Online retailers and other marketers have been concerned about click fraud-the practice by which unscrupulous marketers click on competitors’ links in search engines to burn up a company’s ad budget and drop them out of the search rankings. Now they can start to worry about impression fraud as a result of Google Inc.’s new CPM advertising program, marketing companies warn.
Advertisers on Google affiliate sites bid on premium ad space based on the number of times visitors come to a specific page. As with clicks, the contract is for a predetermined number of impressions. Once the impressions are exhausted, the ad falls off Google’s display list, bumping up the position of an ad placed by a competitor who has paid less, unless the advertiser renews the contract.
Because so much browsing takes place on the web, false ad impressions-that is, those generated by software programmed to dial up an affiliate web site featuring a specific ad-are considered harder to detect than false click-throughs, in which the program clicks on an ad that links the visitor to an Internet retailer’s web site. These hits generate neither sales nor tours of the retailer’s web site.
“There are going to be some unscrupulous people that will figure out how to generate faulty traffic on page turns and drive up the cost of CPM advertising on Google,” predicts Mike Yavonditte, CEO of new York-based Quigo Technologies Inc. “Click fraud is a problem that is always here; with CPM it will just take a different form. It is a never-ending game of cat and mouse.”
Click-through fraud represents 15% to 20% of pay-per-click ad traffic on average, according to Lisa Wehr, CEO of Lake Leelanau, MI-based search engine marketing company Oneupweb. “Advertisers are going to have to work harder to outmaneuver fraudsters when it comes to selecting key search words,” she says.
One way advertisers can counter click fraud is to perform exacting keyword analysis of the brand, web site or product they wish to promote prior to buying their ad space. The more targeted and creative the keyword strategies used to formulate the cost of impression-based advertising, the better the chance to generate legitimate traffic.
“Success is going to come down to perfecting keyword research,” says Danielle Leitch, vice president of marketing and analysis for Boca Raton, FL-based MoreVisibility.com. “The more competitive the keyword, the harder it will be to hold a position, whether it is an impression or text ad. The smarter the advertiser, the more effectively they will spend their ad dollars.”