Courts and Click Fraud

The story isn’t new, but I’ve been away for a while and I wanted to comment on this.

On the topic of the click fraud lawsuit.

An interesting situation and one that I’ll be watching closely. It’s a shame really that it’s come to this. My biggest concern is that this will lead to even more walls going up between the engines and advertisers (depending of course, on how this all shakes out). In my experience, the engines are very protective of their processes. “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain” and all that fun stuff. I realize they don’t want anyone to start playing games with the systems, but at some point they’ve at least got to crack the door.

I think that what the majority of PAYING customers want is transparency. I’m not interested in seeing where the poor traffic comes from for the sake of cutting off the spend. I want to know where the bad traffic is so I can funnel my budget away from that and towards performers. Stands to reason that if I’m getting better traffic, thus better conversions, I’ll have more budget for my ad campaign. More budget for me means better gains for the engine. I’m happy, the engine continues to get rich, skip to my loo my darlin’!

I know that my position is one shared across the industry. Especially by those of us who advise and counsel our clients on how to best utilize the advertising channels the search engines provide. No matter how many times we say it, or how many of us say it, the engines still give the impression that they believe this industry (Search Marketing) is after them.

Hardly.

All we are after is positive return for our clients. I don’t care which engine is making me money, so long as they are making me money. My clients largely don’t care either. They want return. If we (and I’m going to include the engines in that ‘we’), can show companies that PPC will provide positive return as an effective measurable ad channel, why wouldn’t the spends increase? If, on the other hand, there is very little accountability from an ad channel, there is no reason for me or my clients to have confidence that the money is being spent wisely.

I understand that there will be some who immediately turn the argument that says, “you must track, and if the ROI is positive, you continue”. This is bigger than that. I agree 100% that you must track any and all online campaigns. I would add to that though, you should be given every opportunity to maximize that spend.

The dream for transparency goes beyond just finding and stopping click fraud. This also has bearing on the whole issue of Trademarks and trademark protection. It’s clear that the PPC engines hope that trademark owners will take it upon themselves to guard against infringement. The whole attitude seems to be “it’s not us, so please don’t talk to us anymore”. At the same time, they’ve done nothing to help trademark owners be able to ascertain which domains are infringing.

Yes, proving trademark infringement is an unruly process. It’s difficult and cases aren’t too often won. But if the engine wants nothing to do with any of it, why do they care how hard a case is to win? All they need to do is help trademark owners know who is using the trademarks as ad triggers. Nothing more.

I’m probably living in a dream world right now. Ahh, but hope springs eternal.