Solution: While click fraud can be a very real problem for pay-per-click search engine marketing, we estimate that fewer than 8% of all clicks generated are fraudulent. The perceived threat is much greater than the actual threat. We also believe it is ultimately the engine's responsibility to police the situation. However, we have identified some key tactics advertisers can use while engaging in PPC in order to mitigate the threat of click fraud.
Determine the campaign's cost per action (CPA). Managing your campaigns against a CPA?any action will suffice?will enable a campaign to "self-correct" the effects of click fraud. Terms with high, or even moderate, levels of fraudulent clicks will not show positive ROI.
Limit your use of high-cost, broad terms. Terms that have a high cost-per-click are typically the terms the perpetrators will focus on because they produce the most revenue.
Minimize the use of content targeting within your campaigns. Most fraudulent activity is conducted by unscrupulous content partners looking to increase their revenue from the paid search platform. If you do use content targeting, be sure to police the partners yourself before allowing them into the campaign.
Use a third-party ad serving tool. Doing so will allow you to determine if the clicks being counted by the engines match the clicks being counted by your server. Should discrepancies occur, you can question the engine's results.
By using a third-party ad server, you can also determine the arrival rate of the clicks coming from the campaign. Should the arrival rate for a given term set, or on a given day, vary drastically from the norms of the campaign, it may indicate fraud.
Regularly compare traffic results from the organic listings to the paid listing. Use your Web analytics tool to determine the volume of site visits that are coming from specific keywords from both the natural and paid listings to determine a standard ratio. If you see a significant increase in the click share coming from paid listings, it may be a sign of click fraud.
Ted Rooke is director of search engine marketing at nurun | ant farm interactive, a global interactive marketing agency.
Problem: Marketing strategy has shifted from being product- to solution-focused, and the Web site needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Solution: If the selling strategy has changed, that does not mean you must build a whole new Web site; it may simply signify the need to develop a new component.
The Web site has an impact on departments throughout the company and is not just a marketing function. Developing a new site to replicate the message that sales is putting in front of prospective customers is a much larger undertaking than modifying a particular section.
A better approach may be a technical solution: implementing a content management system (CMS) that supports the concept of relational content. Relational content allows for particular, unique pieces of information to be distributed among multiple navigational areas. Some marketers may consider publishing press releases about new customers within multiple promotional areas (such as on the "news" and the home page areas of their sites) using CMS software. Additionally, this type of system allows marketers to publish information on products in different solution-set categories on their Web sites while maintaining one repository of content. This is also beneficial when information about the product needs to be changed and can be done throughout the site by making updates in one place.
The new navigational hierarchy, described above, does not dictate the company's dedication to a whole new Web site initiative. It simply supports a natural way of selling. Even without a new site, a salesperson can use it as a sales tool with customers who have had success with a solution and want to discuss related products and their benefits.
Marketers facing this challenge should consider that making adaptations to their Web sites, with new categories or via other means, can be a much better alternative than developing a new site on the heels of changing sales initiatives.
Problem: Driving recipient response while protecting the e-mail marketing list.
Solution: In an opt-in, CAN-SPAM-compliant world, it is imperative that marketers do everything they can to protect their e-mail marketing list asset. And this, in turn, means managing the use of the list to minimize opt-out/unsubscribe rates while optimizing response.
In this regard, we find all too often that marketers apply direct mail approaches to e-mail marketing with horrifying results. It is not uncommon for marketers to over-communicate to their list with multiple campaigns and multiple messages in each campaign. Plus, marketers often send only aggressive and highly redundant promotional content. Even worse, in large enterprises multiple marketers will be doing all of this to the same target audience.
The result is opt-out rates as high as 9% to 30% per mailing. Over the course of a dozen or so mailings, these marketers will burn out two-thirds of their lists.
In contrast, we recommend signing your audience up for a monthly communication and infusing that communication (typically an e-newsletter) with content that recipients really want to read. It is entirely possible to achieve opt-out rates of 1% or less using this approach, which means a marketer hangs on to about 90% of its list over the course of a year.
So the question is: How do you drive response using a periodic, content-rich approach to e-mail marketing? Marketers should seek to implement their e-mail messages in layers, with the first layer being the e-mail as received in the recipient's in-box and consisting of content summaries along with links to Web site content or a microsite reflecting more in-depth information.
Using this layered approach enables marketers to implement an e-mail campaign effectively within a single message. The top layer of content should be designed to retain and engage the reader for the long-term, the next layer can be used to tease out product- or service-specific interest, and the deepest layer can be used to present a hard call to action?thereby generating very strong direct response in a manner that does not burn out the list.
David A. Fish is CEO of iMakeNews (www.imninc.com), an e-communications service provider.