Google is taking new steps to address advertisers’ concerns over click fraud, the biggest blight on the business model that has driven the company’s success.
The leading Internet search company, which has been criticised for not giving out information on the size of the problem, has introduced technology that allows individual advertisers to see how many invalid clicks are registered on their ads every day, as well as the rate of invalid clicks to genuine ones.
Click Forensics, a monitoring service for advertisers, said this month a “Click Fraud Index” it had compiled showed bogus clicks on ads run on search-engine web pages increased from 13.7 per cent in the first quarter to 14.1 per cent in the second.
NETexponent, a marketing company, said on Wednesday that the new Google tool showed a rate of less than 5 per cent on campaigns it was running there.
In a blog note, Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google’s product manager for trust and safety, said the technology gave advertisers a much more detailed picture.
He said estimating the size of the problem had been controversial and estimates from third-party consultants who had an incentive to make the problem seem very large, had been “inconsistent and greatly exaggerated.”
But to date, Google has been accused of opacity, although it maintains that revealing how it identifies invalid clicks would open the way for fraudsters to find ways around its filters.
“It’s difficult to know what exactly is going on within the black box of Google’s ads billing system,” said Danny Sullivan on the Search Engine Watch blog on Wednesday.
“The reporting Google is doing will help shed a bit more light into that box.”
More than 99 per cent of Google’s revenues come from advertising. In its pay-per-click model, advertisers bid so much per click for their adverts to appear prominently on search results pages when users type in keywords relevant to their businesses.
One example of click fraud is competitors using robot programs to click on the ads and drain their rivals’ marketing budget.
Google has come under pressure to act from class action lawsuits brought by advertisers and calls for an independent third-party firm to monitor click fraud.
An independent report on click fraud from a court-appointed expert published last week said Google had acted reasonably to combat it, but its model was “inherently vulnerable” to fraud.
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