The fraud about Click Fraud

I normally don’t trust reports that are created by companies that just so happen to offer services that alleviate the issues pointed out in the reports. That’s why click fraud has not really been a big concern to me as long as I operated with tier1 search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) I’ve been using PPC for a lot of years and feel the tier1 engines have a lot more to lose by allowing click fraud than they do by implementing procedures to stop it. Tier2 engines are a different story for another post.

Google recently launched click fraud reporting in the adwords interface. It is pretty limited, but it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully, they will open it up a bit more and allow us to get a bit more granular.

The new click fraud reports by themselves weren’t really postworthy, but Google’s recently released analysis of how third parties track click fraud certainly is. Among key findings about 3rd party cilck fraud audit companies are:

  • Failure to properly identify user’s browse behavior vs. actual ad clicks
  • Fictitious clicks generated across multiple PPC channels
  • Duplicated click activity within fraud reports
  • Severely overstated, fictitious clicks

For example, in one particular report from ClickFacts, there were 2261 reported events; however, over 1800 of these were duplicated events. In this same case, ClickFacts reported 6 unique click events and duplicated each one 9 times resulting in 54 “click fraud” events. when Google compared this to their logs, they found only a single click for the entire month from that IP address or search query and a charge of $0.57. Remember these reports come from the company that released widely published reports claiming industrywide 36% click fraud.

ClickFacts response to Google’s challenges was to limit the amount of data they submit to claim click fraud as well as to severely reduce their sample size for click analysis.

Another report from Adwatcher claimed the advertiser received about 12,000 clicks for the month;however, in actuality, the advertiser only received 6,800 clicks, of which 800 were attributed as invalid by Google.

The report was very interesting and an easy read. Of course, if you torture data enough it will surrender whatever you’re looking for, but I don’t believe it’s in Google’s long term interest to profit from click fraud, and as such, I believe they are going to a reasonable length to combat the reality of click fraud.

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Post-Katrina New Orleans is recovering slowly

I live about a 2 hour drive west of New Orleans and made my first trip to the area since the hurricanes of last September. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised to see the French Quarter pretty much back to normal. Despite not getting flooded, there was a lot of construction going on in the Quarter. Must be a lot of Federal and Insurance money to go around for rebuilding.

I was very surprised at what was going on once I got out of the business districts. It’s as if no progress has been made in the residential districts. In the areas I visited, I would say 80% of the properties were abandoned and there seemed to be little effort to clean up. I really expected them to be further along by now. Despite total devastation, it’s been 9 months and you’d think the large sheets of roofing material would be removed from the oak trees at busy intersections. I spoke to a lady at Jacque Imo’s restaurant and she said there may be 3,000 people all trying to get the attention of the same adjuster.

New Orleans Home

Here’s a link to a few more photos I took of the area

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Google checkout conversion tracking

Here’s Google’s email reply to a request for Conversion Tracking with Google checkout:

…As for persisting analytics tracking, that’s something that isn’t possible with the way Checkout currently works.  However, we’ve heard loud and clear from many merchants that this is something that we need to somehow enable.  We have nothing to announce at this time, but we’re working on some things to address this particular problem…

Hopefully sooner, rather than later.

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Walmart.com’s Flub, I mean Hub

What happens when you violate theses #3 of the Cluetrain Manifesto.. “Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice,” is you end up with WalMart.com’s “Hub”

WalMart is trying, and failing miserably, to jump on the Myspace.com bandwagon by building their own social networking site. They’re the annoying kid who always tries to interject in your conversation with one his own experiences that is in no way relevant to the discussion you were having. Not much social networking that’s going to happen in that environment.
Here’s an excerpt from Bob Garfield’s review at AdAge:

Here’s a sample Hub post from “Holly” — who happens not to be a random Hubster, but a child actress with grown-up ghostwriters. Bad grown-up ghostwriters. (Warning: If you are squeamish seeing others embarrass themselves, this would be a good time to turn the page.)

“Shopping will be my number ONE hobby this fall. I am going to be the most fashionable teen at school! I’ll be on the lookout for the latest fashions. From leggings to layers, to boots and flats, big belts and headbands! I’ll be looking for it all! Layering is SO IN right now. Hobo bags are also in style. OH! And big sunglasses! WHOO!! I don’t know where to stop! With all of the new clothes I’ll be getting, the kids at school will be begging me for fashion tips!

It won’t be long before executives at WalMart report to the board that that social networking concept sweeping the internet is just a crock and has no basis for longevity in the “real” world.

It’s sites like the Hub that are really clogging the tubes.

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Really off topic Youtube video

I’m not normally one to brag about my kids, but I love this video of my 1 year old, Emily. She loves to dance and she loves to spin around and make herself dizzy.

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My experience using Google Checkout as a merchant

One thing that has changed is the new Google Checkout. We’ve been working with GC (Gbuy as it was known in beta) for a while now. I really like the UI for the customer experience. Checkout is easy and pretty much painless.

On our backend, it is pretty straightforward and foolproof. Just a series of XML passing back and forth between us and Google updating the order status and injecting orders into our backend.

It has a lot more legs than MS Passport and I think it will prove to be a value add for Ecommerce in general, and particularly the consumer.

Having said all that, here are my issues:
Once a customer places an order, there is no way to edit the order. If the customer requests expedited shipping after the order was placed, you have to either give it (expedited shipping) away at no additional charge, or cancel the order and reprocess it in your internal order management system.

When an order is placed by the customer, their credit card/debit card is authorized to ensure available funds, and to hold such available funds. If the order is not charged within 3 days, Google will re-authorize the card and then capture the funds, resulting in 2 auths and a capture. This presents problems for debit card owners over weekends and holidays. Google stated that they are working on this to extend the timeframe for re-auth.

Orders tend to get in a state of “reviewing”, meaning the funds have not been authorized and the merchant cannot process the order, quite often. It seems these orders are being subject to a manual review. Based on customer feedback, I think this happens more often when the original auth fails and the customer has to go back and edit the credit card information.

Google has a Payment Guarantee Policy that should cover fraud as Google performs the AVS and CVN matches and doesn’t give the merchant any additional billing information. Some orders have a full match on the AVS and CVN, but Google still denies their eligibility for the Payment Guarantee Policy.

From Google:

“Google relies on a variety of proprietary systems–including internal data sources and advanced risk modeling–to evaluate the risk levels associated with transactions. If the risk level for a particular transaction is too high, Google will not cover the transaction under the Payment Guarantee Policy.”

These orders are still covered under the Chargeback Resolution Policy, but that does not guarantee you will receive your funds back for chargebacks.

The last drawback I’ll talk about, and it is big, is that there is no way to persist your website metrics through checkout. We use Omniture analytics and there is no way to report that a visitor that used Google checkout completed a transaction. There’s not even a way to use Google adwords conversion tracking in Google checkout. This results in a low conversion rate whereby, we have to do manual ‘cipherin’ to figure out the true conversion. I hope Google allows us to place code on the “thank you” page in the near future as this is a real pain in the ass.

Overall though, I think the product is great. Although it may be in beta for the next 3-5 years, they’ve already made some strong improvements to the product. I have high hopes for the future.

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MIA

Wow, its been a really long time since I’ve updated… My mind has been elsewhere on the job hunt at hand. A lot has happened since my last post. I’ll try to catch up over the next few posts…

Brandon

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