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This 50 message thread spans 2 pages: 50 ( [1] 2 > >     
Spyware Click Fraud Article
Follow-up research traces all the way back ...
StupidScript

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 6:39 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

[benedelman.org...]

My August examples demonstrate what I call "syndication fraud" -- Yahoo placing advertisers' ads into spyware programs, and charging advertisers for resulting clicks. But Yahoo's spyware problems extend beyond improper syndication. In my August syndication fraud examples, an advertiser only pays Yahoo if a user clicks the advertiser's ad. Not so for three of today's examples. Here, spyware completely fakes a click -- causing Yahoo to charge an advertiser a "pay-per-click" fee, even though no user actually clicked on any pay-per-click link. This is "click fraud."

Damning, to say the least.

[edited by: Woz at 12:27 pm (utc) on April 7, 2006]
[edit reason] Made link live [/edit]

 

ScottG13

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 7:00 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Great research by this guy. I can't fully absorb it, but it makes sense based on what we're seeing.

davec

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 7:15 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

You beat me to it! Just read the latest update, and it makes very unpleasant reading for both advertisers and genuine partners who unfairly often get tarred with the same brush.

d

bedelman

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 7:17 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Scott (and anyone else) --

I'm here and reading this thread. If there's anything specific that you don't understand, please feel free to ask. I'll do my best to clarify.

Ben

Tazzam

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 7:37 pm on Apr 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yea #*$! sent me this.

Condisering we spend alot with Yahoo, and pay 180solutions as one of our affiliate, I'd say we're paying alot more for conversions that I thought!

eyeinthesky

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 2:24 am on Apr 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nice work, Ben.

Now, what should we do? I'm sure I'm a long suffering victim of click fraud but how to prove it?

beren

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 3:32 pm on Apr 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes, good work, Ben. We need people to actually document what's going on.

I hate to sound cynical, but this doesn't surprise me. Of course, complain to YSM about anything and they send you their stock response: our loss prevention team has researched this matter and we can assure you these were valid clicks.

StupidScript

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 6:03 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

I must say that I'm surprised at the low level of contributions to this thread. This is pretty bombshell-type stuff.

As I understand Mr. Edelman's report (and please correct me if I'm in error, Mr. Edelman):

Yahoo (a) owns outright, (b) owns a minority stake in and (c) contracts with spyware producers and distributors to surreptitiously generate clicks and fake clicks outside of the search environment.

Advertisers expect that their ads will only be shown to "qualified" viewers, i.e. people who have done a search for a keyword the advertiser has bid on, per the Yahoo guarantees.

The clicks and fake clicks being generated by the spyware programs are outside the realm of ethical behavior.

We (advertisers) are lining Yahoo's pockets and those of its "partners" for a flurry of un-qualified, un-interested traffic ... and they know it.

Why aren't there more comments about this?

steve40

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 6:14 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

As someone who tried Overture / Yahoo and decided ROI was not viable and stopped

Must admit I never did find out or realise why the Overture programme did not work for me just that it did not!

Possibly because I am an advertiser who watches his pennies and monitors ROI I dropped advertising with them but I am sure there are a great number who do not monitor closely which is why they have got away with this for this long , This could damage them long term in a similar way to Looksmarts dodgy tactics did to them a few years ago ( and look at where Looksmart is now ) . will be interesting to see how far and long the fallout is to this document.

steve

southernmost

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 6:35 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree that this is "bombshell" material. I've been frustrated with the ridiculous click that I'm charged for, the lack of quality traffic, and Yahoo's support of these insane click-fraud crimes.
I thought this news would have blown up into a full scale media event.
Yahoo had better get out in the public and comment on this. Once this thing gets wheels, I'd think Yahoo could be roasted on a spit.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 7:53 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm surprised this has not received much comment either. How do we get this thread on the front page with the other highlighted posts?

skibum

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 8:41 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

Business Week Story [businessweek.com] on the topic.

ScottG13

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 9:41 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've found some referers from some of the spyware sites Ben mentions. I'm putting together data right now on what i consider to be "bad partners" by comparing Yahoo.com to the rest of the referers traffic as far as page views and time spent on site.

When I get my data together, I'm going to try to get a conference call with someone important. We're a big enough advertiser that I think I should be able to get someone's ear other than our rep. I doubt they'll do anything, but I think I can make a good case for something like 50% to 30% of Overture's traffic coming from Non-Yahoo.com/MSN.com sites. The bulk of this being non-converting fraud traffic.

Ben, I don't have any specific questions. I don't fully understand the technical details of your packet tracking, but I totally get the bottom line. Yahoo is not paying attention to its resellers and advertisers have almost no recourse.

