Optimism Grows in Fighting Click Fraud

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Search marketers assemble this week in San Jose, CA -- less than a month after meeting in Miami -- to attend Search Engine Strategies, the show where experts show tricks for clicks.

SES San Jose has gained a reputation for introducing concepts and ideas in search engine marketing and optimization to marketers keen to bone up on the most successful form of online advertising.

"The San Jose show is all about new ideas, new deals and relationship building," said Marc Barach, chief marketing officer of Ingenio, San Francisco. "The show content is always provocative: Social search, click fraud prevention and demographic targeting are all hot topics. Between our booth and our speaking obligations, we anticipate a busy and productive week."

The continuing focus on click fraud creates an industry mood of cautious optimism, Mr. Barach said. Major players have done well in offering new data and processes to help advertisers understand and deal with fraud risk.

"While click fraud will never be completely eliminated, the industry is now poised to build a stronger relationship with advertisers who foster trust and confidence -- a critical step in strengthening the overall market," he said. "Being direct, honest and transparent is the way to accomplish this, and that's the direction our industry is headed in."

Mr. Barach is not the only one concerned with click fraud.

"There's a lot of talk about click fraud, but when will a clear standard emerge as to what constitutes fraud?" said John Rodkin, CEO of ClickShift, San Bruno, CA. "If a Ford employee clicks on a GM ad, that's probably not fraud. But some people think it is. Where's the line? Will the issue slow people from advertising?"

It's all about keeping up with the market, Mr. Rodkin said. New platforms, products and features are key for making it simple and more lucrative for marketers to spend money online. Courting new advertisers is vital.

"The era of user-generated content, whether it be video, blogs or profile pages, is amongst us," said Chrysi Philalithes, vice president of global marketing and communication at Miva, New York.

"This trend has given way to a new need, the need to monetize the content," she said. "To address this need, new advertiser models that are user generated and non-obtrusive will, I believe, increase in popularity; for example, contextual in-line advertising solutions and ads in online videos."

Clearly, SEM has grown in importance to marketers battling for consumer attention and business in an area where controls have shifted to the customer.

"I am seeing SEM becoming an increasingly important part of marketers' budgets, almost moving to the forefront for some," said Ellen Siminoff, CEO of Efficient Frontier, Mountain View, CA. "Specifically with our customers, they are reaping the rewards of our analytical portfolio management approach to predicting what combinations of keywords will deliver the optimal ROI for the spend."

Traditional ad agencies and large corporate marketers are taking notice of the targeted reach that paid search advertising offers along with the ability to measure ROI for an ad campaign more effectively, she said.

"I believe that the traditional ad agencies will continue to recognize the potential of SEM and start partnering with leading SEM agencies to integrate SEM with offline ad strategies," she said.

Vertical search has grown in importance as well, Ms. Siminoff said.

"The verticals are giving marketers a more focused customer entry point with which to reach qualified customers that match their target demographics," she said.

"The valuable demographic profiles and high income brackets of verticals such as finance appeal not only to financial product and service companies, but also to high-end electronics, automobile and other companies where marketers want to reach people with the propensity and ability to spend significant amounts of money," she said.

Expect all these issues to be front and center at SES San Jose, which typically attracts thousands of delegations from across the country. However, not everyone is a fan of SES.

"SES San Jose, aside from people building industry relationships and fawning over the Google party, not much happens at SES for search vendors," said Lisa Wehr, CEO of Oneupweb, Lake Leelanau, MI. "The heyday is over. It's become more of a networking get-together for DIY'ers and a podium for product announcements."

The search engine marketing industry's mood is quiet, Ms. Wehr said. She was disappointed that nothing is new, and she hinted that Oneupweb was about to shake things up.

"It seems to me that the consolidation of search marketing companies has happened, and now those companies you used to hear from have nothing significant to say because they've lost that entrepreneurial edge," Ms. Wehr said. "Now they're just keeping shop."

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