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More On Click Fraud, The Lawsuit & The Need For Third Party Auditors

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After breaking the news yesterday of a potential class action lawsuit over click fraud against major search engines, the Wall Street Journal is back today with a look at the problem itself.

In 'Click Fraud,' Web Outfits Have A Costly Problem (subscription required) covers familiar ground to many readers. It opens with an advertiser getting worried ironically when refund checks for small amounts arrived from Google and Yahoo for "unusual" or "invalid" clicks. It recounts that the industry does see click fraud as a challenge -- including Google's CFO having declared this a big issue last December. Of course, as the story points out, there are some safeguards already in place.

More background on click fraud is covered, and then the article returns to the main anecdote of the advertiser who investigates further suspecting a rival and encounters what he felt was little help from Yahoo and Google. The Massachusetts attorney general's office declined to jump in, either.

Ultimately, he cut his monthly ad spend on search from $20,000 to $1,000: "Am I willing to take the risk and stick my neck out there at maybe $15 or $20 a click? Not now."

Meanwhile, the AP in Internet giants sued over click fraud has a few more details about the case, including that two initial plaintiffs have dropped out and that a move to try it in the US federal court system has been requested. FYI, we hope to have a copy of the case that we can post on the blog shortly.

Can't read enough about click fraud? Here are some stories recent stories also worth reading:

  • Click Fraud: Problem and Paranoia from Adam Penenberg at Wired recounts his experiences in being on our click fraud panel at SES NY last month. He covers both issues raised by panelists and audience members who have experience fraud, as well as general background on the problem.
     
  • Click Fraud In the Spotlight from ClickZ last month looks at the growing concern and attention that the issue of click fraud has been receiving.
     
  • High Noon for Click Fraud from MediaPost last month covers for steps that search marketer Chris Bowler of Agency.com would like to see happen: search advertisers taking more responsibility; better monitoring on the part of search advertisers; insurance policies and an auditing and certification program.

I especially agree with that last part. It one of the solutions I suggested on the click fraud panel we held, and I've heard other say the same. I'd love to see the major search engines certify third-party companies that would audit suspected clickfraud.

For the typical advertiser, the difficulty is even knowing how to begin to read the fingerprints of clickfraud. Dedicated companies, on the other hand, aren't starting from scratch each time.

The plus to the search engines is that this would give them people who are experienced in really ferreting out what is click fraud -- and what is not -- and presenting that in a way they can easily act upon.

Still want more on click fraud? Search Engine Watch members can use the click fraud category link below for a compilation of stories about the problem and advice on spotting it that goes back for several years.

Want to discuss? Visit our forum thread, Click Fraud Suit Filed Against Search Engines.


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