Google, Yahoo click fraud audits: When will advertisers demand them?

Google , Yahoo do not believe advertisers have the right to independent click fraud audits, but their PR machines want advertisers to believe click fraud is "under control."

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Google and Yahoo PR machines are convincing advertisers that click fraud is “under control.” A search engine telling an advertiser that click fraud is “under control” in its Pay Per Click account without allowing the advertiser to independently audit the engine’s claim, however, is as cavalier as saying, “don’t worry, you got your money’s worth.”

“You got your money’s worth,” the touted ROI justification for all that is search engine advertising, both good and bad, is not sufficient. Advertisers should be demanding their right to get “what they are charged for.”

When advertising with either Google or Yahoo, advertisers capitulate to the search engines’ modus operandi of being at once judge, jury and witness in any questioning of Pay Per Click advertising charges.

When advertising with Google, advertisers agree to accept Google’s own, internal, unverifiable, self-judgements of the “correctness” of invoiced charges. According to Google AdWords FAQ:

By creating an AdWords account, advertisers agree to accept the Google AdWords reporting system and reported metrics as provided in the AdWords program Terms and Conditions. We rely on our own servers' weblogs to supply site traffic data to include in your reports. Similarly, we rely on our data to determine whether a credit for invalid clicks is due.

When advertising with Yahoo, advertisers agree that they will be charged for “all clicks on your listings.” According to Yahoo Search Marketing FAQ:

We developed the Click Protection System to assist us in identifying click fraud and creating a better user experience for our advertisers. While the Advertiser Terms and Conditions agreement provides that you will be charged for all clicks on your listings, we realize that our customers are concerned about click fraud and maintaining customer satisfaction is a top priority. Therefore, even though we are not obligated to, we voluntarily designed the Click Protection System and enhance it. Please note that nothing in these FAQs alters, amends, modifies, revises or supersedes any terms, conditions or limitations in the Advertiser Terms and Conditions, nor increases or alters in any way Yahoo! Search Marketing's liability to its advertisers…

We realize that advertisers are concerned about traffic quality issues such as receiving traffic from unwanted sources or increased amounts of traffic. While we are not legally obligated to address traffic quality issues, our aspiration is to bring good value to our advertisers.

The cold, hard facts of search engine Pay Per Click advertiser agreements trump Google and Yahoo public relations bravado aiming to mollify advertisers into accepting, at face value, search engine claims that invoiced charges are justified.

Google and Yahoo publicly embrace transparency in the name of advertiser satisfaction. At the same time, however, Google and Yahoo do not allow their advertisers to obtain satisfaction via transparent auditing of search engine invoices.

Search engine Pay Per Click charges will never be transparent, unless search engines allow for third party independent auditing of advertiser accounts so that advertisers will actually know if they are getting what they are being charged for, or not.

Google and Yahoo do not believe advertisers have the right to secure independent audits of their invoiced charges.

I reported in my earlier post, "Google, Yahoo on click fraud audits: look to the IAB", on my contacts with both Google and Yahoo yesterday, following my exchange with the two companies at an industry conference earlier this month asking for their commitments to third party, independent click fraud audits:

As with the Google response, Yahoo does not deny, reconfirm or clarify its public, stated commitment to accept third party independent click fraud audits. Yahoo simply references the IAB.

As I said of Google’s response, Yahoo is being disingenuous in inferring the company can not make a principled commitment, without the IAB’s say so, to a Yahoo submission to "third party independent auditing, for click fraud, of Yahoo charges to its advertisers."

At the Search Engine Strategies Conference panel August 8 both Yahoo and Google responded to me in the affirmative when I asked them if their companies would “commit not only to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) ‘Click Measurement Guidelines,’ but to the IAB ‘independent auditing against the complete guidelines’ recommendations as well.”

At present, both companies are using the formation of an IAB committee to conveniently deflect attention away from their unique responsibilities to take leadership roles in backing up their anti-click fraud public relations campaigns with principled commitments to "third party independent auditing, for click fraud, of their charges to advertisers."

It is up to advertisers to defend their own interests and demand that Google and Yahoo allow for third party, independent auditing for click fraud, of their charges to advertisers.

After all, why wouldn't advertisers want to increase ROI even more?

ALSO SEE: "Google's Achilles' Heel: click fraud + PPC inflation"and "Google, Yahoo, MSN to PPC advertisers: keep raising bids, grow our gross margins"

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