individual accounts; especially around Google's claim that they are proactively refunding virtually all invalid clicks.

You almost feel like you need a fourth-party auditor to help you audit the independent auditors.

The data I am seeing show that Google may (still) be closer to telling the truth than Cuthbert is. Google does proactively refund clicks; clicks in many accounts appear quite normal a high percentage of the time; there are some gray areas.

Interestingly, the data also show there are ways of managing a campaign (professionally vs. haphazardly), and choices you can make about which parameters and techniques to use, that will run you into more or less trouble.

And even when it comes to well-managed, normally running accounts, things can go awry. It's important to have some kind of monitoring tool for this - although you'd get a good cut at it with some of the other (non-click-audit-oriented, campaign management oriented) third party campaign management tools. A hard-working analyst using good web analytics could gain strong indications based on a granular assessment of "bounce rates" or time spent on site by keyword or ad group, but this methodology is weak and only really indicates that traffic is untargeted, potentially. Better than "bounce rates," as counseled by John Marshall ex of ClickTracks, is to look at "very short visits" (not the same as "bounce rate").

To help sort through the claims, I have been involved in beta testing with PPC Assurance, a product being developed by Richard Zwicky's team at Enquisite, a startup in the search analytics space.

The first key thing to note about PPC Assurance is the philosophy. "Fraud" is a term that is loaded with affect. Instead of trying every click like we're in a court, Zwicky and his team take a dry, factual approach to classifying clicks. The methodology they use to track things is not too hard to grasp: the advertiser allows additional PPC Assurance javascript code to be placed on the website, and PPC Assurance gets API access to the paid search account.

In their interface, various screen types are available that illustrate your campaign patterns intuitively using a color coding scheme.

  • First up is "gray" - these are "missing clicks." Essentially: 4-6% of browsers may have javascript disabled so you cannot track these users using this method. If "gray" spikes up very high, though, you're having website or hosting problems, so this is one to watch. It is not proof of poor quality clicks.
  • Then, there is "green." Clicks you paid for and that fall into the terms of service you agreed to. The vast majority of clicks in any account fall into this category. There may be some irritating gamesmanship (competitors manually clicking, etc.) and some poor quality traffic inside that green area, to be sure, but Google is saying they also try to filter for that stuff. Ultimately the ROI on your campaign will tell you if "green" is putting enough green in your trousers.
  • "Red" is bad. These are clicks you paid for, and that fell outside the terms of service you agreed to with Google. For some reason, even on this simple definition, many accounts have between 1% and 10% of this type of traffic. Even if this is getting up close to 4-5% you may need to look for a refund. But more importantly, you can use a tool like PPC Assurance to see when spikes occurred, on what keywords, from what geographic locales or problem IP's, etc. The information is so well packaged in their interface already, says Zwicky, that soon you'll be able to send a refund request with associated data, with a single click.
  • "Yellow" is central to this whole debate. These are clicks that fell outside the terms of service you agreed to, but that Google (Yahoo is coming soon in PPC Assurance, Zwicky assures us) did not charge you for. The first key to the yellow area is that you're going to be getting fairly accurate information that seems to dovetail with Google's own claims -- in fact, they are proactively refunding a lot of questionable clicks. But another thing you can do is to gain insight into click fraud patterns generally, without much effort. By looking at the "yellow" click data click by click (if you have time), you can see what kind of wacky behavior is going on out there. But no, you didn't pay for it.
My next point should be reassuring to anyone who manages campaigns for a living. We compared a professionally managed campaign, one we have been working on for three years for a UK retailer, with a well-meaning, but amateurishly managed campaign. See screen shots below. (These were not hand-picked to make this point -- they were just two early sites in the PPC Assurance beta.)

The two screen shots below show first a "normal" campaign that had some click quality problems. Some underlying reasons for this include poor keyword selection and misunderstanding geographic targeting. It may also include reckless use of content targeting. Setting geographic targeting very tightly also places a difficult onus on the provider of the clicks, so campaigns that are local in nature can often run into apparent click quality problems because by definition you're asking for something the provider cannot deliver as accurately.

The next shot shows a "perfect ppc" or at least optimized paid search campaign. In these cases, the campaign was organized on sound principles of granularity, long tail, testing and managing to ROI objectives, careful control of content bidding, and an understanding of basic parameters and settings.

As you can see, the picture as shown by the second chart is not too bad, and unsurprisingly, the "perfect ppc" campaigns have made this client a lot of money over the past three years.

















Disclosure: I have never been paid to talk about Enquisite or PPC Assurance. Their sister services firm, a search marketing firm called Metamend, is functionally separate from Enquisite, but Zwicky founded Metamend and remains involved. My firm, Page Zero, focuses on optimizing paid search campaigns, sometimes refers "SEO" business to Metamend, and vice-versa, and in some cases, we have collaborated on client projects. Metamend staff have imbibed with members of my company at the lobby of the San Jose Fairmont (I won't tell you what they drink -- it's embarrassing.) If I continue to believe that PPC Assurance is the best click auditing solution for clients, in future I will consider reselling the product for commission.

Labels:

Posted by Andrew Goodman




View Posts by Category

 

Speaking Engagement

See Andrew Goodman speak at eMetrics Chicago 2014

Need Solid Advice?        

Google AdWords book


Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.

And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.


Posts from 2002 to 2010


07/2002
08/2002
09/2002
10/2002
11/2002
12/2002
01/2003
02/2003
03/2003
04/2003
05/2003
06/2003
07/2003
08/2003
09/2003
10/2003
11/2003
12/2003
01/2004
02/2004
03/2004
04/2004
05/2004
06/2004
07/2004
08/2004
09/2004
10/2004
11/2004
12/2004
01/2005
02/2005
03/2005
04/2005
05/2005
06/2005
07/2005
08/2005
09/2005
10/2005
11/2005
12/2005
01/2006
02/2006
03/2006
04/2006
05/2006
06/2006
07/2006
08/2006
09/2006
10/2006
11/2006
12/2006
01/2007
02/2007
03/2007
04/2007
05/2007
06/2007
07/2007
08/2007
09/2007
10/2007
11/2007
12/2007
01/2008
02/2008
03/2008
04/2008
05/2008
06/2008
07/2008
08/2008
09/2008
10/2008
11/2008
12/2008
01/2009
02/2009
03/2009
04/2009
05/2009
06/2009
07/2009
08/2009
09/2009
10/2009
11/2009
12/2009
01/2010
02/2010
03/2010
04/2010

Recent Posts


Blocked Domains Coming to YSM

Should eBay Sell Skype to Google?

Techmeme's New Blog Hotlist

Facebook Reversal - Early Indicators

The Arrogant Corporation, The Naked Corporation, T...

Too Many Soap Dispensers!

35.4 Cents

Google's Pushing Print: The Interface Proves It

Set Your Target ROI Goals with Google Conversion O...

Free Prize Inside, or Mr.-Shouty-Trousers?

 


Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals

 


Home | Categories | Archive | About Us | Internet Marketing Consulting | Contact Us
© 1999 - 2013 Traffick.com. All Rights Reserved