Search Engine Optimization vs. PPC: Most Recent Report Shows Click Fraud Still Climbing

Click Forensics has just released their latest click fraud statistics showing an overall industry average click fraud rate of 16.6% for the fourth quarter of 2007. This figure is up from 14.2% in the third quarter of 2006 and from 16.2% in just the previous third quarter of 2007.

  Even more disturbing is a 28.3% click fraud rate for search engine content networks, such as Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network. This statistic has risen dramatically from 19.2% in the same quarter of 2006. Click Forensics based their report upon information gathered by the Click Fraud Network, an independent entity which they support, which gathers reports from a large coalition of advertisers about their pay per click fraud findings.

  Over a year ago, Google and the other major search engines finally admitted that click fraud was a real problem (after a long history of denial) and made promises to address the situation. However, Google has continued to insist that their click fraud percentages have always been in the low single digits. Even as late as September 2007, Google’s click fraud czar, Shuman Ghosemajumder, insisted their click fraud rate was less than 2%. A very convoluted and confusing explanation for this determination was issued leaving interested parties baffled.

  Very little has been done by the major search engines to combat pay per click fraud to this date. They have had little financial incentive to do so. Only recently is search engine marketing seeing some pull back of advertising money from pay per click vehicles due to quality and click fraud issues. If this trend continues, we may finally see real efforts by Google, Yahoo, and the other big engines to address the problem.

  Some of the better website analytics programs offer click fraud detection with their software. Digital Surgeons is a certified provider of Click Tracks, the most powerful and versatile traffic analytic program available today. Click Tracks has a highly reliable click fraud detection filter included with their program at no additional cost.

  The continued growth of click fraud in pay per click advertising should lead many who have been resisting change to strongly consider putting a higher percentage of their online marketing budget into search engine optimization strategies. Over 80% of online searchers gravitate only to the organic search engine results. Only 2-4% of total searchers ever click on the pay per click ads. Even with overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of online searchers do all their research and shopping through the natural search engine results, a large number of online advertisers continue to pour most or all of their marketing dollars into pay per click advertising.

  Pay per click advertising is an important internet marketing strategy and, when used in conjunction with search engine optimization and marketing, can yield good returns. We recommend this tactic for our clients for promoting new products, sales events, supplementing natural traffic, and for bringing traffic to new websites who have not yet gained substantial search engine visibility. With this said, in most cases pay per click advertising should not be the backbone of website marketing campaigns. With a 15-30% estimated click fraud rate, putting the entire online marketing budget into the pay per click barrel does not make good financial sense.

  A well-planned search engine optimization campaign, tailored to the unique needs and goals of the business, is the wisest strategy for most online ventures. An effective SEO plan will reap the benefits of that 80% of online searchers who only pay attention to the natural search engine results. Traffic obtained via natural search also tends to convert to sale at a higher ratio. With an expert SEO partner and a realistic investment into an aggressive search engine optimization plan, businesses can start seeing solid results within a few months and can gain prominent positions within their online industry in six to twelve months.

  An investment into search engine optimization and marketing has become essential for online businesses to thrive and gain dominance in their industry niches. Pay per click advertising is a good tool for supplementing natural search when used in the right circumstances. Companies that continue to rely on pay per click advertisement as the end all and be all of their online marketing plans will pay the twin costs of missing out on 80% of their potential customers and swallowing click fraud as a quarter of the marketing budget.