What Exactly Is Click Fraud?

Click fraud is a relatively new phenomenon, made possible by the advent of publisher networks on the internet.

The major players – google and yahoo – have their own context based advertising systems.

The principle of context based advertising is that publishers sign up and pay for keywords which then appear on search results and web pages with related content.

The positioning in the SERPS (search engine results pages) and the type of sites the ads appear on vary according to how much the publisher wishes to “bid” on their chosen keyword or phrase.

Sounds like an ideal way for an advertiser to reach their target audience doesn’t it?

Well.. yes and no.

Of course, the genuine clicks that this type of advertising attracts will be from exactly the right type of audience to buy the related product or service available on the site they are redirected to.

However, the threat of click fraud is ever present.

There are a couple of main reasons why someone would want to click on your ads, thereby making you pay for the click, despite having no interest in your product or service –

  • Click Fraud by Competitors

A competitor stands to gain if your advertising budget is depleted by useless click-throughs.

There have been many incidents where advertisers have tracked where their clicks have come from and have discovered the majority have been from one ip address – that of a business competitor.

  • Click Fraud by Web Site Owners

Context based advertising appears not only on the SERPS but on related web pages too.

With Google, for example, their adsense code can be placed on nigh on any site on the internet.

When an adsense ad is clicked, the amount paid by the advertiser is split between Google and the owner of the website that the adsense was on.

Therefore it can be very tempting for website owners to click on the adsense on their own sites, or get a friend or family member to do it for them.

Of course, Google, amongst others, is wise to this and will eventually catch on to the persistent click fraudsters.

However, it takes time, and there will undoubtedly be some element of click fraud that will always go unnoticed and unrefunded.

With independant studies showing the level of fraudulent clicks online to be anywhere between 2% and 50% of all clicks, it can be a potentially expensive way to gain exposure to your business.

In recent years, terms such as “mesothelioma” were costing around $70 per click – imagine if that was you paying that amount every time a greedy webmaster wanted to earn more cash by fraudulently clicking your ads on their website!!

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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