Can Yahoo 'stay ahead' of click fraud?

Where is Yahoo's promised 'additional transparency to advertisers' on click fraud?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

In “Google, Yahoo on click fraud audits: look to the IAB” I recount my exchange with Google and Yahoo, during the click fraud panel at Search Engine Strategies conference last August, asking the companies to 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.


After the conference I followed up with presenters Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google, and John Slade, Yahoo.


I had the opportunity to talk at length with Ghosemajumder in September, as I present in “Google ‘gift’ to advertisers: ‘Free’ Google employee clicks.” and discuss in “Google and click fraud: As wholesome as milk?


Yahoo declined to make Slade available. A Yahoo spokesperson wrote to me in August:


Your questions are very relevant, but I’m concerned that it may be premature for us to answer with specifics about auditing before the industry standards and guidelines we’re working on with the IAB are more concrete. Timing for that is still being developed, but as John said during his panel, many of us in the industry are very eager to get such standards in place.


We are absolutely committed to providing additional transparency to advertisers and working more closely with our industry peers to combat click fraud, so you’ll be hearing more from us on this front over the coming months.


We heard from Yahoo and Slade “on this front” last week, at Yodel Anectodal, in a post entitled “Staying ahead of click fraud”:


Click fraud has been in the spotlight quite a bit in the last six months. Click fraud is generally considered to be ‘clicks made with bad faith with the sole purpose of generating a charge to the advertiser with zero possibility of a legitimate site visit or transaction occurring.’


SLADE: We’re more than happy to participate in this discussion because we firmly believe that open communication - along with real commitment - is the best way this industry can get ahead of the click fraud issue.


Yahoo’s “open communication” and “real commitment” put forth continues a PR battle against click fraud but does not include the promised “additional transparency to advertisers”:


SLADE: Yahoo! agrees that click fraud is a serious challenge…I think I speak on behalf of my colleagues at Google, MSN, Ask.com and others when I say that click fraud does nothing but erode the trust that businesses have in our medium, and we want to put a stop to it. Click fraud isn’t going to be solved by any one company and it sure as heck isn’t going to be addressed with a single solution. Tracking, filtering, standards or lawsuits alone aren’t the answer.


Last June, Yahoo made a public commitment to “provide more clarity about our click protection efforts and significantly more transparency to advertisers in the future” as part of a settlement of a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Checkmate Strategic Group, Inc. Yahoo’s promised ongoing anti-click fraud actions include:


• Annual Access to CTP System and Team: To ensure that the advertising community has ongoing visibility into our Clickthrough Protection system, Yahoo! will host a panel of individual advertisers at our CTP headquarters once a year. During these visits, we will allow the advertisers to review our systems, meet with the CTP team and provide feedback on how we can continue to enhance our approach to fighting click fraud.


• Additional Traffic Quality Refund Detail: To provide advertisers with more clarity around refunds for click fraud and other traffic quality issues, Yahoo! will include additional detail in advertiser refund notices.


I put forth last June “If Yahoo’s public commitment to prevent, identify and redress click fraud problems is followed by real, meaningful action, it will provide Yahoo with a valuable, differentiating advantage over Google in their ongoing competitive battle.”


The Yodel Anectodal first blog post of 2007 concerning click fraud does not provide details of “real, meaningful action.”


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