Experts say issue of click fraud not improving

Industry watchers at Click Forensics say that companies running major online ad networks haven't lived up to their promises to better police against fraudulent traffic

Google disputes Click Forensics' figures

Yahoo representatives didn't immediately return calls seeking comment on the Click Forensics report, but Google officials countered that Click Forensics' estimates don't accurately represent the company's own click fraud statistics.

While Click Forensics has its 4,000 partners, the search giant claims to view a far broader and detailed swath of ad traffic, giving it a more comprehensive perspective. Google has consistently questioned the legitimacy of Click Forensics' figures since the company began issuing its reports in 2006.

"These estimates have never reflected the invalid click rates we see at Google; Click Forensics has consistently been one of the highest estimates our there with numerous serious methodology problems, and, as such, we rarely get asked about them these day," said Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for the Trust & Safety group at Google.

Ghosemajumder said that Google offers "significantly more transparency" into its click fraud efforts and provides more traffic quality tools for advertisers than any of its rivals.

"We plan to do even more in the future," he said.

Among the measures that Google has employed to help advertisers thwart click fraud were the launch of new IP exclusion and Placement Performance Reports in June, tools that Ghosemajumder labeled as unique features in the industry.

The IP exclusion tool is meant to allow advertisers to specify IP addresses they want to avoid with their ads and builds on the site exclusion feature the company introduced in 2005, which allows advertisers to prohibit specific URLs from showing their content.

The Placement Performance Reports are designed to give advertisers the ability to view which sites are performing the best among those displaying their content, which specifically arms the companies with the opportunity to use the site exclusion and site targeting tools drive out any apparent fraud, Google said.

In August, the search giant also launched an Ad Traffic Quality Resource Center, which is meant to offer a single place where advertisers can access all of Google's click fraud resources.

Some smaller search providers believe that they can begin winning advertisers' business away from their larger rivals by providing stronger methods of fighting click fraud.

Daniel Yomtobian, chief executive of ABCSearch, said that his company has begun luring large, well-known advertisers like VeriSign away from other venues with a tool dubbed ClickShield, which promises to profile advertising affiliate behavior to give its customers better insight into just how their content is being distributed.

Yomtobian points out that Click Defense, an online marketing firm that offers independent click fraud detection services, recently charted his company's traffic as having less than 5 percent fraudulent ad hits.

"As an industry we can't burden the advertisers and can't burden the users, as ad networks we all need to do a better job and police affiliates to drive down fraud," he said. "A lot of our competitors talk about their technologies to fight this problem, but a lot of that work is merely basic click fraud-blocking; by going above and beyond, we feel that we can grow our business based on delivery of a lower rate of unwanted traffic."

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