Google Click Fraud: BEWARE!
More and more companies are becoming interested in ‘search engine marketing’.
It’s a wise decision. ‘Everybody’ uses search engines nowadays. Both the general public and an estimated of 80%+ of business buyers look to search engines to deliver ‘an answer’.
If your website can be easily found, especially in Google then your company can maybe satisfy searchers at their point of need.
Essentially there are two routes open to you, if you want more search engine traffic (visitors).
The organic approach: This requires a combination of on and off page activities to raise the ranking of the website when someone searches for a keyword or phrase that matches the content of the your website. This process is called search engine optimisation…or optimization if you prefer the US spelling.
The paid approach: In Google’s case you can buy Google AdWords. This process involves bidding for keywords. The higher the bid, the higher position for your website. You only pay per visitor received.
Many people prefer the paid approach because, at first glance, it seems easier and cheaper but thats not necessarily the case. In fact, in my experience, it is rarely is the case. It’s just ‘easier to get started’, that’s all.
In our opinion people should use a combination of the two techniques: organic is used for long term results and ‘pay per click’ for words and phrases that are too competitive to win organically. Also the paid approach is sometimes good for testing the conversion rate of visitor to action too (more on that another time)
There is a BIG problem with Google Adwords and with the similar pay per click options available from Yahoo etc.
The problem? FRAUD !!!
Before paid search advertising can become a durable marketing option Google , Yahoo et al must TRANSPARENTLY deal with click fraud.
Every time a searcher clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays Google. But a, not so secret, niche industry has been gathering pace: individuals, competitors and organised agencies (click farms) are offering unethical and damaging services.
Some of these “clickers” are trying to inflate the overall cost of their, or their clients’, competitors’ advertising. Also publishers (that carry the Google ads on their sites to earn revenue) are artificially increasing the results by click-click-clicking on the ads they show.
Click fraud is especially worrying and costly to the advertiser if ‘hijacking software’ is being employed: ‘click generating software’ is easy to make or buy online and has the ability to ‘control’ a computer without the user being aware.
The infected computer can click on targeted ads one, two, ten times a day without the owner’s knowledge. Factor the scale: hundreds of controlled computers creating a ‘robot army’ controlled by agents of your competitors. Pretty scary.
This is not paranoia talking, it’s very real, and something I observed starting years ago, back in 2002 I first got worried. Even Google themselves used to admit this was a big problem as reported at CNN.com in 2004:
“I think something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model,” Google Chief Financial Officer.
If you are a professional search marketer you already KNOW about click fraud but many agency people still turn a blind eye to it 🙁 which means advertisers are often paying large sums on money..for nothing.
Estimates run at up to 25% of budgets are fraudulently spent.
This is BAD NEWS. It casts a black mark on MY industry and means that in future these people who have had their fingers burnt might stay away from search marketing which would mean lost opportunities for them and potentially lost customers for altex. Not good.
So what does Google have to say when asked: How bad is click fraud? Numbers please.
The answer : No detailed comment. No specific numbers.
Google, of course, now denies there is an issue at all and a spokesperson recently replied (by email), when asked by Barron’s Online to comment on the issue:
“Our expert teams and technology filter out certain invalid clicks before they even reach the advertisers’ bills. When we become aware that customers have been charged for invalid clicks, we work to refund advertisers as quickly as possible.” She added that losses associated with invalid clicks are “non-material.”
Non material! Non material to who? Google is getting pretty arrogant these days…with other peoples money!
So what can you do?
1. Factor in 25% for fraud if you do use they pay per click options
2. Focus on the organic approach (its better in the long run and the traffic is FREE 🙂 too)
3. Use pay per click short term, vary the campaigns, do not leave ads running ‘forever’.
4. Consider employing a team like Click Defense who are reported to allege that Google is not cracking down on click fraud.
1. The search engine market is super competitive
2. Google stock is overpriced (come on, you know it’s true)
3. Cost per click prices are crazy (there is a lot of dumb, lazy money being spent)
4. The smart internet marketing/advertising agency money is leaving pay per click and focussing on organic approaches
5. Fraud is on the increase
Got shares in Google? Sell them unless you want some sleepless nights.
Just in case you wondered, no, altex does not offer paid search marketing services as standard. Yes there is a time and place for pay per click but its needs careful consideration and day to day management for the serious level advertiser. We only recommend pay per click when the situation demands it and not as a panacea for all search marketing challenges.
And so which search engine do I use?