Ad Impersonation Is The New Click Fraud

Lori Weiman wrote an interesting piece on Search Engine Land a few hours ago, the article focused on a different type of click fraud.  PPC Ad impersonation occurs when an impostor advertiser takes a well known website address, and uses it as the display URL of their own advertisement.

From the article:

When you first hear about PPC fraud rings, you tend to think of click fraud where an automated system, not a real person, is generating fake clicks on an advertiser’s ad. However, PPC impersonation is actually a much larger problem than click fraud, and marketers need to be watching to ensure their brand isn’t negatively impacted.

Click fraud was a bigger issue in the past, but now is mostly dealt with by tighter controls from the search engines. Ad impersonation has overtaken click fraud and is now the prevalent form of fraud on PPC advertising. The search engines are only just beginning to work with vendors like The Search Monitor (full disclosure: my employer) to identify it and take it down.

In May 2014, The Search Monitor detected fraudulent PPC ads running on Bing, Yahoo, and Google. The fraudsters impersonated more than 300 advertisers on a global scale.

The fraud was not confined to any particular type or size of company. It spanned several industries, including leading businesses in automotive (JC Whitney), home furnishings (Joss & Main), software (MobiStealth), printing (Tiny Prints), home & garden (Ace Hardware), travel (BookingBuddy), firearms (Brownell’s), and services (Deluxe).

Read the full article to see some real life examples that Weiman discovered.

eBay: Search Ads Have No Measurable Benefit


eBay study warns search ads have ‘no measurable benefit

The Guardian did a story on the efficacy of paid search based on a study conducted by eBay

From the article:

Customers are just as likely to click on natural search results as paid ads, a US study has found, raising questions about the efficacy of the multi-billion dollar search advertising market.

The researchers found that most search adverts on most search terms had very little affect on sales at all – and warn that the medium may be “beyond the peak of its efficacy.”

Many companies buy adverts on searches for their brand. eBay, for instance, may buy adverts on searches for the term “eBay”, as well as for terms such as “eBay shoes”. But confirming what customers have long suspected, those adverts do little other than encourage users to click on the advert where they would otherwise have clicked on the normal search result to the same site.

“The results show that almost all of the forgone click traffic and attributed sales were captured by natural search,” the researchers found.

Read the full article here

83 comments with the general consensus that none of the commenters ever click ads and they believe no one ever does or has. The billions of dollars in Google’s bank account may say otherwise.

One commenter did point out a possible eBay agenda, Interesting eBay are currently recovering from a manual penalty from Google for poor practice on the organic front:

I would say eBay ads suck they are not for anything particular, they run the cheapest priced ads they can and a lot of times show up for things that are not relevant to them and their sellers.

Counterfeiters Using Google Adwords is a Big Problem


Randy Pickard made a guest post on Search Engine Land that took a look at all the counterfeiters buying ads on Google that trick consumers into buying knock off goods.

The article looked at a few categories, one being prom dresses.

From the article:

Among the websites buying AdWords sponsored ads for [prom dress] related terms, approximately half of these websites are filled with copyright-infringing photos of designer dresses.

The prom and special-occasion dress product categories are target rich for counterfeiters. A common occurrence is for a teenage girl to come into a boutique, look at a designer dress, and then “showroom” the boutique by searching on Google. There, they discover links to offshore online stores with photos of (what appears to be) the exact same dress — selling for less than half the price.

Of course, the result of buying a cheap prom dress from an offshore retailer is fairly similar to that of buying a “rolex” from a New York street peddler. When the dress arrives (if it does arrive), there are lots of tears flowing from the naive teenager buyer who wanted a special dress for her special night.

The consequences of counterfeiters utilizing AdWords to rip off naïve buyers is having a ripple effect that is hitting special-occasion dress retailers particularly hard. Google’s lax filtering of counterfeiters victimizes both teenage girls preparing for prom and fashion retailers’ whose businesses are losing hundreds of thousands of sales per year.

Read the full story here

Pickard summed it up asking,

Going back to the original question in this post: Is Google “evil” for not doing a better job filtering out counterfeiters? The search engine giant proved that they have the capability to do so in the case of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Should Google be expected to put a stronger effort into blocking counterfeiters in order to meet the standards set by their code of conduct?

