What is a Click Farm?

In a guest post, Neil Matthews of Fraudulent Clicks defines what a click farm is.

An alarming development in the arena of click fraud has been the rise of the click farm. In this post we define what a click farm is.

The providers of pay per click services such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have devoted substantial resources to combat click fraud. Automated filters remove, at source, most click fraud attempts. In an effort to beat the systems, click fraudsters are turning to low paid developing world workers to simulate actual valid clicks.

The click farm is made up of armies of low paid workers who’s job is to click on links, surf around the target website for a period of time, perhaps signing up for newsletters and then to moving on to another link. It is very hard for an automated filter to analyse this simulated traffic and detect that is it invalid as it has exactly the same profile as a real site visitor.

The virtual gang masters are making money via two methods:

The first method is by hiring out their click farm to competitor fraudsters who want their opposing companies advertising budget eaten up so their ads can appear at the top of the PPC rankings at a lower cost.

If, for example, the cost per click of a keyword is $2.00, and the competitor pays the click farm 5 cents per click, it is easy to see how a few hundred dollars investment in a click farm can cost a competitor a large amount of money.

1000 dollar investment = 20,000 clicks = 40,000 dollars against the competitor.

The second way the gang master can make an ill-gotten income, is though clicking on content network links which they have.

Using a system such as Google’s Adsense, the click farmer creates a website which in turn publish syndicated advertisements from Google. When an end user clicks on the link, the advertiser is charged and the advertising revenue is shared between Google and the click farmer.

In conclusion, click farms are a product of an increasingly global economy where earning a few US dollars a day for relatively easy work is much sought after by third world workers. The people in the developing world making a few dollars a day are not to blame, rather the gang lords organising and collecting the fraudulently obtained money are the real villains. They are not some modern e-Robin Hood, taking from the rich 1st world corporations and giving to the poor, they are organised crime syndicates taking from the rich, throwing a few coppers to the poor and getting rich on the loot.

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.

Comments

  1. Great article Neil, thanks for supplying it :)

  2. Great article, I especially like the analogy with a modern day e-Robin Hood.

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