Since the birth of the internet, the need to increase visitor traffic to the new website has been paramount. To facilitate this necessity, methods were introduced to do just that. Some of the most common of these are described below.
- The 90’s saw big-name companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft introducing affiliate cost-per-click (CPC) programs paying the website owner to host their respective banners and those of their clients.
- The concept of relevant keywords used on your landing page to increase your site’s position on related search engine queries. Today, it is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
- E-mail marketing took its cue from traditional snail-mail content but saw the advantage in instant reception to the target audience. But taken too far, these reach-outs become Spam emails.
When the internet was still young, the tracking and identifying legitimate traffic was exceptionally difficult. Not because of a lack of skill, effort, or determination, but for the lack of foresight. Of course, no one could be expected to accurately predict what was to come, especially with an untested newly introduced product. In the end, we go back to that age-old saying, “with the good, must come the bad”. Where there were many legitimate website owners employing good practices, there were just as many people who wanted to make the quick buck.
These individuals or organizations could hide behind a blanket of safety, knowing that even if they are discovered, no one is coming after them and by the time anyone got any wiser, it would be too late. So these “innovators” decided to exploit the visitor traffic increasing methods to their ends.
Click Fraud Zombies and their Evolution:
In the past, banner Ads was one of the only ways to advertise target audiences. It came under the umbrella of affiliate cost-per-click programs, which is now commonly also known as pay per click (PPC). Today PPC is split between search engine results ads and banner ads.
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When a visitor comes to a site which has an Ad Banner and decides to click it, a click is registered on the website’s own affiliate account. The first exploit of this that I witnessed happened more than a decade ago.
When website owners successfully signed up for the program, they would receive the banner’s image and the respective URL code. After this point, the criminal entrepreneur would go to some swimsuit model’s site, download a picture of her, add a link to the picture using the banner URL sent to them, and proceed to chat rooms in IRC or other chat host sites/service that provided access without registration. There, they would flood the multiple channels with messages that would prey upon unsuspecting chat users who promptly clicked the picture.
Voila, the exploiters’ account would be registered with multiple clicks with as little effort as it takes to cut and paste a seductive few lines and a picture. From anywhere in the world, they would only have to sit back and wait for the cheque from one of the big three (Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google). The number of clicks and the payout is so small that the fraud goes unnoticed or is often attributed as an accident.
Today, the use of automated clicking programs (HitBots) has become the most common. These bots are developed to click on paid listings and generate massive amounts of clicks on their accounts. This method can also be initiated by competing organizations in order to increase the overall cost to the banner advertised company or to deplete the affiliate payout budget for the company.
In fact, Facebook has recently seen click fraud issues with their ad Service.
With the sheer increase in the number of new users on the internet, the more elaborate methods employed, and organized crime entering the scene, Click Fraud has become virtually unavoidable.
However, it is not undetectable. As a WordPress website hosting owner, you could use analytics apps such as Google Analytics, and track who is visiting your site. If there is an unexpected spike in the rate of visitors, don’t just celebrate, investigate.
Also, if you make use of Adword Ads, Google has your back. Google has built a “Three Stage System” to detect invalid links. via. Using data to help prevent fraud.
In case you are looking forward to learning about Banner Ads and PPC advertising, follow this best selling course at Udemy: Google Adwords 101: Get More Customers with Search Marketing.
A post by Pauline Darley.