Friday, May 25, 2007

Click Fraud

Most people think of click fraud as an internet crime in
pay per click advertising caused buy a person, automated
script, or computer program imitates a legitimate user
by clicking on an ad, for the purpose of generating an
expense to the advertiser without having actual interest
in the target of the ad's link. However, there are several
different types of pay per click fraud:
  • competitors clicking on your search ads
  • site owners clicking on ads on their site (content click fraud)
  • your content ads being shown to irrelevant traffic
Competitors Search Click.

Search ads are those ads that are on the search engine
results of Google (or Yahoo) and their respective
search partners (AOL and so on). If there is click
fraud here, you either must accuse Google of the fraud
or your competitors. These are the only ones with motivation.
Even though I don't buy the don't be evil slogan, Google
is making way to much money to risk their entire business on
an incremental dollar. This leaves your competitors...who
may not have either the profitability or slogan of Google.

Competitors have often been accused of clicking on each
others ads to burn through their budgets. If you can force
your competitor to spend his advertising budget on false
traffic (you!) then you spend less getting the
real traffic (clients).

There are several reasons why this is not as prevalent as
you might think. One is , Google will catch the most obvious
click fraud, of one person on one computer (IP address) clicking
the same text adv over and over again. This approach doesn't
work, as it is too easy to recognize multiple clicks from one IP
as being highly unusual and fraudulent.

There are more sophisticated approaches , but they involve
more people...programmers and the more people involved
the more likely to get caught (in spite of conspiracy theorists
need to believe secrets are easy to keep). There is also
a cost of time and effort of programming to make programs
sophisticated enough (to show clicks coming from many different
IPs) to avoid detection that makes the projects less likely.
When you increase the click through rate through fraud you
are by definition creating a higher click through rate for those
ads and that site. This is why they can be caught.

Content click fraud

The more common is the use of programs designed to click
on ads and appear to be from multiple IPs and at natural
times of the day. These programs are used when the
perpetrator owns the sites and earns the revenue directly
from the ads clicked. So if I were to employ such a program
it would click on the ads on this page more than normal
and I would get the check.

In my experience both Google and Yahoo catch many
obvious click frauds and credited our clients accounts quickly.
We monitor our clients ads and traffic to catch the most
blatant abuses of this by noticing unusually high click-thru

To catch unusual activity for some keywords, the best
defense is an accurate record and knowledge of your
cost per conversion (sale) should be. When you see a large
increase in the number of clicks and no increase in
conversions you know you have a problem. Armed with
this information both search engines are prepared to
analyze and refund your advertising dollars. This is too
important an issue to be ignored and to their credit
they don't.

Irrelevant Content Fraud

The final type of click fraud I am calling fraud, but that may be too
strong, is really irrelevant adv placement. With Google supplying
ads for MySpace you must confirm your product is relevant
to that traffic. Their traffic is so massive that when a Medbanner
clients adv appeared there, the traffic and the adv cost for
that keyword went through the roof.

The service advertised was for a charity that receives car donations
and gives to those in need, this is not relevant for the young crowd
of MySpace.

The problem here is that neither Google nor Yahoo have allowed
the normal connection between the advertiser and the publisher.
The advertiser has only the smallest amount of control over where
his ads show. This is not the norm of the advertising world. This is
starting to change now, but you must make the effort and in some
cases your only choice is to advertise or not advertise.

Click fraud is real and there are a number of companies that have
software and services created to track and monitor this. Finally,
the companies with the most to risk and the greatest amount of
assets to throw at this problem are Google and Yahoo. Although
hackers will continue to think of new ways to game the system,
there is too much at risk for Google to be complacent.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Selecting Keywords

Keywords are those words or phrases that you think
people might use to search for your product or service.
Both Google and Yahoo give you ample tools to
help you determine which phrases might be best for you.
There are several issues to deal with when selecting
  1. Relevance
  2. Enough traffic
  3. Too much traffic
Relevance means that these words must be in line with
the content of your site. Many years ago you could
just load your page with a massive repetition of
keywords and you would get traffic from any search
engine, this was preGoogle.