The answer is quite simple. Allow advertisers to exclude non-Yahoo.com sites. That fixes a huge mess of things for us. I have a feeling we'll never see that.

rstein68

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 10:01 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

With MSN's adcenter gearing up, this is not a good time for this to come out for Yahoo.

Of course, MSN routinely and without logic keeps rejecting perfectly appropriate keywords in our account, so much so, that we may abandon it altogether. Their appeals process is ridiculous.

Looks like Google might be the big winner in this.

Clark

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 10:26 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

Good job Ben, and congrats on making businessweek.

Can you do some analysis of Google too?
They probably didn't make such stupid mistakes as Yahoo, but their adsense and adwords algos are not what we're being told and is crying out for some quality analysis.

iblaine

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 10:50 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

Nice factual article and it's not surprising. It's too easy for spyware companies to rejoin ad networks run by large companies. Detection is too difficult. Companies are not incentivized to combat fraud, leading to ineffective fraud departments. Companies like Yahoo/Linkshare/CJ will continue to ignore spyware or at best lift a finger only after serious complaints. Maybe Google can stand up to spyware.

The business week article just made the frontpage of /. - good work.

krakrazor

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 10:54 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've already stopped advertising with yahoo, i was seeing some unusually high clicks on a single keyword with no ROI.

bedelman

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 4:17 am on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

StupidScript, your summary is largely accurate. In your third paragraph, option (c) is accurate, though (a) and (b) are not.

Clark, I'm working on a similar piece about Google. The last paragraph of the Yahoo piece does link to some similar/related work on Google I posted last year. In short: Google faces lots of syndication fraud, untargeted traffic, poorly-targeted traffic, etc. from spyware. Click fraud? Less that I've seen, from spyware, though that certainly doesn't mean it's not there.

Clark

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 12:04 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

I was hoping more for an analysis of "smart pricing" and their algos that are supposed to provide "fair" auctions and combat "click fraud".

There's lots of speculation, and personally I've been getting the impression that they're doing very little to combat the real problems and every step they have taken was to use the click fraud as an excuse to increase their share of the pie. Much in a similar way that the insurance industry has been alleged to use Insurance Fraud as a scapegoat to increase their rates while secretly being happy to have that excuse. But all that said, speculation is all it is. Some solid evidence would be much more useful.

But that might be outside the scope of your area of interest...

bostonseo



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 12:50 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Exactly I'd care more if I actually spent more than a couple hundred dollars a month with Yahoo now. I've always known this has been going on, but aside from starting a class-action lawsuit what measures did you have?

Few advertisers who have sophisticated tracking are spending what they used with Yahoo - it's great that this information is coming out,,,,I hope Yahoo gets everything they deserve (lawsuits, lawsuits and more lawsuits).

southernmost

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 2:36 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well it's official, I've pulled all my Overture bids down to the basement.
I can't believe how nearly everyday my account maxes out. It is probably a combination of a mean-spirited competitor clicking my ads and the general click-fraud going on at Yahoo.
If they can't protect me, then I'm going to keep cutting back.

jpchrysler

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 2:37 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

As I understand Mr. Edelman's report (and please correct me if I'm in error, Mr. Edelman):

Yahoo (a) owns outright, (b) owns a minority stake in and (c) contracts with spyware producers and distributors to surreptitiously generate clicks and fake clicks outside of the search environment.

Edelman's report doesn't suggest that a or b is true. The issue at hand is that Yahoo has distribution relationships with other companies, who distribute their feed to spyware/adware apps, sometimes through intermediaries.

In the past, Overture has had direct dealings with some of the Adware companies - like Claria - but the substance of the article wasn't that Yahoo wasn't purposefully engaged in backdoor shenanigans to inflate clicks, but rather to suggest by way of documented examples that Yahoo's system is open to certain kinds of abuse.

Location3

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 3:13 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ben, your article is perfect timing, as we have seen some erratic activity on some of the keywords we are bidding on. There are days when we have spent $200 on a specific keyword, and then the next day at the same position it shot up to $750. We are not talking about the top 3 positions, which are getting syndicated out further to their main partners; we are showing this on low positions on the first page results. Fradulent activity is happening like made right now, and I feel Yahoo is losing control.

We have brought this issue to Yahoo, and they are starting to credit us the clicks, but the problem is they are only taking one case at a time, and its delaying our 2 other cases, which has slowed down our spend due to not knowing if we are going to get refunded or not. They are taking 10 business days for each case, and this is absolute nightmare.

