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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Click fraud on the raise, botnets said to be the cause

Warning: Although I did not intend for it to happen, this post has turned into a bit of a rant.

Acknowledgment: I acknowledge that the blogosphere has differing opinions regarding advertising and blogs, you have your beliefs and I have mine. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, they are just different.

And now for the post...

Cnet is reporting on one of their news blogs that statistics are showing a rise in the number of fraudulent clicks on advertising networks such as Google's AdSense. The overall industry fraud rate is estimated at 15.8% for the second quarter of this year, up from 14.1% a year ago, and the numbers are worse for the big advertising networks like AdSense and Yahoo! Publisher Network, where their rate is estimated at 25.6 percent, up from 21.9 percent for the previous quarter. The increase is being blamed on the rise in the number of botnets which are designed to take over unsuspecting PCs for nefarious reasons, in this case systematically clicking repetitively on ads on websites. The botnet developer either benefits from the revenue generated by the clicks or in many cases, the attack is meant to burn through the advertising budgets of the advertiser without producing any results.

As a blogger who, obviously, is a member of such an advertising network, this is not good news! By no means am I getting rich from the revenue generated by this, in fact it falls somewhere in the "beer money" category, covering the cost of domain registration, and I shutter to think what the remainder translates to on an hourly basis. I'm obviously not in this purely for the money, but it would be great if there was some sort of compensation that fairly rewarded me and the throngs of other bloggers for our time and effort. The ad networks provide some monetary promise and as they say "the cream will raise to the top", meaning those who do a good job of attracting visitors may find themselves in the enviable position of making decent coin from writing about their passions, being comical, insightful, or whatever it is that makes their blog an interesting read. The numbers above are staggering and one would assume that advertisers must be seriously considering whether or not the conversion rate is worth the extra expense brought on by these fraudulent clicks. We all consume advertisements throughout our day via radio, television, print media, and telemarketing, and whether we chose to believe it or not it does have an affect on our purchasing decisions. I'd like to encourage readers of this or any blog to consider having a glance at the ads, don't just dismiss them as noise pollution. If something catches your eye click on it, and read the advertiser's message. With this small gesture you will be compensating the author of the site and creating more meaningful click through rates, maintaining the viability of these services. It only works however if you consume the message of the advertiser, randomly clicking just to serve the interest of the writer further dilutes the value of the click and jeopardizes the system. Advertisers are not expecting that every click results in an immediate sale, although they might like that, they just want to be considered when you make your purchase decision. Likewise I am not expecting that every visit results in an AdSense click, I would like to think that if you visit the site and like what you see both in terms of content and occasionally advertising, that you would click through and read an ad from time to time. In this way all parties benefit. Oh, and keep your security software up to date! If these botnets have no place to reside the process works better anyway.