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August 3, 2006

Search Engines Band Together To Fight Click Fraud

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This makes me excited. Andy Beal points us to the story that the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has partnered with Google, Yahoo!, Ask, Microsoft and others to form the Click Measurement Working Group in an effort to define what makes a click “invalid”. The group is scheduled to meet for the first time later this month.

The group will also outline auditing and certification recommendations for any organization (ad networks, search engines, etc.) involved in performance-based marketing.

This is great news for advertisers. Once a standard definition of what constitutes an invalid click has been adopted it will be easier to measure how wide-spread the problem really is. No more contradicting studies.

Senior Director of Yahoo!’s Clickthrough Protection team said the group will “ensure that marketers of all sizes are provided the highest possible level of transparency around pay-per-click advertising”, and called it a “game-changing step in measuring click fraud”.

I’d love to know what kind of data advertisers are going to be allowed to see. This could be exactly what they’ve been waiting for.

This is a very smart move by the engines. Until Google announced they would be offering reports on invalid clicks and invalid click percentages, the engines have not done a very good job of giving advertisers the level of transparency they’ve been asking for. They’ve been very secretive with their methods, claiming giving too much information would only educate those looking to take advantage.

I think the search engines are now starting to realize there is a lot at stake here if advertisers continue to believe they are purposely making money off invalid clicks. Joining together and creating a standardized way of documenting and addressing click fraud will go a long way to showing advertisers they are serious about correcting the problem. Even if click fraud rates aren’t as high as many advertisers think, if the engines continue to perpetuate the idea they’re not doing anything about it, it will be their business which suffers. If the search engines have been accurate with their estimates, that should make everyone happy!

It will be interesting to see just how much information the engines will release to one another (and to advertisers) and how much will be kept proprietary. The Click Measurement Working Group does not require full disclose of each engine’s click data, and you have to wonder how much of that information they would allow their competitors to access.





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