IAB releases first official click measurement guidelines

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced the release today of the first official click measurement guidelines, which are meant to help the online advertising industry combat click fraud. The guidelines were agreed upon by key industry leaders to help ensure that advertisers only pay for legitimate clicks.

“The interactive industry has been talking about the question of clicks for a long time,” said Joe Laszlo, director of research at the IAB. “It took time to build a consensus about best practices.”

The guidelines define the technical lifecycle of a click and offer standards by which clicks should be measured and counted; establish stand terms to help streamline click-based media buying; and increase consistency in click measurements for media companies, publishers, ad networks, advertisers and third-party click auditors.

One of those auditors, Click Forensics, was part of the working group of 32 companies, including top search providers such as Google and Yahoo that created the guidelines.

President and CEO Tom Cuthbert said he believes the guidelines are a “good start” for the industry. “IAB has already gotten great commitment from many of the IAB member companies to become accredited to these standards,” he said. “”Our hope is that the entire advertising community will embrace them – the more that commit to them, the better quality traffic advertisers will have available to them to buy.”

Laszlo pointed out that more and more advertisers have become aware of the questions surrounding the reliability of click counts and those buyers of click-based advertising have exerted increased demand as they become savvy about the market. “The industry has reached the point in its process of maturation for these sorts of guidelines to set a baseline for everyone and to give buyers greater assurance that they get what they paid for,” he said.

The guidelines, he explained, set up an industry standard so any vendor an advertiser speaks to will use the same terminology to talk about different stages in the lifecycle of a click. “There are also a very specific set of rules about how you filter the clicks you're counting and how those processes should work,” he said. 

Click Forensics admitted that it believes there are still things missing from the guidelines that might evolve in the future.

“A natural evolution might be a click ID, a unique identifier that passes between the seller and the buyer to make sure they are talking about the same click,” Cuthbert said. For example, he pointed out that Google has taken the lead on this and has click IDs embedded in the clicks that they sell.

“I believe the foundation of these guidelines can and will be built upon in the coming years,” he added.

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