Fight Clickfraud (or Click Fraud?)

ML Jun 9, 2006

OK, this next post is intended to be very popular in the search engines for people researching click fraud issues, but I’m not using the HitTailing method to do it. Rather, I’m just floating a test balloon. We will have to consider whether to incorporate the process of floating test balloons into the official HitTailing formula. But anyway, it goes something like this…

Engaging in HitTailing is a practical alternative to battling click fraud. If you’re getting your search hits for free, then click fraud is hardly a concern. And there are many other reasons a natural search hit is better than a sponsored one. Visitors view search results as objective, and tend to be more trusting. Natural search results tend to occupy the featured area of the screen rather than being crammed into the margin (marginalized). And study after study shows, much to the chagrin of PPC-exclusive marketers, that natural search results are clicked vastly more, by some figures as high as 80%, than sponsored ads.

So, to see if the discussion of click fraud will be a traffic generator on the HitTail site, we have to begin somewhere! That somewhere is this post. If I hadn’t discussed click fraud before, it certainly won’t generate any long tail keyword suggestions. So, some writing has to reside on the HitTail site first.

You will notice, I am trying to offer real value to our site readers. I’m not writing for search engines. Nor am I being deceptive in any way. Instead I simply have the knowledge that “if I write about it, they will come.” Yet, I don’t have a very good idea yet what to title this post for maximum effect, or how much traffic is occurring on clickfraud-related terms.

One of the littlest known facts of natural search optimization is that once you’ve chosen the title for your page, 80% of what you CAN immediately affect with your decisions is done. The whole rest of the writing of your article will only affect 20% of the variables. You simply CAN’T have that much influence over search by what words you put on the page, or else we would revert to the Tri-anything period of the AltaVista epoch when spam ruled the earth. Google was the mammal scampering around at the feet, and spam was the asteroid.

So, why do I bother with long articles such as this? Easy! Because that 20% is vastly more important than anyone (except maybe Chris Anderson) realizes. I don’t know what other concepts are going to combine with the concept of click fraud. But I know that if I say everything I have to say of value on the topic, then I’m increasing the overall chances of chancing into the magical word-combo allowing me to discover and eventually intercept a great deal more traffic than I currently do. Refer back to my post about search hits ARE THE SUGGESTION BOX in an Edward Deming-like TQM (total quality management) process, where marketing is the product. It’s a difficult concept. Someone ought to take it up for a college dissertation. But trust me, it works.

What we’re doing here will result in search hits of the best sort: ones that I didn’t specifically target, but are still related to my subject matter, which may stimulate me into further writing. Plus of course, they’re free! And in that further writing, I’m taking the suggestions and answering the questions raised by my readership and audience. These are questions that they didn’t even specifically think to ask me, but I know. Anyone engaged in social networking sites who are having difficulty spiking niche membership would do well to pay attention to what I’m saying here, and what their search audience is trying to tell them.

Google actually settled with in the Lane’s Gifts v Google case in Arkansas, acknowledging that some click fraud is probably occurring. It’s difficult to say how much, but Google and Yahoo’s slice of the marketing dollar pie last year was about $7 billion, according to the IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers numbers. So, click fraud is some percentage of that. I won’t even spin the possibilities based on percentages, suffice to say that a lot of money is probably being directly depleted from the marketing budget of companies across the world by their competitors.

So, how damaging is that? Well, first you have to consider that many companies are forced into PPC campaigns, because it is the fastest and surest way to see your name come up in search. And for many, it remains their ONLY exposure in search. It serves as sort of a beacon to your competitors of what keywords you’re targeting, it’s generally clicked on LESS than the natural search results, PLUS it deducts money from your marketing budget when a competitor clicks it. In short, relying only on PPC campaigns is not healthy for your company.

So, how to solve it? Just gradually start building your natural search effectiveness. If you have a determined click-fraudder in your market space, the only sure way to confound them is to target long tail keywords where he/she would never imagine to look. Over time, you can dominate a niche, and he/she will never see it coming. You fight the battle where its least expected, and by the time anyone realizes it, it’s far too late for them to respond. This is what Walmart did in targeting the dispersed heartland of the United States, and not the best markets. By the time anyone realized, Walmart dominated a super-niche.

In many ways, the practice of HitTailing employs Sun Tzu, Art of War-style strategy. It is always best to win before anyone even realizes there was a conflict. So it is with battling click fraud. Success is the best revenge, and the best success is dominating natural search. The slime balls who deliberately attempt to deplete their competitors marketing funds are being swept up by the same panic-and-follow mentality that drives keyword prices up to untenable levels. Such strategies stink of desperation. Shouldn’t it be possible to take the high ground AND win? Honestly, I can’t answer that. I can only provide a tool that starts to level the playing field a little bit.

And a final note, which will probably get everyone linking to this article is how we select the title for the article, for titles manifest in blogging software into the title tag, the headline, part of the URL (web address) and links leading TO the page from other pages. Get how powerful blogging software is? This is why 80% of what you can do to affect results is determined in your selection of a title. And the tool du jour to pick titles today is Google Trends, because it lets you see how much traffic is occurring on any given term. What’s more popular: “pictures of”, “picture of”, “photographs” or “photos”? Google Trends will tell you in a relative sense (it doesn’t give absolute numbers, but will let you map “MySpace” versus “eBay”. If a term is not popular at all, it won’t produce a graph. So, I decided to use this tool to decide whether “clickfraud” or “click fraud” was more popular. No graph! Could the concept still be that unpopular? I’m not a conspiracy nut, so I don’t think Google is deliberately filtering this. It’s either such a new concept that no matter how popular it seems to us in the Adver-bubble, it’s still that obscure, or it hasn’t been around long enough for trending.

Either way, I think that makes this article worthy of a digg, don’t you?

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