impression fraud is a special case of click fraud. A typical impression fraudster is a competitor who gains an advantage through unfair means. His main motivation is to lower the ranking of his competitors, and then insert his own ads at a lower speed, thereby saving himself money. Another possible motive may be hit and run (random violence). Considering that it may have devastating consequences for a person’s return on investment in website marketing, it may even be a disgruntled employee.
To illustrate our mechanism and motivation for calling this individual Grinch. Suppose that Cindy Lou (our protagonist) has a Christmas tree ad on the Google ad. Cindy Lou’s pay-per-click advertising has always performed well, with a high click-through rate. She doesn’t have to bid a lot of sponsored links with top rankings, because position is a feature of bidding and click-through rate. She has gained considerable traffic through her PPC activities. Traffic was very concentrated, and a large number of tourists eventually changed their routes. The trees moved away from the clearing and everything was fine. Grinch also has an ad. Unfortunately (for Grinch), his ad click-through rate is not high. In fact, his CTR is so frustrating that he has to pay ever-increasing amounts to keep it on display. Considering the high cost basis of PPC bidding, his return on investment is not very high. He didn’t like that Cindy’s campaign was doing quite well. Not at all! So he did something weird.
Grinch closed his own PPC ads, and then did a lot of searches to fit the keywords of the Christmas tree. He searched on Google and asked his friends to search too. It’s just that he never clicks on Cindy Lou’s ads. He spent a few days in the campaign, and Cindy saw her CTR drop while she was at the bottom. Now that it has reached a level, Grinch saw a level playing field and began to restart his PPC advertising. Grinch suddenly started doing business again, and Cindy had to try to keep up. Remember, it’s almost November, and she will soon sell her tree. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the loss of this activity can be as high as thousands of dollars for big advertisers (perhaps when Cindy Lou Trees Inc. travels across the country).
In order for impression fraud to be effective, it must occur under relatively high traffic (usually accompanied by “traffic spikes”). The result will be many, many impressions and a very low CTR. In addition, if this is for competitive reasons, Grinch may identify himself (if you are really paying attention to things) because he has to open and close his ads. Reporting to Google immediately will help, but will not give you any compensation. Google will still charge you more advertising costs. Impression fraud attacks are very concealed, because even if the consequences will seriously affect the return on investment (ROI), Google’s policy does not allow refunds. The important point is that you must pay close attention to traffic, including traffic that does not reach your site. If you are using a web measurement product, please ask your supplier whether it can upload the ad word data to your web measurement account. You must check your historical CTR data and your current CTR data, as well as your costs. It will help fair competition, calculate your effective return on investment, and even let you look at alternative plans, now available from Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves. For more information, please visit www.sofizar.com/impression-fraud.php