Becoming more prevalent in online advertising these days is click fraud. In an August 9, 2006 article on AdWeek.com, several leading advertisers are starting to insist that web publishers “provide audited metrics” within a year’s time. With fradulent impressions being registered by Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdWords, among others, this comes as no surprise that these leading companies want to save their marketing dollars — why spend thousands more to pay off the repeat clicks on your ads when you can spend it on a credible third-party auditor to ensure efficiency. Wisely spent dollars ensures honesty among all parties.
But this isn’t just some new thing that’s happening — click auditing has been around for at least a couple of years. The Interactive Advertising Bureau issued ad guidelines in November 2004, but unfortunately has not been widely adopted by all. This latest move is designed to help move the industry to adopting this policy so that they can deter and defend against click fraud. Publishers — AOL, DoubleClick, Atlas, Yahoo!, and Weather.com — have already begun to adopt this policy and have a third-party auditor on hand to check their ad impressions.
In an interesting twist, however, powerhouse Google has issued a report attacking these new guidelines and feels that the advertisers are blowing the issue of click fraud out of proportion. They claim that while their customers claim click fraud and something is wrong, their engineers insist that nothing is wrong. As a result, their customers feel they aren’t being taken seriously so they enlist the services of a third-party auditor who investigates and concludes that there is click fraud. Google believes that this is threatening their “$100 million market cap” and spurred growth in this new industry. In addition, is Google right to say that these auditors may be inflating the click fraud rate, as they are in dispute between the search engine giant and these third-party companies?