How Click Fraud Could Swallow the Internet
Cauff was a victim of "click fraud," the illicit manipulation of keyword-based advertising. In this case, the scam appeared straightforward - one company clicked on a rival's search engine ads to drive up its costs. More complex is a second type of bogus ad click that exploits a second form of PPC advertising: ads fed to Web sites - anything from personal blogs to the sites of major corporations - by search providers like Google, Yahoo!, LookSmart, and, soon, MSN. The search engine indexes the content of the Web site and matches it with a group of relevant ads. (The most familiar form is Google's AdSense program - the sets of links labeled ads by goooooogle that show up on pages across the Internet. The advertisements that appear on Google itself are part of a separate but related program called AdWords.) Thus, bloggers who write about their air-travel experiences and choose to host such ads may find links on their pages for JetNetworks and its brethren. If a blog visitor clicks on the ad, the search engine splits its fee with the blogger. Although these "affiliate" ads have been hugely successful for advertisers, search engines, and the host Web sites, the system creates an incentive for affiliates to cheat. "All you have to do to make some money is find a way to click the ad sent by Google or Yahoo! to your own Web page," says search marketing consultant Joseph Holcomb. "Click! - there's 10 bucks. Click! - there's 10 bucks. It goes on all the time."Click fraud is an important and growing problem. It afflicts consumers, advertisers, and the venue purveyors themselves (primarily, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft/MSN). Google suffers the most abuse, largely because it is the King Kong of the savannah. However, Google, in addition to Yahoo and Microsoft, treat this problem very seriously. It even is possible that, in their reaction, they go too far; for example, publishers lose their AdSense licenses for the mere perception of an abuse.
Every opportunity everywhere -- business, life, love, etc -- is an admixture of yin and yang: opportunity and misfortune, responsibility and irresponsibility, trust and mistrust. No opportunity anywhere is all blue skies ahead.
So I like it that this problem already has been identified. I like it that the companies involved work quickly to create an environment of trust, integrity, and reliability. I am not so innocent, however, as to believe that with each new response from Google et alii, the scammers will not conceive and rapidly deploy a workaround. Hell, if life were so easy, our email inboxes would not be stuffed to the rafters with various scams to catch the gullible and the unwitting. And yet we continue to use email. Sooner or later, IPv6 will come into use, and end the free reign (of terror) those scammers impose. Google (and other responsible companies) will achieve the same re click fraud.
Your comments, questions, and insights are welcome, as always.