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This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: 59 ( [1] 2 > >     
Click Bot Wars
What can we do to protect ourselves and our sites?

 7:15 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

One of the background hums of AdTech this week has been fraud in the PPC space.

With proxy servers and click bots rampant around the web, it is quite easy for someone to run up thousands of clicks on your ads in a weeks time.

The question still outstanding is, how to stop it? According to most, both Google and Overture have done a fair to moderate job at stopping it, but it sounds like the prolevel participants out there with proper software are starting to make an impact.

Do you think this ongoing click bot warfare in the affiliate space is going to poison the well of advertisers? And how do we has site owners and advertisers protect ourselves and our checkbooks?



 7:21 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

I belive so yes.

Because one click bot for one week (undetected) means THOUSANDS of click-thoughs and impressions without a single Purchase.

This lowers the value of the clicks since advertisers begin to see a huge discrepency between the ammmount of clicks they are paying for, and the ammount of purchases those clicks generate.

Click Bots ruin it for us all


 7:33 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would think that this would be more of a problem for the Adwords shown on the Google site or one of the premier search partners that it would be for us adsense publishers.

From the point of view of a competing advertiser, it is much easier to target the keywords of search phrases that your competition uses than finding sites that also show those ads. In addition, most publishers would note a spike in CTR and impressions caused by a bot, while it might take longer if you are serving 200 million search results a day.

Publishers going after publishers is also a possibility, but unless you have upset someone really bad, what is the incentive?

Publishers using them to increase their revenue is possible, but they risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg, and the one day that they get too greedy they will be caught. Not saying that there won't be some that won't get away with it, I am saying that there will be few.

Frankly, I don't think anyone is going to go after my {average 20th position} on my adwords campaign, and if they do it won't matter since my budget is like $3.00 a day. Therefore, I don't worry too much about it.


 7:41 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Do you think this ongoing click bot warfare in the affiliate space is going to poison the well of advertisers?

I don't.

ROI is ROI, if the quality of traffic drops then so does the CPC, in the end the cost per sale/action is the same for the advertsier.

Look at the bids for expensive kw's at some of the also ran PPC engines, very low in comparison to the big two.


 7:59 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

What NFFC said.

I guess the war will go that far (CPC drop).


 8:03 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

I guess I lost sight of the forest, yeph even if the battles of the "Click Bot Wars" are not in the fields of Adsense publishers, we might end up being casualties as CPC drops.

Having said that, CPC has not dropped in 4 months in my case.


 8:14 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

There is another dicussion about this here:


 1:08 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think that the click fraud issue is being taken to lightly here, because we know how to handle ROI Tracking and setting bids to make a return.

I think the real danger of click fraud, and this applies to any major PPC player is that it will hit the main stream press. The damage that could done to the PPC marketplace is very worrying, you ain't going to sign up Joe Bloggs, Marketing Manager of XYZ Corp when all he's heard is that PPC placements get you ripped off.


 2:14 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe there will eventually be an automatically targetted program like AdSense, but for affiliates... What I mean is, instead of paying per click, paying per sale, but with AdSense's ease of implementation.


 4:16 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Do you think this ongoing click bot warfare in the affiliate space is going to poison the well of advertisers?

I do.

Imagine this:

I tight nit group of IRC script kiddies get together and decide they want to screw the system. Say that there are 25 people. And on average, they each control 10 machines with a bounce. Then they orchestrate fraudeulent clicks on each others site each day, or every other day. That means of those 25 people are getting 250 click per day.

Now if thier sites are about video games, they might be getting 15 cents a click. However, if they're smart(which they are), they'll pick a much more expensive topic such as ***********, which averages around $30 dollars a click.
$30 multiplied by 250 fraudulent clicks a day equals $7500 dollars a day.

Even if this took place on a much smaller scale, it would still be taking the system for a lot of money.

Edit: sorry. I decided to take that expensive topic out. I really don't want somebody doing this kind of thing. Some information is just too dangerous.


 4:27 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe we'll see AdSense (and AdWords) offer a CPM alternative one of these days. Same "content-targeted" ads, but sold by the impression instead of by the click. There would be room for abuse with these, too, but it might be harder to do and easier to watch for.


 4:32 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

No need for relevancy with a CPM model. May as well just throw in the towel on contextual advertising.


 4:33 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

ibiza: Remember that Google has information not only about click-throughs but also about impressions, and over large stretches of time and huge numbers of sites. And all the information from Google itself, too! The script kiddie approach you describe is never going to work for more than peanuts, and that only at the risk of losing legal income from real sites.

