Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Click Fraud - New York Times

It would appear that pay to click fraud is getting some serious attention these days. Here is another article in the New York Times that appeared over the weekend...

Full Article

A few interesting things I found in the article...
  1. One of the best way to defend against it is to measure conversions against ad dollars.
  2. This is very difficult for small businesses to do.
  3. The only sure way to defend is to audit your click stream data for accuracy.
I also found it interesting that the article pointed out doing the above (with the exception of 1) is extremely time consuming and difficult for small businesses that are already overwhelmed with search engine marketing. The other option they had was to hire expensive search engine marketing firms to monitor and track this information for them, which might be as expensive as the fraud itself.

There is another option that didn't seem to make it into the article...EDUCATION! If you understand how SEO and Pay to Click marketing works and how that works with an overall web marketing strategy you might be able to do this more effectively for your business. I offer a number of seminars on web marketing and SEO where these small businesses can come and learn.

I suggest those of you that own small businesses consider getting a group together for me to come and speak or have your professional associations call me to come and speak at an annual conference for your group. Also by all means check my web site
article and position papers areas reguarly as I will be posting articles of interest for free there that will help educate small and medium business owners on these topics. I also publish an Internet marketing newsletter for the best price on the Internet, anywhere...free.

Remember the best offense is a good defense and knowing how to defend your business from this will come from a solid understanding of web marketing and its associated topics.

Michael Temple

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pay to Click Fraud - Padding the Numbers

Here is an interesting story I came across that I thought my readers might appreciate. The article was written in Business Week and addresses a clearly growing problem of click fraud. Click fraud is the manipulation of paid to click ads to rack up extra cash for the ad sellers like Yahoo and Google.

Of course both companies claim they have sophisticated formulas and techniques for eliminating bogus clicks, but my question is how do they know what a bogus click is? Who is to say that clicks from China, Egypt, and other countries are not actual real clicks. How do they actually know that a paid group of "professional ad clickers" in Minnesota isn't actually legit. The fact is they don't. They can write formulas that nail some of this activity, but it won't stop all of it because stopping all of it requires they stop recycling ads and become mind readers that can determine a person's intent...two things I don't see in their future.

Some percentage of clicks on recycled ads and other bogus campaigns is always going to get through. It is like tolerating some percentage of corruption from the Mafia, we know it goes on, but since it is such a small percent and spread over lots of victims we can tolerate it. I wonder if everyone of you that use pay to click ads feel this way as well.

The FBI and Postal Service is now investigating this according to the article, but clearly their resources are limited at best and even if they discover a fraud if it is located in another country the actions they can take will also be very limited.
In the end there are only two choices you will have available to you...
  1. Stop using pay to click advertising and put your marketing dollars in other places.

  2. Police your own pay to click results and report what you believe to be scams.
The first choice is an easy one. The second is bit more problematic as it involves you looking at your click results and trying to determine if the people coming from those clicks would be "real" prospects or scams. Here are a few suggestions to help you determine good clicks from bad ones...
  1. Insure that you are getting distributed clicks from a wide area and be suspicious of all activity coming from foreign countries unless that is the target of your campaign.

  2. Use specially designed landing pages for your click through results and measure those pages carefully for the amount of time people spend on the pages and where they go after landing on the pages. Quick hits with very short visits and then leaving again may indicate a scam.

  3. Measure your conversions from ads. Any direct marketing effort needs to be measured against actual results. If you track your numbers and find over time that it takes 200 hits to get one conversion and suddenly you start getting 800 clicks with no conversions and your ads or landing pages haven't changed you better start looking for a scam.

  4. Test your ads against other forms of marketing such as SEO or other online marketing (not pay to click) and see what performs better.
In the end nothing will protect you completely, but careful vigilance and whatever, if anything, that Yahoo and Google does will be your only defense. Here is the link to the article...


Until next time, watch those clicks!

Michael Temple

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

More than a Sign

In my daily combing of the Internet looking for valuable info to share with my readers I came across this article for using Internet marketing to improve business in the lawn care and landscape businesses. Having just spent a fortune on both of these items this year I took a special interest in this and started to read. I think you will find the article interesting as it echoes much of what I say on this blog...


