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There was an article today in the NYTimes about click fraud. The piece is pretty balanced: it's happening but the search engines are dealing with it. I think that's the reality in the marketplace; it's there but it's not terribly widespread and there are pretty strenuous, though not widely understood, efforts to combat it.

So the real danger around this issue is PR.

The attendence at SES confirmed anecdotally that the vast majority of marketers have not tried or just now starting to get into SEM. Large companies with sophisticated ad agencies can deal rationally with the perceived problem and it's not going to deter them in the same way it might frighten an SME.

In other words, I believe the perception of a problem with "click fraud" or any suggestion that clicks aren't real leads may create a PR problem in driving deeper into the SME market ("How do I know that's not my competitor trying to run up my bill or just some 'random insomniac'?). Pay per call doesn't face quite the same type of concern, although there may be other issues in that space.

However, I think the numerous intermediaries and adoption channels emerging will mitigate that potential "chilling effect" of click fraud–so will consumer behavior. SMEs recognize the growing importance of online marketing vis-a-vis consumer usage of the Internet.

But the PR problem should not to be dismissed and the engines/networks need to get out in front of it so the perception of click fraud doesn't become far worse than the reality.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. The SMEs I encounter are having a hard digesting the concept of PPClick/PPCall. Fraud is a major component.

    It's interesting that one independent publisher I know that is selling both services has re-packaged their items as "Guaranteed Leads" rather than "Pay-Per . . . "

    It's the same product, but it's packaged and bundled in a way that provides reporting to prove performance levels. It also allowed the publisher to mold the product to fit into a typical subscription model.

    When they took this approach, the concept of fraudulant clicks was much less important.

    From what I can tell, the two major players, Google and Overture are aggressively trying to wipe out fraud.

  2. Dick,

    You are absolutely wrong. They don't know what to do about click fraud nor do they have any way to stop it.

    As someone working in the industry I can tell you for a certainty that both Google and Overture's methods for detecting click fraud are not better than any other engine out there. They simply have more traffic overall to mask the true percentages of fraud on their networks.

    I'll be discussing this issue on my weblog shortly. You'll have your eyes opened to a few things. I assure you of that.

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