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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jeff Martin Serves as Click Fraud Subject Matter Expert in Lane's Gift's v. Google

Interactive marketing agency retained as subject matter expert on click fraud
By Counsel for the Class Members

DALLAS, Texas (PRWEB) August 1, 2006 � Zunch Communications, Inc., an international Interactive marketing agency that employs proven and ethical online solutions that deliver the highest ROI for its clients announced today it was retained as a consulting expert in the highly controversial Lane�s Gift�s v. Google case by counsel for the Class Members, several hundred thousand Google advertisers.

�Zunch�s expertise with click fraud issues was instrumental in providing me with meaningful insight as to the importance of Dr. Tuzhilin�s work to our clients, Google advertisers, and in preparation of my presentation to the court,� said Steve Malouf, Co-council for the Class Members. �The Zunch team did an exceptional job and should be extremely pleased with its efforts.�

On July 27, a federal judge in Arkansas approved the $90 million settlement between Google, Inc. and advertisers who said the search engine giant charged them for invalid clicks. By settling the lawsuit, Google will pay $60 million in credits to advertisers and $30 million in legal fees.

Having forecast the huge impact click fraud would have on search advertising dollars, Zunch Director of Click Fraud Services and Pay Per Click Auditing Jeff Martin developed Click Fraud Detective�, a pay per click auditing system that immediately alerts users when suspicious activity is occurring in their PPC campaigns and assists them with recovering their lost advertising dollars.

�We are pleased to have offered our expertise in this area to the parties of the lawsuit. Dr. Tuzhilion�s report, along with the approved settlement, demonstrates Google�s measures to filter out click fraud and other invalid clicks are reasonable,� Martin said. �As Dr. Tuzhilin noted, however, due to the inherit limitations of the pay per click model, advertisers will still find themselves at risk to click fraud, despite Google�s reasonable efforts. Because of this, Zunch will stand ready to assist advertisers in monitoring and auditing their PPC activity and guarding their budgets.�

Click Fraud Expert Jeff Martin Responds to Google�s Attack Against Third Party Click Fraud Auditors

Leading interactive marketing agency responds to Google�s lash out against third party click fraud consultants

DALLAS, Texas (PRWEB) August 10, 2006 � In a recent report and public statement by Google Business Product Manager for Trust and Safety Shuman Ghosemajumder, the search giant has laid claim that some third party click fraud consultants are using �defective methodolog[ies],� that inflates click fraud estimates and skews data. This seems like a reversal of the recent study conducted by Dr. Alexander Tuzhilin that determined Google�s efforts to combat click fraud were �reasonable� i.e.: they met their contractual obligations.

�Just as Dr. Tuzhilin pointed out that there are inherit flaws in the PPC model which will prevent Google, or anyone else, from fully identifying and filtering click fraud, there are technologies in place which can prevent an advertiser or third party click fraud consultant from accurately accounting for all of the activity all of the time, Zunch Director of Click Fraud and Pay Per Click Auditing Jeff Martin said. �Dr. Tuzhilin concluded that Google�s efforts in combating click fraud were reasonable, in light of the inherit limitations of the PPC model, equally reasonable are click fraud auditors efforts to bring click fraud activity to the surface.�

Ghosemajumder states that fictitious ad clicks recorded due to mischaracterizing events �may be the most significant flaw.� Simply put, a single user may be counted as more than one visitor by a third party auditing system when either of these common events occurs:
1. The user navigates away from the page (either by clicking deeper into the advertiser�s site or by navigating away) and uses their browser�s forward or back buttons to return to the page.
2. The user refreshes the landing page.

�The limitation here is imposed by the Web browser. Whether refreshing the page in question or navigating back and forth to it through the browser�s buttons--Web browsers, by design will retain the original information of the initial visit to the page,� Martin said. �By not maintaining the same variables, the page could end up altered or not rendered at all. Because the original visiting information is stored by the Web browser, when a browser loads the page again it will appear as a normal visit to the page rather than just a return and will be counted accordingly.�

The Google report says in order to solve this problem third party click fraud consultants should rely on the �Google AdWords auto-tagging feature.� The problem is that the more an independent click fraud consultant relies on data provided by Google and their methodologies, the more the consultant loses their objectivity and the more their methodologies may become skewed.

