Click fraud shoots up in Q4, driven by botnets

Click fraud rate hit a record in the fourth quarter, driven in part by scammers' use of botnets.

Google and Click Forensics have often locked horns in the past over the rate of click fraud. Google has accused Click Forensics of being inept in its methodology and misleading in its results in order to make the problem seem bigger than it is. Meanwhile, Click Forensics has charged that Google has purposefully trivialized click fraud and mischaracterized it as a minor problem.

However, the animosity between the companies seems to have decreased in intensity lately, to the point where in October Google began publicly cooperating with Click Forensics by agreeing to accept the electronically generated click-quality reports generated by the Click Forensics FACTr service.

Cuthbert said the collaboration has been going well and achieving its goal of simplifying and automating for advertisers that use the FACTr service the process of documenting click-fraud instances and submitting reports to Google. Click Forensics has similar arrangements with other search ad providers, including Yahoo.

Click Forensics generates its quarterly click-fraud incidence report using its Click Fraud Index, which gathers data from more than 4,500 online advertisers and agencies that use ad services from all major search engines.

Other interesting findings from the fourth-quarter report include:

-- Click-fraud traffic generated outside of the U.S. came mostly from Canada (7.4 percent), Germany (3.0 percent) and China (2.3 percent).

-- The click-fraud rate on third-party sites that carry ads from providers like Google and Yahoo -- often called "content networks" -- was 28.2 percent, up from the 27.1 percent in the third quarter and down from 28.3 percent in 2007's fourth quarter.

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