October 24, 2008, 12:00 AM

Click fraud rate for paid search ads remains at around 16% in Q3

There was also little change in the rate of fraudulent clicks on ads Google and Yahoo place on others’ web sites. Across the Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher networks, click fraud was 27.1%, down slightly from the 28.1% click fraud rate from Q3 2007.

The average click fraud rate for paid search advertisers in the third quarter was 16%, down slightly from the 16.2% reported for both the second quarter of this year and the year-ago quarter, according to the Click Fraud Index of web traffic quality auditor Click Forensics Inc. The leading source of fraudulent clicks was botnets – robotic software that generates clicks on ads automatically – which were up 10% over this year’s second quarter to account for an average of 27.6% of click fraud traffic in the third quarter, according to the report.

The data, from more than 4,500 online advertisers, show the average pay-per-click fraud rate on search engine content networks – aggregators of publisher sites on which search engines serve ads, as opposed to ads served on the search engines themselves – remains higher than the overall industry click rate, which includes ads on search engines. Across the Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher networks, it was 27.1%, down slightly from the 27.6% rate reported for the second quarter and the 28.1% average click fraud rate from the year-ago quarter.

In the third quarter, the largest percentage of click fraud originating in countries outside of North America came from Russia, which accounted for 4.9%. France accounted for 4.8% and the United Kingdom 3.5%.

“For the past two quarters the industry average click fraud rates seem to be hovering around the 16% level,” says Tom Cuthbert, president of Click Forensics. “Gains are being made by advertisers taking more action to proactively filter out fraud before it affects online campaigns.” However, he adds, growth in click fraud traffic from botnets continues to rise and merits close monitoring by online advertisers.

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