Click fraud - here we go again

Click fraud - here we go again

Summary: This is a problem that can be solved. All that's needed is a little accountability.

TOPICS: Google

Yet another piece on  click fraud, this time from Businessweek – which of course is an “old medium” itself.  What amazes me is the elephant in the room: This is not an intractable problem. (Ask me about intractable: I just came back from the Middle East!)

Wherever the money flows, so does the information.  People can’t get paid without an arrangement with someone.  Yes, the miracle of the Internet is the ability to do so many things in an automated way, and of course there’s a chain of distribution and marketing partners and whatnot between Google and Yahoo! and the people who actually post the ads… 

But, just as with spyware, this thing won’t get cleaned up until the advertisers – the ones who inject the money into the system in the first place - start requiring more accountability from their partners, starting with Google and Yahoo! and ending where the money ends.   As a collection agent, Google and Yahoo! may not really care…until they are told to care.

So perhaps this story from Businessweek is just a sign of the market beginning to work: Advertisers will start to notice, their bosses and shareholders will start to complain, and marketers will get more specific in their contracts about what kinds of sites their ads can appear on.  And Google, Yahoo! et al. may  start to wield their market power on behalf of their advertisers. 

All it takes is better record-keeping and effective know-your-partner rules.  Is this some kind of Sarbanes-Oxley for the Web advertising business? 

For the record, I think SOX rule are overbroad where regular business is concerned. 

But in the click-through business as in spyware, where there’s a clear problem, the overhead  of keeping the system clean is better than the “fraud tax” we pay now.  The overhead of leaving the system dirty rewards the worst of its players.

Topic: Google

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  • Maybe contracts are already specific enough

    Great post.

    There's a lot I can immediately agree with -- the know-your-partner idea, the fraud tax, etc. Almost all of your piece, in fact.

    But I wonder whether the contracts actually need to get much more specific, as you suggest when you write "marketers will get more specific in their contracts about what kinds of sites their ads can appear on." After reviewing the relevant promises, it seems to me that they're already quite specific. What I believe is needed is real effort at compliance, more so than improved contracts.

    For quotes from Yahoo's relevant contractual promises, and specific allegations of how those promises have been breached, see . That's the web site associated with litigation in which I am co-counsel, claiming that Yahoo's "syndication fraud" practices placed advertisers' ads into noxious areas (spyware, typosquatting, etc.) in violation of actual (existing, current, non-speculative) contract duties.

    Ben Edelman
    • spyware, typosquatting