Google, Ad Networks Accused of Fraud

click fraud illustrationWe have seen several troubling reports about whether advertisers are really getting what they pay for online when it comes to AdwordsGoogle’s paid ads program for display and PPC (pay per click) advertising., other ad networks, affiliate marketers and YouTube video ads.

The problem, according to a report by Bloomberg Business, is that advertisers are being charged not only when real people see their ads but also when computer programs see them. According to the report, only 80 percent of impressionsThese occur any time a user sees your site in the search links or sees your ad. were coming from real people. If you’re paying based on CPM (cost per thousandThese ads incur costs every thousand times they’re viewed. Like with CPC, bidding on keywords is often part of the structure. views), that adds up quickly.

Those numbers come from a research study published last year that found bots were taking up between 11 percent and a quarter of all ad views online, at an estimated cost to advertisers of $6.3 billion this year.

While Google has been the biggest company criticized in regard to click fraudThis occurs in pay per click ads when impressions and clicks are counted that did not start with a legitimate user. This can be perpetrated by individuals clicking on ads numerous times or by automated scripts and computer programs doing the same for the purpose of inflating traffic numbers and driving up advertising costs., other companies are also to blame. In fact, there is a lot of malware out there supporting click fraud, and some ad networks do it on purpose.

A separate study, this one from a group of scholars in the UK, found that YouTube’s ads were most likely among the networks it studied to detect click fraud but that better digital tools need to be created to fight the problem. Advertisers still bear the majority of the risk, the study said.