I think even big-time criminals are going to find stealing much from AdSense hard: first they'd have to steal Alexa's accumulated user-tracking data (or something like that), then they'd have to find some data-mining PhDs to do their dirty work for them, then they'd have to trojan tens of thousands of computers around the world, ... and they'd still have to risk real sites with real traffic as well.

I think the real threat to AdSense is from attacks on publishers, through attempts to raise "false positives" in the fraud detection system.


 4:47 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

which averages around $30 dollars a click.

Advertisers may be paying $30 per click, but there definitely seems to be a dollar cap of what amount of that $30 that publishers receive. The cap seems to be once you hit about $10-12 a click - meaning a publisher won't earn more if it is a $20 per click ad or a $50 per click ad.

So if the cap seems to be about $10 a click, it doesn't really pay off to make a site around the $50 keyword when the $10 keyword will pay just as well - and there are plenty more of the $10 keywords to choose from ;)


 11:08 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

The cap seems to be once you hit about $10-12 a click

That is a very interesting observation which, if true, explains a thing or two...


 11:37 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, once observed a $16 click, so the cap is a bit higher, or not at all, as a $50 estimate in adWords doesn't always translate into a REAL CPC of $50.

I've setup for alternate ads a system, drawing form 500 commission junction links related to my site. It pulls ads most similar to the current page and creates AdWords style ads on a PPS (Pay Per Sale) basis.

I must say on average, even small crummy sales easily exceed AdSense income (even in a expensive keyword area like the famous 11 *'s. So it stands to reason a Good (tm) content targeted PPS system might pay as well (if not better) then AdSense. Of course it'll take more work on the advertisers side (publish most products on a site with prices and details) But no more then your average Froggle RSS feed.

To be honest, as a publisher I'd MUCH rather run a PPS system like that and side step the fraud issue alltogether. Maybe I'm a bit naive, but I'd like to think that I'm benefiting my advertisers, rather then jsut make a buck and cost them money.



 12:19 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

once observed a $16 click

That is $16 CPC not EPC, right?

Was this observed by making the actual click? Or could this be explained with the problem we often see of impressions vs clicks not always being updated together?


 12:25 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

No that's $16 on my adsense acount with clicks increasing by one. Might mean many things if clicks and earnings are unsynched, but I've never observed any evidence of that.

So by current reconning (50-60% profit share) that would have been a $26-$32 click.

I watch my accountspretty closely, and I had a few whoppers, but VERY inconsistently, so the average is by far lower. This is jstu the biggest I recall.


<ADDED>I don't click my own ads. I DO however refresh my stats windo like every 5 minutes. I'm hopelessly addicted. These days, refresh times seem to be MUCH slower (like 1/hour), and my traffic too high to see single clicks, except some tiems of the day.</ADDED>


 12:46 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

$16 a click! Woooohoo. I'm used to 0.16 cents!


 1:41 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

16 cents! Woooohoo!


Now I've got a better idea what I'm doing, I think I'll try building a site on a commercial topic next time...


 1:44 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

>That means of those 25 people are getting 250 click per day.

You fully understand the problem, but not the scale and scope of it.

A good proxy server list is composed of 1000 IP's and will add 100 a day to the list. What if they average 2 clicks per IP every 24 hours? That's 2k clicks. That right there can really influence a keyword space in a single day.

Does Google stop that kind of stuff? Does Overture?


 2:10 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

You fully understand the problem, but not the scale and scope of it. A good proxy server list is composed of 1000 IP's and will add 100 a day to the list. What if they average 2 clicks per IP every 24 hours? That's 2k clicks. That right there can really influence a keyword space in a single day.

Geez Brett.... what kind of crowd do you hang around with?

The click bot would need anywhere from 50 times to 100 times the number of ips in order to pull that fraud off in an adsense account and avoid detection by CTR.

- You need a site with major unique traffic a day in order to mask 2,000 fraudulent clicks a day.

- Even if your site has lets say 50,000 uniques and 250,000 pageviews, you got to figure that a certain % of the true visitors will click, lets say for argument sake 1% of impressions or 5% of uniques click {2,500}.

- Bring in an additional 2,000 clicks a day and you tell me if that does not get picked up.

