Click Fraud Hits Small Biz Especially Hard

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Click fraud may turn out to be as much a nuisance and threat to search engine marketing as spam and phishing are to e-mail. Small businesses are hit particularly hard. Hear what Bob Cefail, chairman of In Touch Media Group Inc., a paid search facilitation company in Clearwater, FL, has to say:

"Google's content network is where we believe there's significant click fraud. When you have your ads show up on the content network with Google, you'll notice there are a huge number of impressions with a very small actual [conversion] rate, which shows you there are a tremendous number of pages out there that are designed purely to generate clicks.

"Typically, these pages don't have visitors [who] are highly relative to your ads. That's where you're going to have a high impression rate and a low click-through rate, and that affects you not only in click fraud, but it also affects you in terms of your click-through rate. And you know, with Google, if you have a low click-through rate, they automatically disable your ad.

"So you have double whammies going on here: No. 1, the content network, which affects your performance of ads; and No. 2, that's where you're going to find your click fraud because those are pages in many cases that are often set up for the purposes of clicking away.

"In terms of click-fraud detection, this is once again where the small businesses fall down because your typical small business or medium-size business is not using back-end software on their Web sites that track results, visitors and IP addresses that show where your people are coming from.

"There are inexpensive solutions like Hitslink that show, for $20 a month, when you're getting consistent click fraud going on because they'll show you the number of times IP addresses are coming up over and over again. So, small and medium-size businesses aren't really prepared to fight click fraud because they don't have the necessary back-end software that evaluates their traffic."

Google has acknowledged the click-fraud issue, as chief financial officer George Reyes said click fraud "threatens our business model" at an investors conference late last year.

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