�By using the auto-tagging feature, consultants would be relying on Google to tell them what a unique click is and what is not. This is at the very heart of click fraud auditing and the most significant means in which to hold Google, or any other PPC network, accountable. Because independent consultants must maintain objectivity and neutrality they cannot rely largely upon auto-tagging,� Martin said. �Independent consultants must rely on click stream data that is not contaminated or labeled by any PPC network as valid or invalid, unique or non unique. To not do so makes the consultant more of an extension of Google and their methodologies which is not the function of the consultant and defeats the purpose of third party auditing.�

When the inherit nature of browser technologies and the independent objective role that third party click fraud consultants provide is taken into consideration, one can assume their efforts and methodologies are reasonable.

�Shuman says Google may �perhaps help third-party auditing firms improve their methods.� Zunch highly encourages Google to be pro-active in working directly with independent consultants as they will continue to fill a vital role in educating PPC advertisers on the risks of advertising on the PPC model as they relate to click fraud, Martin said. �Independent consultants also help in providing advertisers with the missing account activity information they can�t receive elsewhere. It is in the best interest of advertisers and Google to do so.�

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jeff Martin Serving as a Consultant For The Google Settlement Case - Click Fraud Case

I have been retained by counsel for the Class in the currently pending Arkansas Class Action against Google (Lane's Gifts v. Google ) through Zunch Communications, Inc. where I serve as the Director of PPC Auditing & Click Fraud Detection. I am unable to say at this point what I have been working on and only that I am serving in a consulting capacity.

Dr. Alexander Tuzhilin was requested by Google and the Class in the currently pending Arkansas Class Action to perform an independentt expert evaluation of Google's handling of invalid clicks. It is a good read, the first of it's kind for sure. I will have more to say about Dr. Tuzhilin's report in the next day or two.

I will be traveling to Texarkana to attend the hearing on Monday, July 24th @ 9am CST. I'll be wearing a blue/green shirt with blue pants, if you see me, don't be a stranger!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Rumors of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Nope not dead. There just hasn't been much news I care to comment on lately.

Ben Edelman did produce some nice research on Yahoo and Google PPC programs are being used by spyware/adware flks to pad their pockets - without users actually clickig on anything...

SEMPO is going to do another advertiser poll/study on click fraud - the question is will anything new com from it?

I've been in contact with Steve Malouf again and his sites are most likely being set on another defendant... One word for them - mediate!

So to recap - click fraud is still as big of an issue as it has been. The PPC networks are still prospering from advertiser's losses. And Google is still up to it's "That doesnt look like fraud/low quality clicks to us..." and the "You were never charged for those clicks anyway..." games.

VeriClix continues to grow and more and more members as we are well into the tripple digits. What can we say? We like helping advertiser's anyway we can. Unlike some PPC networks...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How Google and Yahoo can get the Click Fraud Monkey Off of Their Back

Part of a discussion I had in the HighRankings forums about click fraud focsed on a third party solution that could be entrusted with both search engine advertiser data:

Any PPC data you provide to support your claim is subjective. The search engines and PPC networks can say either:

1. It doesn't look suspicious (or 'low quality' as Google likes to put it) to us -OR-
2. You were never charged for those clicks

The main problem here is that each party has a bit of the information that form the most complete picture. For advertisers, unless they have a click fraud detection and auditing service they are not going to have neither the time nor the data to be able to determine:

1. Is click fraud an issue for me?
2. How much of an issue is it / what is the level of click fraud?
3. How do I get the data and supply it to the search engines to validate my claim?

Pouring through log files just isn't feasible. Marketers should not have to spend their time as a data analyst or 'refund collection hound'.

What I and a few colleagues have been saying for awhile now is that an independent party is needed who can be trusted with both the search engines data as well as advertiser data who can make an unbiased decision. This would:

1. Get the monkey of the search engine's back and aid in restoring the faith of their advertisers.
2. Give advertiser's some piece of mind when spending billions of advertising dollars
3. Create a standard uniform submission policy to allow everyone to know what data is needed and what format to put it in. Perhaps through an application programming interface (API).