- High paid keywords are high paid because of scarcity {supply and demand}. These are not entertainment oriented impressions {no one is paying good money to get people to come to their Britney Spears website} no offense intended to those webmasters that have one :D. A good example of a high volume niche website that is in a high demand area is this site. How many sites out there in this topic that have as many pageviews as webmasterworld or even half do you know of? I can count them in one hand. An additional 200,000 impressions a day on a high demand topic will be noticed. Google serves only 200 million search results per day {200,000 is 1/1000 of that number}.

That is it for now, I could come up with more, but the boss just walked in. :( back to work.


 2:23 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>>I would think that this would be more of a problem for the Adwords shown on the Google site or one of the premier search partners that it would be for us adsense publishers.

The problem is Adsense, clicks benefit the publishers. Click bots are for profits most of the time.


 8:32 pm on Nov 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I understand where Brett is coming from as the whole clickbot thing is old news to most of us.

The real objective, easily attainable with 100 ip's, is to burn your competition's money up. It works and has been working for years. That's one reason I'll never do ppc.

Let's just say I, for one, had a rude awakening about "ethics" when I got into ecom. There is no bottom to what some people will do.


 8:58 pm on Nov 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Although this is the related forum, I think there's too much focus on Adsense in this discussion. The bigger concern IMHO should be the proxy ips clicking-through the PPC ads (i.e. Adwords, Overture listings) as Brett mentioned. Somebody can knock out their competitors ads if they're not careful with setting spending limits on their campaigns! I have thankfully not been at the worse end of this situation. However, I am very curious as to why not too many people in big business or even regular affiliates haven't used this as a method to effectively disable their competitors ads. My best guess is that they're not familiar with proxy scanners/irc? Or maybe it is very prevailent, but just has not been given any media attention.

Brett, have you noticed a rise in this sort of behavior on major PPC's? I don't understand how the Search Engines think they can detect 1 fraudulent click a day from 2000 (proxies) random parts of the world...

Toolman, care to sticky me with information regarding which keywords/urls you experienced this behavior with.


 9:04 pm on Nov 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

I've had my issues with clicking softwares; I asked Google and Teoma at
PubConference 2 about this issue; as you may already predict, their
answer: our filter process filters most....yada yada yada

There filter process does NOT WORK with respect to fraud click using
proxy server. I got over 3 months of stats to prove it: Click
bots will never disappear; especially with AOL proxy servers all
over the place.

Like NFFC said: ROI is ROI: click fraud is part of the cost of running
CPC campaigns....


 10:24 pm on Nov 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Several members have suggested here and elsewhere that "click fraud is part of the cost of running CPC campaigns." If that's true, it would tend to support my belief that the long-term market for contextual "content ads" (and perhaps for PPC campaigns, period) is among mainstream advertisers rather than the affiliate-site owners and other calculator-wielding Webmasters who, to use Cornwall's phrase, "make their money on the turn." Why? A couple of reasons:

1) A mainstream advertiser that considers PPC-generated leads to be a bargain (compared to other media) won't feel the same pinch from undetected click fraud as an affiliate or other "money on the turn" entrepreneur will.

2) Mainstream advertisers are less likely to play dirty tricks on their competitors than small entrepreneurs are. (Does anyone here seriously believe that L.L. Bean is going to launch "clickbot wars" against REI or Eddie Bauer, or that British Airways will try to drain Virgin Atlantic's daily budget? Just think of the PR fallout and career consequences if the perpetrators got caught.)


 11:03 pm on Nov 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe one day there will be a system where everyone pays a specified amount per time period rather than per click. If the rate per time period is based on the number of clicks total and the cost is tiered based on position, there would be no way to cheat the system with a bot.


 11:07 pm on Nov 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

Conclusion: advertising on the Internet is probably much the same business as advertising in any other media.

Are you suggesting that fraud exists in other advertising media?

Click fraud obviously isn't an issue with magazine or broadcast advertising, but overstated readership or audience claims may be. That's another reason why mainstream advertisers may be less fazed by "background noise" levels of undetected click fraud in PPC advertising than affiliates and other small entrepreneurs are: They're accustomed to paying for a certain amount of waste circulation (whether that consists of imaginary "pass-along readership" or radio listeners who disappear after the prize giveways of "ratings week.")


 1:28 am on Nov 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have yet to see a thread that was nothing but praise for AdSense from advertisers. Publishers, yes. Neutral third parties, yes. Advertisers, no.

Good point. I've been one of those advertisers who keep speaking up myself. The thread I'm refering to was one of the original discussion of Adsense.

This 59 message thread spans 2 pages: 59 ( [1] 2 > >
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