Search advertising click fraud rate climbs to record level

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Austin, Texas—The pay-per-click fraud rate for the fourth quarter of 2008 grew to a record level, according to a new report by online traffic quality company Click Forensics, which said the increase reflected an overall rise in online crime during the current economic downturn.

According to Click Forensics’ “Click Fraud Index,” the overall click fraud rate reached 17.1%, up from 16.0% in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the highest level since the company began tracking such data in 2006.

In addition, click fraud traffic from botnets—collections of computers compromised by worms and other computer viruses—also rose to its highest level, accounting for more than 30% of all click fraud.

A fraudulent click on a pay-per-click (PPC) ad may be an attempt to harm a competitor by driving up that company’s ad spending. It is also a form of theft, as perpetrators register common misspellings to attract unwitting users. When a display ad is clicked to an intended Web site, the perpetrator gains a commission.

Click Forensics’ quarterly index is a compilation of reports from its customers, using software that analyzes such click characteristics as frequency, regularity, keyword price and countries of origin.

—Christopher Hosford

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