How Community Can Make A Difference In Fighting Click Fraud

Click fraud is a multi-faceted problem, it costs ALL advertisers, it costs Google, and ultimately, it costs legitimate publishers in lost ad revenues. Anyone who has worked in law enforcement and loss prevention in the brick and mortar world can tell you that community involvement in policing efforts is one of the single most effective crime deterrents in existence. As a community of concerned web publishers and advertisers, we can take our cue from the most effective crime prevention tactics of the brick and mortar world. Take a look at how many cities have cleaned up their streets to see how those efforts can translate to the online world and PPC advertising.

Step I: Hold Open Community Forums

The first step in any community policing effort is open communication between law enforcement and the community. Bringing everyone together allows them to share and define common goals, and create strategies to meet them. An open forum for advertisers, publishers and providers will create a sense of community and foster disclosure of methods, metrics and tactics. By opening the discussion to input from all concerned, the community can air concerns and share solutions.

Open discussion also fosters another type of interaction that has been proven to increase effective community policing: brainstorming. When you bring together many minds, solutions emerge that no one person working alone would have imagined. Those solutions include innovations based on existing strategies. This is the basis of open source software communities, and it should be the basis of creating software aimed at detecting, preventing and eliminating the sources of click fraud.

Step II: Increase Police Presence

In the ‘real world’, police departments increase police presence in a community by deploying more officers to neighborhoods in trouble, establishing community work stations and developing relationships within the community. In the Internet world, community policing has to take on a different face. There are no streets, no neighborhoods or beats to patrol. Instead, each shopkeeper is responsible for protecting his own property. And there’s the rub: the protection is only as good as the sum of the owner’s knowledge and economics.

A community solution to click fraud includes free, openly available and scalable click fraud detection software that is easily extendable. By maintaining open discussions in the community via a forum, developers can create add-ons to the existing software and make them freely available to increase the capacity of the entire community to protect itself.

Step III: Educate the Community and Notify the Wrongdoers.

Believe it or not, one of the more effective tactics of real world crime prevention is openly advertising the presence of community watchdogs. Community policing efforts that make a lot of noise are an effective deterrent to real world crime.

A community forum for click fraud prevention serves as a central distribution point for data about click fraud, its extent and the newest methods being used to defraud and to combat fraud. One of the more obvious examples of how this type of community works is in the realm of virus protection, where a number of high profile communities track the progress of new viral infections and collaborate on methods of removing them from infected computers.

Back in 1999, a new virus hit the internet that frustrated users whose efforts were thwarted as the software reinstalled itself time and again. The first mention of the virus hit the tech community boards at 5 AM EST. By 7 AM, two hours later, there were dozens of users around the world working on the solution – nearly three hours before the major commercial virus protection companies had even posted an alert. By 8:30 AM, the open community forum had isolated the solution in bits and pieces, and working from each other’s successes, had posted an effective solution to remove the virus from infected computers.

Imagine that kind of power and backing to identify, isolate and combat new methods and perpetrators of click fraud.

Step IV: Leverage the Power of Numbers to Bring About Change

There’s strength in numbers and networking. At the moment, the PPC engines rely on pre-click filtering to weed out fraudulent clicks before payment is issued for them. They respond to requests for refunds if the advertiser can prove their claim of fraudulent clicks. By leveraging the power of community, advertisers and publishers can:

– Share strategies for tracking click fraud down that goes beyond pre-click analysis.

– Support each other’s efforts when seeking refunds by sharing data to help establish a trend/pattern and make proof easier to display

– Demand more transparency and accountability from the search engines and PPC providers. This will in turn allow advertisers AND publishers to monitor their own sites more efficiently as well as report back to the PPC engines on the effectiveness of the filtering efforts.

By sharing information and support, we can make a difference and put a major dent in the losses due to click fraud. Click Sentinel is designed to capitalize on the strength of community. The Click Sentinel community is more than software – it’s a blueprint and infrastructure that is designed to foster, support and extend community and hit click fraud where it can’t fight back.