Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Evils of Click Fraud and CPC Content Targeted Ads

This is a great article on some examples of click fraud. Do nothing evil - eh? Hardly!

The Pay-Per-Click Promise; The Click Fraud Threat

When advertisers buy pay-per-click advertising, they largely expect and intend to buy search engine advertising. If a user goes to Yahoo and types a search term, interested advertisers want their ads to be shown. Ads are supposed to be carefully targeted, i.e. to the specific keywords advertisers specify. And an advertiser is only supposed to pay Yahoo when a user actually clicks the advertiser's ad.

Click fraud attacks these promises. In canonical click fraud, one advertiser repeatedly clicks a competitor's ads -- or hires others to do so, or builds a robot to do so. Deplete a competitor's budget, and he'll leave the advertisement auction. Then the first advertiser can win the advertising auction with a lower bid.

Advertisement syndication also creates a risk of click fraud. Suppose Yahoo contracts with some site X to show Yahoo's ads. If a user clicks a Yahoo ad at X, Yahoo commits to pay X (say) half the advertiser's payment to Yahoo. Then X has an incentive to click the Yahoo ads on its site -- or to hire others to do so, or to build robots to do so.

Spyware syndication falls within the general problem of syndication-based click fraud. Suppose X, the Yahoo partner site, hires a spyware vendor to send users to its site and to make it appear as if those users clicked X's Yahoo ads. Then advertisers will pay Yahoo, and Yahoo will pay X, even though users never actually clicked the ads.

The following three examples show specific instances of spyware-syndicated PPC click fraud. In each example, I present video, screenshot, and packet log proof of how spyware vendors and advertisement syndicators defraud Yahoo's advertisers.

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