The average click fraud rate--which represents the number of clicks on online pay-per-click ads that are not legitimate--is rising, according to a report from search engine marketing firm Click Forensics.
The average rose for the second quarter in a row, to 21.9 percent for search engine content networks like publisher networks that host ads served by Google and Yahoo, according to the Click Fraud Index. That was up from 19.2 percent for the previous quarter. The average for the overall industry was 14.8 percent for the first quarter, up from 14.2 percent in the previous quarter and 13.7 percent for the same period a year earlier.
But the report notes that the trend could be mirroring other types of online fraud. "Click fraud seems to be following a similar path as other online fraud schemes such as spam and phishing--the problem is growing as fraudsters fine-tune their methods," said Tom Cuthbert, president and chief executive of Click Forensics.
Google claims that its click fraud rate is in the single digits, and Yahoo claims its rate is a "subset" of the 12-15 percent rate for all problematic clicks for which advertisers are not billed. The Click Forensics figure measures all clicks detected on the advertiser side that are believed to be fraudulent, including clicks that Google or Yahoo may have either not charged for or credited advertisers for after the fact.
Click fraud occurs when search-related ads are clicked on for the purpose of boosting revenue to the Web site hosting the ad or depleting the budget of the advertiser. Advertisers complain that they are credited for only a small fraction of the total of fraudulent clicks detected on their network.