The author says some key points here that bare repeating...

  • More than a sign: The author astutely points out that a web site can't just be an electronic version of a sign in front of your building. In the industry we refer to these sites as "brochureware" sites which is another way of saying a site that looks like an electronic copy of your brochure and is updated about as often.

  • Generate Traffic: The old Zen saying is that if a tree falls in the forest with nobody to hear it does it make a sound? Consequently if a web site is on the Internet and gets no visitors does it exist? I actually have the answer here...no, if nobody sees your site it might as well not exist. Your site exists to convey or communicate a message. If nobody ever hears that message than it falls on deaf ears, or in this case no ears. The point is you must use search engine marketing, optimization, and advertising to insure that people see your site.

  • Offer Value: The author also points out that your site must offer value. This can be white papers (gee where I have I heard that before) software applications, calculators, articles, etc. It must give a value to the user outside of simply conveying what you sell and what your hours are etc. Make your site customer centered.

  • Branding: The author finally points out that your site is a great place to brand your logo and image. Building a brand is expensive and time consuming. The Internet can help speed up this process if used correctly. What does your web site say about your brand?

  • Lead Generator: The author goes on to talk about how the site helps generate leads for their franchise's and helps consumers locate them throughout the country and because they do all the things above they have a site that is seen, valued, and acted upon by their audience.
This guy is clearly on the right path and his company will be one of the success stories of the Internet. To those you that are still are not convinced that a web site is a living, breathing, and growing entity that requires constant attention will not get much value from your site.

This guy has figured out how to spin the web into gold and his company will reap the rewards. I am giving this guy my "straw into gold" award of the week.

Michael Temple

Friday, September 01, 2006

Small is Standard

In this recent article, I came across a British writer that says that CRM is a making a come-back after a few years of massive failed implementations. He goes on to say that taking a pragmatic approach and realistic expectations are one of the reasons for this trend. I pretty much agree with him to this point. By the way here is the link to the article...


Unfortunately this is where his vehicle starts careening over the cliff. He goes on to state that small businesses are using CRM on demand (fancy term for CRM that is web based) because the cost of ownership is lower, fine, that is true, but then he says something I can't believe, I actually had to read it a couple of times to make sure I wasn't seeing things...

"Smaller businesses tend to have relatively standard business practices"

You have to be kidding right? Some of the most complex CRM implementations I have ever done were for small or medium sized businesses. Typically there is nothing "standard" about these businesses. That term is reserved for giant companies that can't steer out of the path of the ice berg if that had a over a month to see it coming!

Small businesses can't afford to be "standard" in anything, if they are they will be a standard statistic for why they went out of business. Small and medium sized companies that want to be big companies and survive need to be fast, unorthodox, creative, smart, and able to dodge bullets!

Small businesses don't have the luxury of a giant staff, vast marketing budgets, a well trained sales force and many of the other "standard" things of large Fortune 1,000 companies. Instead they have far fewer resources and must use what they have very well and achieve higher than normal "home runs" to be successful.

CRM can give a small business some of these advantages, but rarely have I seen a system that will work out of the box (or off the web) because the company is standard. All companies have some standard things they need to do well, i.e. achieve sales, effective marketing, strong financial management, etc., but how those things are done and how many resources it takes to do them well is what separates the winners from the losers.

"Standard" is great for things like car parts and computers, but not for marketing and sales operations of any business, least of all a small or medium sized one. Large companies have tried for years to bring in new talent and set up "entrepreneurial" centers in an attempt to replicate some of awesome power of small and medium sized companies and their ability to innovate and out smart much larger opponents.

While CRM may be making a come-back because of things the author has stated the weakness of CRM solutions has always been the ability to offer cost effective customizations for the small and medium sized company. The CRM firm that figures out how to create customizations, scalability, and cost effective implementations and management as well as ease of use in a box or on the web will be the next great software company.

Michael Temple