10 to 15 percent of clicks likely fraudulent: study

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A Fair Isaac Corp. study suggests that fraudulent clicks on Google, Yahoo and other online marketing vehicles are most likely occurring more than the network operators admit.

The fraud occurs when automated computer programs or scam artists repeatedly click on ad links with no intention of buying anything.

"These findings suggest that 10 percent to 15 percent of advertiser's search spend end up in the hands of those exploiting their marketing initiatives," said Daniel Yomtobian, CEO of ABCSearch.com in Sherman Oaks, CA. "Click fraud is not being resolved and instead is suppressed with credits and make-goods.

"There is no recourse for fraudsters so there is really no reason to scale back on the fraud," Mr. Yomtobian said. "If networks were able to identify click fraud and shut it down rather than crediting the advertiser, click fraud rates would drop. Click fraud is out there and it is up to the networks to remove it before it reaches the advertiser."

The study is being presented at a Fair Isaac conference in San Francisco.

Those behind click fraud are usually trying to make more money from the ads appearing on their own Web sites or trying to hurt their competitors.

For networks that do not actively stop click fraud before reaching the ad this means advertisers must be more vigilant about the traffic they are receiving.

"Research what click fraud security the search network you are buying from has before working with them," Mr. Yomtobian said. "Research how long has it been around. Has it been audited by a third party?"

"Many search networks claim to have click-fraud security when it's just a multiple IP filter and not real prevention technology," he said. "Additionally, using analytic tools to monitor delivered traffic quality would be helpful for the advertiser.

"Lastly, advertisers need to be smarter about what traffic sources reach their ads," he said. "Some networks allow for advertisers to optimize some traffic sources out. This is very useful in keeping fraud away from their ads and money in their pocket."

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