Google actually has a place where you can check on what is being reported as far as copyright takedown requests.

The Google Transparency report shows stats such as the top reported sites The domain names for URLs that were requested to be removed. Each request can specify many URLs and many URLs may have the same domain name.

It also shows the top companies doing the reporting. You can check out the page here

How one Google Algorithm Change Can Damage A Business

There was an article over at Motley Fool yesterday by Adam Levy that took a look at how one Google algorithm changed can ruin a business. The article discussed the recent Panda change and the effect on RetailMeNot.

From the article:

Last week, shares of RetailMeNot (NASDAQ: SALE  ) slid over 20% over the course of two days after a report from SearchMetrics found that the website’s visibility had fallen 33% on Google’s search engine. The decline came after Google released an update to its search algorithm, dubbed Panda 4.0. Considering that RetailMeNot receives approximately 65% of its traffic from search engines, this could be a huge blow to the number of people clicking on its coupon codes.

The article went on to take a look at Demand Media which it an all time low of $3.62 and has since bounced back to $4.69 today.

How and why Google subverted Demand Media
Demand Media’s most important property is The website accounted for 30% and 31% of the company’s total revenue in 2012 and 2013, respectively. No other property accounted for more than 10% of revenue. Last year, acquired half of its traffic from Google searches, according to the company’s 10-K report.

Unfortunately for Demand Media and its shareholders, is exactly the type of website Google is punishing with its Panda updates. The site’s content is often vague and uninformative. The writers usually show very little, if any, subject expertise, and viewers quickly realize the site probably doesn’t have the answers they were looking for.

Demand Media follows similar models for most of its web properties, which also rely heavily on search traffic. As a result, unique visitors across Demand Media’s sites fell from 120 million before Panda to 88 million in January 2014.

Read the full story here

RetailMeNot Sees it Stock Get Whacked By Google Algorithm Update


RetailMeNot is see its stock get hit hard by the recent Google algorithm change.

Barry Schwartz wrote on Search Engine Land:

On Tuesday, Google pushed out their revised Panda Algorithm code-named Panda 4.0. Panda is designed to remove low-quality content from Google’s search results. Yesterday, we published an early Winners & Losers report on which large sites were impacted the most both in a positive and negative way.

RetailMeNot was one of the larger sites on the losers list, where Searchmetrics reported an approximate 33% loss in organic search visibility after Panda 4.0 was released. RetailMeNot was quick to issue a statement responding to these reports saying they “greatly overstate the impact on”

The company statement released this morning reads:

The company believes these reports greatly overstate the impact on Over RetailMeNot’s history, search engines have periodically implemented algorithm changes that have caused traffic to fluctuate. It is too early to judge any potential impact of the latest Google algorithm change. While RetailMeNot’s traffic with Google continues to grow year-over-year, the company has experienced some shift in rankings and traffic. The company continues to believe its focus on content quality and user experience will continue to help grow the business, enable consumers to save money and drive retailer sales.

Read the full story here

The stock which trades under the symbol SALE, was down close to 19 % on Thursday.

Bloomberg covered the story :

Google Inc. (GOOG) is trying to push out spammy sites from its search results, and RetailMeNot Inc.’s stock is paying the price.

RetailMeNot shares plunged a record 19 percent today after a report said that recent changes in Google’s search algorithm made results leading to the Web couponer 33 percent less visible. Searchmetrics, a provider of digital-marketing software, wrote a list of the winners and losers, with RetailMeNot as one of the biggest losers.

“These reports greatly overstate the impact on,” the Austin, Texas-based company said in a statement today about the changes. “Over RetailMeNot’s history, search engines have periodically implemented algorithm changes that have caused traffic to fluctuate. It is too early to judge any potential impact of the latest Google algorithm change.”

Whether or not the threat is real, the plunge in RetailMeNot (SALE)’s shares underscores the control Google has over Internet traffic and the risks faced by companies that rely on the search engine for users. Google captured 68 percent of U.S. search queries in March, more than triple the market share for Microsoft Corp., according to ComScore Inc.

Read the full story here

This shows once again that if a business relies on Google or even if it is perceived to rely on Google, that things can go down hill fast with one little change from the engineers in Mountain View.