There are always those sad stories. You know the ones: they involve nefarious intent aimed at ripping off a business. As an ecommerce vendor, you’ve employed best practices with respect to having your ducks in a row and have taken steps to avoid fraudulent chargebacks, return scams, and everything you’ve learned about in Online Selling 101.
But there’s another danger in the loop, and it’s a bit more stealth. It’s called “click fraud,” and though it’s been around since the advent of internet advertising, it’s becoming more pernicious. It’s not cheap, either —a click-fraud monitoring site estimates that the seedy practice did more than $7 billion in damage over a recent two-year period.
Vendors who advertise on third-party websites have discovered a diamond in the rough; a way to gain visibility, and hopefully new customers, at a very reasonable cost. Predicated on the concept that interested viewers will click on your link to learn more about you, publishing hosts will charge you only on a per-click basis. Great deal.
Here’s the problem. Not all clicks are equal. Someone mousing around that link may be one of several untenable parties, from a sector competitor who drives up click rates to cost you more money, to an ally of a web page host trying to rake in more ad revenues for his buddy. It can be a competitor of the published page who’d like to set that page up as a shady self-clicker. It can also be unrelated to profit or competition, but rather a political protest statement, or even someone with a personal vendetta.
We’re not talking bankruptcy here. It’s rarely disabling. But it’s a host of other adjectives, including annoying, frustrating, and ultimately perhaps viral.
Enter Google, search engine extraordinaire, which has morphed into a jack-of-all-trades entity for everything internet. Because of its focus on commerce, it has taken steps to combat click-fraud and those steps are, by all accounts, robust and proactive.
Through its AdSense program, Google has struck unions with millions of websites and apps providing ad results. A website will be vetted for security and subject to rigorous pre-approval measures. It employs automated detection algorithms to eliminate red flag activity. It also uses manual review protocols to spot unusual traffic, and to investigate based on valid concerns raised by possible victims.
Advanced research has led to developing methods for identifying non-human (bot) traffic, and to pre-emptively keep that traffic out in the future.
Violators will be suspended and/or have program membership revoked if intentional misuse is suspected, subject to appeal.
Are you being quadruple-clicked?
Find out if you’re the subject of malicious clicks by enacting a do-it-yourself investigation, which typically requires a knowledgeable staffer or individual within reach. Internal reporting reliably measures click-traffic rates and can get close to offering an accurate conversion rate. Studying your click data, analyze these:
If you have the budget and are so inclined, you can outsource the testing of your site’s individual vulnerabilities and even aggressively combat intrusions with a number of third-party entities. Improvely offers a free trial period. ClickBrainiacs has it down to a science and is eager to help. More than 2 million sites use ClickCease, and PerimeterX offers a competitive, industry standard approach.
However or whomever you choose to keep watch over your prized ad dollars, and avoid pouring money down the hole, you’re wise to put this issue at the top of the to-do list. It’s a sad reality that the presence of fraud on the internet is not going to improve significantly in the future.