Similar to the last mainstream media click fraud “expose” offered up by Business Week (see my “PR the antidote to click fraud?”), the Washington Post leads with a sensationalist headline and features lurid stories of illicit scam artists.
While mainstream media pique reader interest with underworld tales, I, at this Digital Micro-Markets Blog, have been seeking to help solve the problem by alerting search advertisers to what they can do to best defend their interests.
Not surprisingly, advertisers have a simple, but powerful weapon at their disposal, their search advertising budgets.
In “Google, Yahoo click fraud audits: When will advertisers demand them?” I indicate that while the search engines say they work diligently so that click fraud is “under control,” advertisers currently have little more than the engines’ words for proof:
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.'
I recently interviewed Greg Stuart, President & CEO, Interactive Advertising Bureau, IAB, (see “Interactive Advertising Bureau CEO on click fraud in ‘Real Deal’ exclusive interview”), and George Ivie, Executive Director & CEO, Media Rating Council, MRC, (see “Media Rating Council: Click audits support advertiser ‘Bill of Rights’) who are overseeing the joint IAB-MRC industry-wide Click Measurement Working Group to create a set of Click Measurement Guidelines.
According to the IAB:
These Guidelines…will provide the detailed definition of a "click" and the standard against which clicks are measured and counted including the identification of invalid clicks and/or fraudulent clicks.
Member companies who have confirmed their participation in this Working Group thus far include: Ask.com, Google, LookSmart, Microsoft Corp., Yahoo!, and others.
The IAB is steadfast in its commitment to the principles of transparency and industry oversight for the measurement of any aspect of Interactive media. The Click Measurement Guidelines will also outline an industry driven auditing and certification recommendation for any organization involved in performance based marketing like search engines, ad networks, third party ad servers or any company that counts clicks as a part of the media currency.”
Stuart stressed to me the importance of the prospective guidelines to advertiser confidence in search advertising:
Click Measurement Guidelines will provide consistency in measurement.
When you pay for a click you will know you are paying for the same damn thing wherever you buy it. Now, there is no ability for that, without the guidelines
Stuart also underscored the important role advertisers can play in assuring that search engines not only adopt the guidelines, but commit to independent auditing against the complete guidelines as well.
I asked Stuart:
The Click Measurement Guidelines will also outline an industry driven auditing and certification recommendation, according to the IAB press release announcing the Click Measurement Guidelines workgroup. The IAB has indicated that independent auditing against the complete guidelines should provide advertisers with added security for their internet advertising investment. Are IAB member organization independent audits against the complete guidelines essential for meaningful implementations of the Click Measurement Guidelines?
The group has not formally endorsed audits yet, but audits are likely. The group signed off on the press release.
Yes, audits are essential.
The work we do serves two purposes: 1) provide technical understanding so we can make judgments about data and 2) a psychological or comfort factor, for more details to deal with the perceptual problem.
The IAB is a strong believer that anyone that can impact revenues should have transparent measurement guidelines with an auditing and certification process.
Agencies and marketers are important to the process, they have to let their providers know about their needs as customers, about needs for auditing and certification.
There is some sort of auditing process in place for all media.
Ivie has seconded IAB’s support for independent audits against the complete guidelines:
I applaud the IAB for continuing to take a leadership role in the creation of Measurement Guidelines across all platforms of the Interactive medium. Agencies and marketers should feel assured that the Interactive industry is striving for increased reliability and consistency through the guideline-setting process and through their support for audits.
Ivie likens the MRC and IAB joint effort to establish click measurement standards and mechanisms for independent auditing against the measurement guidelines as the development of a “Bill of Rights” for the interactive industry guaranteeing all parties transparency and accountability.
Last August, in "Google, Yahoo click fraud audits: When will advertisers demand them?" I had the same advice for 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.
I put forth that:
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.
I concluded: "After all, why wouldn’t advertisers want to increase ROI even more?"