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Google fights back against click claims.

Google is fighting back against what it says are exaggerations in industry estimates of click fraud in its bread-and-butter pay-per-click advertising system.

In a recent report the search giant disputes claims made by third-party companies that sell services designed to combat fraudulent clicks--clicks that aren't from legitimate Web surfers seeking information from a given ad. Those companies have estimated that the proportion of advertisers paying for fraudulent clicks is as high as 35 percent. But in a report titled "How Fictitious Clicks Occur in Third-Party Click Fraud Audit Reports," Google says the figures are often inflated because the companies are counting clicks that were never made on Google AdWords advertisements.

For example, a single AdWords click may appear as five clicks in some reports, leading to the reporting of five fraudulent clicks.

Counting of fictitious clicks can happen when a Web surfer browses more deeply into an advertiser's site and then hits the back button, presses the browser reload button on the landing page or opens a new browser window, causing a reload of the landing page.

Part of the problem with determining an accurate click fraud rate is that auditors need to see both the traffic conversion data at the Web site and at the search engine company, which Google doesn't provide. A judge has given final approval to a $90 million settlement of a click fraud lawsuit filed against Google, and a settlement between Yahoo and advertisers is pending. The Google and Yahoo representatives said they kick Web sites off their ad networks if they violate the ethics policies.

Lori Weiman, director of KeywordMax, said that of a small group of customers, her firm found estimates of click fraud in the 8 percent to 10 percent range, but rates as high as 28 percent existed on the extreme end. KeywordMax data was not included in the Google report.
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Title Annotation:Security
Publication:Database and Network Journal
Date:Aug 1, 2006
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