Less Than 5% Click Fraud Makes You “Virtually Free”
When the search engines and auditing firms
don’t even agree on
an overall industry rate of
I was bemused by a
I got today telling me that ABCSearch is
now "validated as virtually free of click fraud" according to
Click Defense. Virtually free to me
means practically none. Like well below one percent, I would say.
Turns out, virtually free for this validation means "an average of less than
5 percent potential click fraud across its entire PPC search network."
In contrast, compared to the major search engines, "This represents a
three-fold decrease in recent documented reports for tier one PPC networks."
Hmm — three fold? That’s got to be a reference to the Click Forensics
Index stats. We just
reported on the latest findings from those that gave an overall industry
figure of around that range — 14.8 percent.
Of course, those figures are hotly disputed by Google, since they don’t cover
refunds that are given. Indeed, Google says actual click fraud is around 0.02%
of clicks. Google: Click
Fraud Is 0.02% Of Clicks explains this more, and
Yahoo Says 12 to 15
Percent Of Clicks Are Discounted covers a similar issue with Yahoo, where
clicks are filtered out.
Now back to the ABCSearch release. Look again at what I quoted, and you’ll
see the rate is for "potential" click fraud, rather than actual click fraud. So
the ABCSearch’s actual click fraud rate might be much lower (or higher,
if the screening technology isn’t detecting click fraud correctly). And the
major search engines could indeed have a higher "potential" rate of click fraud
Potential click fraud is important, because to my understanding, that’s
really what the Click Forensics
Index provides — a look at potential threats, not actual click fraud.
You could be forgiven for assuming that the Click Fraud Index is reporting
actual click fraud, since the site makes it seem that way. From the most recent
The overall industry average click fraud rate was 14.8 percent for
Q1 2007 versus 13.7 percent for the same quarter in 2006 and 14.2 percent for
Q4 of 2006, 13.8 percent for Q3 of 2006, 14.1 percent for Q2 of 2006,
There you have it. "Click fraud rate" for the "overall industry," as I’ve
bolded. What surprises me is that these statements aren’t given with better
When the Click Fraud Index was first launched back in 2006,
The big caveat to keep in mind is that this rate only takes into account
data from those who are part of the Click Fraud Network, which is backed by
click fraud auditing company Click Forensics. The company does say this one
the Click Fraud Index page, but despite this, some might assume the figures
represent an industry-wide estimate.
That prompted Click Forensics CEO Tom Cuthbert to reply:
We make no claim that the data reflects an industry of over 400,000
advertisers. In fact, the text below the graph on the Click Fraud Index home
page says, "Derived using average threat level across all industries and
keywords monitored by the Click Fraud Network. Threat Level is identified as
having a high attribute rating score as measured by the Click Forensics rating
engine using data provided by members of the Click Fraud Network"….
I thought it might be helpful if I give you an overview of our approach.
Click Forensics definition of click fraud is the combined scoring of three (3)
sets of attributes; technical, behavioral and Market (economic). We add to
that the collective intelligence provided by the Click Fraud Network member
data. Each click is scored by our algorithm and flagged in a high, medium or
low threat level. The total number of clicks falling into the high threat
level is the number we report on the Click Fraud Index site….
One other key point so that the CFN aggregate number is not misleading. We
are counting number of high threat clicks. Bear in mind that the average cost
per click for a high threat level click is three to four times higher than low
threat level clicks.
I agree with you, "…it’s hard to take this figure alone as proof of the
state of the entire industry." While that is clearly not what we are saying at
this point, it is a goal. As I mentioned, the more the Network grows the more
accurate the data will become. This is an industry problem and I invite you to
join our efforts.
A year later, that index is most definitely positioned as providing overall
industry figures, rather than just being reflective of the Click Fraud Network’s
3,500 advertisers. In addition, references to "threat levels" no longer appear,
removing any qualification that it is potential click fraud that’s been reported
on, rather than actual click fraud.
Potential figures can be useful — but it’s important that you really
understand when potential is being discussed.