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

Home > Traffick Articles > Search Engines > Click Fraud

"Paid To Read" On FBI's Radar

By Detlev Johnson
September 29, 2006

Even though they decline to prosecute, and no laws may actually be broken, Paid To Read (PTR) gangs of clickers now appear on the FBI's radar. It may be usage of the word "fraud" in click fraud that got their attention. Even purveyors of more traditional click fraud exploits are getting worried. One Russian programmer that sells a clickbot application even quipped "You aren't going to send the FBI to me, are you?" after admitting the primary use of his clickbot is to cheat advertisers.

The problem originated with search engines that seem to be overzealous in distributing their ads so widely across parked domains and other low quality scraper sites. The shame is that distributing ads to these sites fuels the fraud uncontrollably, when the engines could simply exercise more caution with whom they choose for distributing their ads.

No one can stop click fraud from happening altogether. Anonymous browsing, and the anonymous proxies that enable it, is one of the fundamental ways to click ads and go undetected. If your purpose is to earn money with PTR, and you're careful enough, then you can do so successfully and never get caught. The thing is, there will always be anonymous browsing.

The search engines could choose to not charge click costs from users that visit through anonymous proxies or refuse cookies. They won't. In the meantime they are making a mint. They cannot possibly detect even the most basic anonymous browsing from competitor fraud, let alone sophisticated methods that deploy PTR gangs and a recipe that can make them impossible to detect. It's not as if the search engines aren't aware what they can do. Briefly, Google blocked Tor, a peer-to-peer anonymizer, but that only lasted hours or days. There's too much advertiser money at stake.

The search engines also count on the fact that you aren't going to spend the time to go through the trouble of finding bad clicks on your own. You would have to spend the time to successfully argue for a refund too. With stories like this one from BusinessWeek, cases where the search engine's meager refunds were awarded, their flimsy explanation that they didn't charge for the majority of the fraud in the first place is disingenuous, and the whole thing seems pointless for all that energy expended. People have begun to consider it just an unfortunate cost of doing business.

The problem is the search engines won't reveal any real details at all. It is true they can't and shouldn't. Sure, you can get a column of clicks from Google they say were delivered and not charged against your account. But in fact, all that really does is allow Google to argue a smaller payout for you is appropriate after their "investigation." It proves they recorded clicks and did not charge you, but the real details remain hidden by Google so they can tell you what they want.

Hence the quagmire for advertisers that is favorable for the engines. The only defense an advertiser has is planning budget limits after a seasoned account has built up some obvious norms for you. If you have some runaway keywords, (ones you want to appear every time a search is conducted), watch them carefully for fraud spikes. Don't count on the FBI to do anything about click fraud. The activity does not appear to be illegal at this time.

Your only legal recourse today might be civil court. For the most part though, those matters have largely been resolved by the search engines already. Their settlements for the past are in. There is little you can do but be vigilant about fraud moving forward. Be sure to consider supporting measures by Washington that can address the issue, the same way spam legislation has sent some spammers to jail. Then the FBI will not only take notice, but perhaps take action as well.


Detlev Johnson is Vice President of PositionTech and publisher of SearchReturn, a respected source of search industry news and information
.

 

 

Speaking Engagement

I am speaking at SMX West

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

 


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