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The 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing Blog

Best practices, training and innovations in Digital Strategy.

Senate Approves Online Marketing Protection Bill

June 11, 2010 – 5:15 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

This past Wednesday was still generating buzz from the release of iPhone 4 and Yahoo’s Internet Week Conference in Manhattan.  Under the radar, though, the Senate quietly approved three bills, one of which will affect online marketing.  Senate Committee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, offered the legislation, effectively barring companies from automatically passing a consumer’s credit or debit card information to a third-party online partner.  It would also require those third-party merchants to clearly disclose terms of the offer to consumers.

According to an article from The National Journal’s Tech Daily Dose, Rockefeller started an investigation of companies using data-pass marketing tactics to mislead consumers into signing up for discount membership clubs and other services as part of other online transactions with respected online retail sites.  The three firms cited in the report were Affinion, Vertrue, and Webloyalty. They had partnered with established retail firms to enroll millions of unsuspecting consumers netting more than $1 billion in revenues for these firms and their partners.

The committee also noticed that refunds were difficult to obtain from these three firms.  They had created policies to minimize the amount of money they would have to return to consumers that inadvertently enrolled into clubs.

The firms have changed their policies in light of the investigation, but it goes to show that you can never be too careful in purchasing products online.  It is imperative to be cognizant of all the factors at play, including the fine print, your bank accounts, and holding a confirmation note.  I found it discouraging to hear that payment systems operated by American Express, MasterCard, and Visa were continually being accessed by these firms to perpetrate these fraudulent practices.  Microsoft took a hard stance against click laundering, and the consumer must do the same for their own sake.  If one sees a note asking for third-party information, always say no.  You can live without passing that around the internet.  This situation will be monitored here.


Click Laundering Overtakes Microsoft

May 28, 2010 – 2:12 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

A new form of click fraud lingers online where a website gets credit for clicks disguised as legitimate online advertising.  It’s known as ‘click laundering’.  Microsoft was a victim last week and has subsequently filed a lawsuit against RedOrbit, a science news website and other unknown defendants.  The alleged fraud took place on Microsoft’s AdCenter network.  Fraudsters have learned to get around detections by using false parked websites to push ad traffic through to the internet.  The traffic can either come from malware hiding on computers which hijack the browser or botnets programmed to click on the ads without the user knowing it.  If the user clicks on what seems to be a search result code hidden on the site, it registers as a click on an ad.  RedOrbit has denied the allegations and plans to defend themselves in court.  Stay tuned here for updates.  


Blippy Users Exposed

April 23, 2010 – 2:54 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

The intended result of online advertising is online purchasing. One must use a credit card to make that transaction, or use PayPal. PayPal, out of personal experience with Ebay, is not always your pal since they are not covered by the FDIC. They can withhold a transaction at their discretion, and nothing can be done.

Again, internet security is far from guaranteed, despite site builders claiming absolute security of shared confidential information.  Today, on Mashable, an article was posted about the social networking site for spenders: Blippy.  The premise of sharing your credit card purchase online not only looks and sounds like a cyber death warrant, it is a cyber death warrant.  Mashable states that credit card numbers of Blippy site users appear in Google search results.  Advertisers can have a field day with all this private information, in terms of segmenting their campaigns for target bases, which is not unlike Facebook’s vision for the “Like” button. Hackers could just play with your hard drive and damage it.  Either way is not appetizing.

The critical issue is also the breach of Blippy’s security system.  Their integrity as a social network clearly comes into question.  As we speak, their server is being updated to repair a probable bug causing the issue.  Mashable will have updates to this story here. Nevertheless, anyone with common sense would not sign up for Blippy any time in the near future.


Harvard Profressor Uncovers New Click Fraud Scheme

February 15, 2010 – 5:58 pm
Chris Walbert

Click fraud is a serious issue within PPC advertising and one on which Blueliner takes a firm stand. In May, Blueliner CEO Arman Rousta released a five-part video series detailing the problem and offering insights on how Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft can address click fraud. In the meantime, the search engines have done little to fix the problem while those responsible have introduced new methods of fraud.

Just last week, Harvard professor Ben Edelman discovered and reported on an insidious scheme that not only perpetrated click fraud, but also incorrectly credited these clicks with conversions. Edelman’s findings are serious, although not shocking to those who have been following click fraud over the years.

Rousta adds, “Click fraud is a serious issue and there are many companies and people cheating out there, with the assistance and compliance of Google, not to mention other ad networks. I agree with Ben Edelman in his assessment that Google is evading the issue of click fraud and refusing to take steps necessary to prevent the types of scams that are described. Frankly, it would probably cut into 20% of Google’s short-term revenues to do so, but in the long run, the high road approach will lead to a better product offering, more trust from advertisers and good karma overall.”

Typically, if you are closely monitoring the traffic and conversions coming from your PPC campaign, you can see the signs of possible click fraud. However, in this case, the click fraud actually looks like a conversion. You may see the reports and naturally assume that your campaign is just performing better and driving more sales.

As spyware and fraudulent technologies continue to advance, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft must step-up their efforts to fight click fraud and ensure advertisers that their money is being spent responsibly.


Click Fraud Series: Part 5, Conclusions and Next Steps

May 12, 2009 – 9:00 am
Arman Rousta

So the Click Fraud series concludes with a discussion on what’s the next step for all interested parties.  Stay tuned with our blog to see how things unfold.


Click Fraud Series: Part 4, More Recommendations for Obama and The Big 3

May 11, 2009 – 9:00 am
Arman Rousta

Here I continue with recommendations to The Big Three (Google, MSN and Yahoo) as well as President Obama, new CTO Aneesh Chopra and CIO Vivek Kundra, for stopping click fraud and other types of Internet scams.


Click Fraud Series: Part 3, Recommendations

May 8, 2009 – 9:00 am
Arman Rousta

Here I outline recommendations for President Obama, his new CTO – Aneesh Chopra – and The Big 3 (Google, Yahoo and MSN) on how to deal with and stop click fraud.  Will they act?  Stay tuned.  I’ll keep you posted!


Click Fraud Series: Part 2

May 7, 2009 – 9:00 am
Arman Rousta

Why does click fraud happen and who benefits from it?  It’s ultimately on the Search Engines to solve the problem and sacrifice some revenues in the process.


Click Fraud Series: Part 1, A Challenge to Obama

May 4, 2009 – 9:00 am
Arman Rousta

What is President Obama going to do about click fraud?  From what I’ve seen, Google really needs to take the lead in stopping click fraud; but it is so far from being in their best interests, that I think the government will have to step (although it’s probably not in there best interests either) to mandate some serious changes in how these search engines and their enables – scamming affiliates and dishonest webmasters – are making money, at the expense of honest advertisers.  Google, MSN and Yahoo – are you listening?  President Obama and team – how about you?

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