Google was quoted as saying that they don't want to give away their click fraud detection practices to competitors. That argument would be irrelevant with a third party organization with a proper NDA. Yahoo is interested in the idea; perhaps John Slade of Yahoo sees the true benefit for all here unlike Google. In the end, just like the case pending settlement, if one of them takes a step forward toward this type of solution others may look bad in not following suit.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Google's Different Stances on Click Fraud

It seems Google has been confused internally over their capabilities to protect pay per click advertiser from click fraud.

In a recent article in Bloomberg CEO Eric Schmidt says:

Believe me, as a computer scientist, we have the ability to detect the invalid clicks before they reach advertisers.

But the Google Adwords FAQ says:

If we find that invalid clicks have escaped automatic detection, you'll receive a credit for those clicks.

And the Google blog says:

When we believe those clicks are invalid, we reimburse advertisers for them. Some invalid clicks do make it through our filters, but we believe the amount is very small.

I have to admit I find it humorous that Schmidt says to trust him, because of his PhD in computer science that invalid clicks don't reach advertisers then other PhDs at Google say that invalid clicks do reach advertisers. Also, does that mean that Google thinks that there aren't PhDs working against them? Or how about just really smart people who know how the system works and know enough about web technology to be dangerous?

It may have took PhDs to create the first atomic bomb for 'peace', but it doesn't take one to turn into a weapon of war.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Click Fraud - Its What You Don't Know That Hurts You

Well I read yet another article in Blomberg where Eric Schmidt says everything is rosey for Google and that click fraud "is not a threat to the company's success". Well...what about your advertiser's success? How can click fraud ever be a threat to Google's success when their accounting for an advertiser's money is generalized and incomplete?

It's what advertisers don't know that hurts them.

  • Google doesn't provide any particular information about WHO clicks on a advertiser's ads, despite having all of this data available.

  • Google doesn't report on how much click fraud or how many "low-quality clicks" an advertiser's campaign receives.

  • Google doesn't provide any information as to the amount of money Google "saved them" by detecting fraudulent or "low-quality" clicks.

  • Google doesn't provide any particulars on how prevalent click fraud is in a advertiser's vertical, despite having a very large sample rate of what they deem is click fraud or "low quality clicks."

  • Google doesn't provide any information as to what they are doing to protect advertiser's online investments.

If Google's motto is "do no evil" then what does it mean when advertisers, who are the life blood of the company, are questioning Google's motives and morals?

What can Google and other search engines / pay per click networks do?

1. Convert your critics. Saul of Tarsus harshly persecuted the Jews until converted by a vision of Christ.

While Google is defintely no resemblance of Christ nor I of Saul, I would be more than happy to sign an NDA and have Google show me what they are doing to protect advertisers and approach it with an open mind. If they are doing everything within their power than I would be ready to publicly support their continued efforts.

2. Educate & communicate with advertisers:
  • What is Google doing to protect an advertiser's online investments?
  • How prevelant is click fraud or "low-quality clicks" on an advertiser's campaign?
  • How much money has Google not charge them for?
  • What can advertiser's do help protect themseleves?
3. Get the monkey off their back. Get an independant 3rd party to mack the call as to what activty advertiser's should and should not be charged for based on established guidelines.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Interview with Internet Retailer Magazine on Click Fraud and the Google Settlement

I did an interview with Mary Wagner, Senior Editor of Internet Retailer Magazine concerning the recent Google settlement and click fraud services and their role in a post-settlement world.

My goal was to :

1. Show that the settlement is a loser for advertisers past, present and future because:

a) Advertisers, at best, can only get some credits to use the same system that cost them their credited money in the first place

b)Nothing in the system changed. It's still the same process, with the same secrecy, with the same conflict of interest that will yield the same results

2. Show why Google would want this settlement:

a)Throw a small wad of money at the problem to see if it will go away

b)Stop losing billions in marketing capital

c)Maintain their secrecy and make sure they never show any conclusive data as to the actual scope of the problem

d)They get to put a PR spin on it that since the settlement was approved that Google's claim that only 1% of all click fraud is undetectable is valid

3. Show that services such as VeriClix will be there for the advertiser, not only in this soon to be 'gold-rush' for advertisers, but in the future as well to try to keep thing as legit as possible.

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