Click fraud, a practice that dilutes the efficacy of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns run in search engines like Google, stayed relatively low in the fourth quarter, according to a study.
Click Forensics, a provider of click-fraud detection services and products, said on Tuesday that the industry's average click-fraud rate for the quarter ending Dec. 31 was 15.3 percent.
Although that is up from the 14.1 percent rate in the third quarter, it also represents a significant drop from 2008's fourth quarter, when the click-fraud rate hit an all-time high of 17.1 percent.
Click Forensics credited search engines, Web publishers and ad networks with doing a better job of detecting click fraud in the commerce-heavy holiday season.
Click fraud happens when PPC ads are clicked on by mistake or for malicious reasons. Every time their PPC ads are clicked on, advertisers pay ad networks a fee. PPC ads are linked to advertisers' Web pages.
In malicious click fraud, publishers that display those PPC ads click on them to increase the commission they split with the ad networks. Another common instance of malicious click fraud is when companies click on their competitors' ads to drive up their ad spending with clicks that won't result in any business.
Non-malicious click fraud occurs when people click on PPC ads by mistake when they have no interest in the product or service advertised.
Click Forensics has been issuing a quarterly click-fraud industry report since 2006 by collecting data from PPC campaigns in search engines, comparison shopping engines and social networks, and monitoring traffic from more than 300 ad networks.