SES on Click Fraud: Industry collaboration, or vested interests?

Does the search industry care more about protecting advertisers against click fraud, or protecting themselves?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

Yesterday’s SES panel, “Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues,” began with a straight forward review of the legal status of outstanding click fraud lawsuits against leading search engines Google and Yahoo.

When John Slade, Yahoo Search Marketing, addressed the audience, he underscored Yahoo’s committment to the recently announced collaborative Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Click Measurement Guideline initiative.

In “Click fraud: Google, Yahoo collaborate on definitions, what about independent auditors?” I present the IAB initiative:

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced that they are forming an industry-wide Click Measurement Working Group to create a set of Click Measurement Guidelines. These Guidelines, a joint effort with the Media Rating Council (MRC), 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 Click Measurement Working Group is open to all IAB members:

IAB General Membership is open to companies that sell any form of interactive advertising, including online, email, wireless, interactive television or other emerging platforms.

IAB Associate Members are those companies whose business supports the sale of interactive advertising and marketing.

Associate Members enjoy similar benefits to IAB General Members, including involvement in committees, research and events.

All participants in the SES panel, therefore, may be both a member of IAB and a member of the Click Measurement Working Group:

Jeffrey Rohrs, moderator, President, Optiem, LLC

John Slade, Senior Director, Global Product Management Yahoo Search Marketing
Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager, Google Trust & Safety
Paul Vallez, Director of Search Advertising Products, Ask.com
Jessie Stricchiola, Founder, Alchemist Media, Inc.
Lori Weiman, Director KeywordMax
Tom Cuthbert, President & CEO, Click Forensics

When Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google Trust & Safety, addressed the audience, he unveiled a strategic Google assault against the work of third party click fraud consultants such as panelists Alchemist Media, KeywordMax, Click Foresnsics…

Apparently timed to correspond with the SES panel, Ghosemajumder announced his posting at the Google blog of a Google engineers’ penned “Troubling findings on how some third parties detect click fraud. "The Google “findings” purport to expose the “work of several click fraud consultants”:

fictitious clicks: events which are reported as fraudulent, but are never recorded or charged as ad clicks by Google.

Ghosemajumder proceeded to detail Google engineers’ analysis that “widely quoted estimates of the size of the click fraud problem are exaggerated.”

Panel members, and targets of the strategic Google assault, seemed to feel ambushed and expressed dismay that they were not advised of the Google “findings,” or alerted to Ghosemajumder’s blog post.

When panelist Jessie C. Stricchiola, President, Alchemist Media, Inc., addressed the audience, she repeatedly stressed the need for advertisers to stay focused on the reality of the click fraud problem. She has advised:

Some important (and often overlooked) facts regarding the click fraud issue:

1.) Both the search engines and advertisers agree that click fraud exists.
2.) Both the search engines and advertisers agree that advertisers should not be billed for fraudulent click activity (or invalid clicks).
3.) The search engines have for years told advertisers that their accounts are protected, that the search engines have "systems in place" to protect advertisers from click fraud.
4.) More recently, the search engines have begun to claim that they in fact are not able to detect as much click fraud (or invalid click activity) as they could be detecting because they don't have access to advertiser data.

The questions, then, become:
- What constitutes a fraudulent click?
- What (and whose) data is used in scoring a click as "fraudulent" or "invalid"?
- When will the search engines admit they cannot address this problem alone?

In “Click Fraud Breaking News: “Google, Yahoo commit to independent click fraud audits,” I report on my questioning of Google and Yahoo during the Q & A:

I asked John Slade, Yahoo Search Marketing, and Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google Trust & Safety, to commit to upholding the Interactive Advertising Bureau “auditing and certification recommendations” under development in conjunction with the IAB Click Measurement Guideline initiative…

Both John Slade, Yahoo, and Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google, committed to accept third party independent click fraud audits.

When I asked for a timeline for initiating the third party independent click fraud audits, John Slade indicated such audits would follow the development of the Click Measurement Guidelines.


Editorial standards