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Click Fraud: An Overview of a Massive Problem

  • Wired, Friday, December 30, 2005 10 AM
Wired takes an in-depth look at click fraud, a rapidly growing problem for the $8 billion plus search engine and contextual marketing industry. Click fraud occurs when companies deploy programs that repeatedly click on competitors' ads, driving up their costs and eating away at the monthly spending budgets they set up with search engines like Google and Yahoo! A second form of click fraud occurs when publishers on Google's AdSense program use similar tactics to repeatedly click on the ads sent by Google and Yahoo! to their own Web sites, which, in turn, brings them more revenue. Click fraud has become such a massive problem because nobody knows how bad the damage really is. Estimates range from as low as 1 in 10 to 1 in 2 clicks being fraudulent, but the most widely cited recent study says that 30 percent of the clicks in three experimental campaigns on Google were found to be fraudulent. Whatever the right figure, this is a massive problem for marketers that has not been addressed properly. To be fair, search engines are battling the problem, but fraudsters are all the time becoming more sophisticated in their efforts to beat the system. Some observers say the "billion dollar mess" has "the potential of destroying the entire industry."



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