With the Yahoo keyword tool you are able to find out
if anyone actually uses the keywords you have selected.
It also gives you many variations of your phrase and
the number of queries last month for those phrases.
With this tool you can tell if there is enough traffic
(or any traffic) for your phrase to be worth the effort
of targeting your site.

On the other hand, if your phrase has a tremendous
amount of traffic, there may be so much competition
for it that you will never rank well.

You need to strike a balance of enough and too much
traffic. Once you arrange your site it will take time
for you to see results. For now MSN seems to respond
most quickly, then Google and Yahoo. With Google
the higher your PageRank the faster you will see
changes in your rank for any given relevant keyword.

The next steps is to develop as extensive a list of keywords.
If you are doing this for a pay per click campaign you want it
to be as large as possible. You will find that most of your
traffic will come from a few obvious phrases. You should
also be able to get traffic from less used and there for less
competitive terms. If you are developing this list for
your website you need provide content to back up your
keywords, so you should try to stay more with the
most commonly used phrases for your product/service.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Keyword bidding

Our strategy has been to maintain the number one position for
our keyword phrase. We do not want to be considered #2.
What is the advantage to being in any other position?

If your objective is to maximize traffic then you are
right, the top position is the only place to be. The
number one position generates the highest percentage
clicks. Each subsequent position (2,3 and so on)
generates a lower and lower number of clicks.

However, if you are trying to generate sales or a conversion
of any kind, you want to maximize sales not traffic. This
is, of course, tracked by Googles' conversion code. This code,
obtained from your account, is placed on the thank you page
that is only displayed after your sale (or conversion).

Once in place the conversion code counts only those views
that have completed that transaction at your site or
conversion. Now Google can divide your total cost of
advertising by the number or conversions and give
you a cost per conversion. Now you know what ads are
actually generating sales and whether it is profitable or not.
This calculation of cost per conversion paints a different
picture than cost per click.

Cost per conversion
shows you not only what text ads are
generating your sales but gives your strategy for the
position you should bid for. If you know how much you
are able to pay per sale for advertising, then you know
whether you can afford the number one position or not.

The problem with the number one position for a given
keyword is that although it generates the most traffic,
it often can generate a higher percentage of less serious
viewers as well. This means your percentage of
sales per clicks should go down as your traffic goes up
for the higher positions and higher cost per click of your

This whole process is of course taking place in an dynamic
environment of competitive bidding, but the overall relationships
of conversions, cost per click and position stay the same.
Simply staying with the number one position without tracking
conversions is missing the real value of ppc management.
Further, by tracking conversions you are able to venture into
keywords that are more generic. If you track conversions you
are constantly aware of the true value of all of your traffic.
Let conversions determine your strategy, not ego.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Duplicate Content

I had asked google adsense if it was OK to put up sites which substantially mirrored partial content from our main site. There are currently quite a few of them, using the .info domain, etc. It was OK with adsense, but maybe now it is NOT ok with google search.

Duplicate content is duplicate content. A search engine wants only
to display unique content and the original source of that content.
If you have some repetition of content for usabilities sate that
should not be a problem. However, Google in particular will, at
the least, place your content in Supplemental Results, which means
it is indexed, but will rarely direct anyone to it.

For duplicate content the polite thing to do is to place no index
no follow tags on the pages or disallow in the robots file. This
way you can have whatever content on your site you want without
concern for penalties.

To see what I am talking about just query your URL at Google and you will see the list of pages indexed
of your site. If you see something like this:

The top line is taken from the title of your site ...
The descprition of your site is here often taken from the
meta description or from the first couple of lines of your site... - 12k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

The result tells you this is in Supplemental Results. If you
have recently seen many pages moved into supplemental results
it may just be that Google is evaluating the links that point
to these pages as much as before. Low PageRank is apparently
the major cause of Supplemental Results. See Matt
Cutts comments.

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