I did kind of having a feeling these issues would eventually happen as I noticed the different refers increasing on Yahoo Search Syndication. Last summer, I had 3 calls from different companies looking to syndicate out the Yahoo Search Feed, and tried to sell me on the fact that they get a better revenue share due to the volume they can do. I realized then Yahoo could not be monitoring these actions, and the repercussions are starting to happen.

StupidScript

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 4:37 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Mr. Edelman and jpchrysler:

As best I can tell, Yahoo Overture is the sole source of funding for Qklinkserver. (Compare: Yahoo Overture funding 31% of Claria, per Claria's 2003 SEC S1.)

From the paragraph labeled "Unlabeled PPC Links Inserted into Third Party Web Sites".

Is this not the "(a) owns outright" and "(b) minority stake" I referred to? I apologize for those statements if I misunderstand the text.

If all that has happened is that Yahoo is being taken advantage of by the bad guys, and that they are wholly innocent in all of this, then I'm sorry, Yahoo. Now I need to figure out how I am going to trust your programming to determine invalid clicks, when you can't even figure out what's going on in this much more blatant operation.

jpchrysler

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 4:58 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

As best I can tell, Yahoo Overture is the sole source of funding for Qklinkserver. (Compare: Yahoo Overture funding 31% of Claria, per Claria's 2003 SEC S1.)

From the paragraph labeled "Unlabeled PPC Links Inserted into Third Party Web Sites".

Is this not the "(a) owns outright" and "(b) minority stake" I referred to? I apologize for those statements if I misunderstand the text.

The sole source of funding refers to the fact that the the company in question - qklinkserver - derives its revenue solely from these Overture PPC ads, not that Overture provides direct capital funding to them. To borrow from the animal kingdom, they're a parasite, not a pet.

I do not think that Ben would argue that Yahoo is an innocent victim in this process though. Pure XML distributions are inherently easier to abuse

[snip]

[edited by: bakedjake at 8:35 pm (utc) on May 19, 2006]
[edit reason] shameless self promotion [/edit]

bedelman

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 5:37 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Jpchrysler, you correctly characterize what I found -- that Qklinkserver gets paid solely from Yahoo Overture PPC, but that Yahoo Overture does not (to the best of my knowledge) **OWN** any part of Qklinkserver.

I also agree that XML distributions are easier to abuse, and it seems we're seeing more and more of this.

StupidScript

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 7:35 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

To be very clear, and I apologize for misinterpreting:

1) Mr. Edelman doesn't find any data indicating Yahoo ownership of any part of these companies.

2) Yahoo is the alleged sole source of income for Qklinkserver, as could be determined by Mr. Edelman's research.

3) Yahoo is an alleged Claria customer that provides 31% of its income, as stated in Claria's SEC filing.

Do I finally have it right? Thanks.

JohnCanyon

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 10:08 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ben,

I sent you an email last night regarding your article.

All I have to say is its absolutely a breath of fresh air, you did an excellent job of exposing what we had suspected all along.

I estimate that this type of fraud with Overture/Yahoo cost our company at least $50k last year alone. Of course once we start pushing the issue with yahoo we got these standard responses from their loss prevention team.

"In response to your concerns about the click activity your account has received, we have issued a goodwill credit to your Yahoo! Search Marketing account balance in the amount of $#*$!x.xx. Please note that although no unqualified clicks were detected on your account, we have issued this credit as a measure of goodwill and appreciation for your business. "

The only positive here is that they did refund "some" money, the negatives are that you actually have to ask them, and they may or may not issue you a credit.

Whats worse is that these "Partners" are sending us roughly 70% foreign traffic, that are blantantly unqualified clicks. I think its odd that Yahoo leaves the geo-targeting up to their "partners" rather then just doing it themselves.

J

JohnCanyon

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 10:41 pm on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)


To be very clear, and I apologize for misinterpreting:
1) Mr. Edelman doesn't find any data indicating Yahoo ownership of any part of these companies.

[publications.mediapost.com...]

ADVERTISERS AND MARKETERS MUST BE wary of fraud or deceptive practices committed by their affiliates, and even spammers or adware servers that they have no working relationships with, an attorney with the New York State Attorney General's office said Tuesday at a lecture in New York sponsored by TRUSTe and the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

J

markus007

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 2828 posted 6:03 am on Apr 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is nothing new and has been going on for years, as i've posted in other threads.

yahoo sells feed to third party, third party is then resells feeds to domain hosting companies etc and the rest to spyware venders. Spyware vendars are given a quota and if they send more traffic then the quota they are in hot water.

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