Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, January 05, 2007

Click Fraud: Tastes Like Sausage

A big "thank you" goes out to Jeffrey Rohrs from Optiem for his Sausage Manifesto. He's written an excellent piece, subtitled "An Open Letter to Paid Search Networks on Behalf of PPC Advertisers."

Sausage, you might ask? The name comes from this quote: "People who enjoy eating sausage and obeying the law shouldn’t watch either being made," which is attributed to Otto von Bismarck of Germany. Rohrs goes on to say, "Indeed, today’s PPC traffic is very much like sausage—a tasty mystery meat comprised of a variety of high quality ingredients as well as some bits and pieces that the engines would frankly prefer you don’t ask much about."

Indeed. Upon reading the Sausage Manifesto after seeing a link to it on the Search Engine Watch forum, I posted my own manifesto of sorts. I won't repeat it all here, but I will share one story, since I had planned to blog about it anyway.

I was at the Click Fraud ("Auditing Paid Listings") session at SES Chicago, to which Rohrs refers in the Manifesto. I heard the frustration during the Q & A, and asked questions myself. I, too, found myself replaying the Q & A in my head after the session.

The thing that stuck with me the most was when an audience member had asked a question, listened to the "answers" given by the panel (which, IMHO, were nothing more than PR platitudes), and became noticeably frustrated in his follow up questions. Voices were starting to rise on both sides of the speaker's table. Finally, Jessie Stricchiola interrupted one of her fellow panelists and said, (and I paraphrase), "What I'm hearing is that an advertiser is paying what is to them a lot of money for these ads, and they understand their business, and they're tracking their clicks and sales, and they feel these clicks were invalid, and they're being blown off and basically told by the engines that they don't know what they're talking about."

HEAR HEAR to Jessie. As advertisers, we understand that not every complaint is going to result in a full refund. That's fine with most of us. What we don't want is platitudes, condescencion, or worse, zero acknowledgement of our concerns and issues. We want the reps at the engines to at least acknowledge us, and admit there *might* be a problem. It all comes down to customer service.

It's high time something like this was brought to light. As Rohrs says, "So, my fellow paid search advertisers, it is time that we rise up in unison and demand to know what the heck is in our PPC sausage. Moreover, it’s time that we demand to be treated like valued customers as opposed to necessary evils. We pay the bills in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and elsewhere one click at a time; accordingly, it is time that we make some reasonable demands."

I couldn't agree more. We've been quiet long enough. We've tolerated the indifference from the engines for too long. It's time to start making a bigger stink. This issue has hit the mainstream press, and if something isn't done soon to reveal the sausage recipe, it stands to take a hit like email marketing has taken from the spam that almost ruined that marketing channel.

So, what should we as PPC advertisers do? How can we get the attention of the engines? Post your comments to the SEW forum thread, or here. Let's make some noise instead of just blindly eating the mystery meat!


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