June 2, 2005, 12:00 AM

Converting to Thousands

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The fact that CPM ads will be based on bids gives some marketers the same concerns about click fraud on CPM ads as they have on cost-per-click ads. Click fraud is a scam used by unscrupulous marketers to click on competitors’ links in search engines to burn up a company’s ad budget and drop them out of the search rankings.

Cat-and-mouse

Search marketing executives argue that impression-based fraud is harder to track, because the software that coordinates the attack need only to go to the site on which the ad appears. In comparison, software perpetrating click-through fraud opens a link within an Internet retailer’s ad that transports consumers to the retailer’s web site. Those clicks generate neither sales nor tours of the retailer’s web site. “There are always going to be people looking for ways around the system to gain an advantage,” says Lisa Wehr, CEO of Lake Leelanau, Mich.-based search engine marketing company Oneupweb.

Google says it has dedicated staff and technology to monitor click fraud, and claims that so far, the impact of click fraud has been minimal on its advertising clients. Regardless, impression fraud is a problem with which search engine marketing executives expect to contend. “It is a never-ending game of cat and mouse,” says Quigo Technologies’ Yavonditte.

While that is true, how actively fraudsters target Google’s CPM advertisers won’t be known until advertisers buy into the plan. If early results do not look promising, there is the chance brand-oriented advertisers will use the outlet sparingly, thus relegating CPM to being just another Google offering. “Google plays with new ideas all the time,” says Wehr, who points to Google’s online shopping guide Froogle as an example of several much hyped additions to Google’s business that have not excited users.

“If the usage is not there, Google does not put much behind it,” she continues. “People notice when Google sneezes, but CPM is still in beta.”

So until Google rolls out the program and begins sharing actual results with advertisers, there is no way to know whether CPM advertising is such a visionary strategy for Google that it will attract huge revenues from advertisers currently on the sidelines or just another pit stop along the way in Google’s never ending odyssey to expand its business.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Ill.-based freelance writer

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