Identifying and tracking examples of click fraud is the first step to eradicating the problem. Click fraud is an enormous drain on the resources of advertisers operating on a national and international scale, estimated to occupy around 30% of all pay per click advertising spend. With so much at stake, its no wonder the search engines are investing so much time and effort into devising solutions.
One way in which Search Engines and other pay per click programme providers have attempted to curb the growing click fraud problem is through introducing IP address repetition algorithms. These formulae are designed to pick up on suspicious click patterns emanating from a singular IP address, which can help to uncover the existence of click farms and competitor-led sabotage, as well as identifying potential fraudsters at source.
However, there is an array of problems with this method of attempting to identify the fraudsters. Firstly, fraudsters logging on through a dialup modem, DSL line or cable modem can almost completely bypass this check, as with every new online session, a new IP address is generated. Furthermore, there is an extensive range of software available to alter IP addresses, which again can be used for 'cheating' the algorithm. Cookie and session tracking are other methods by which search engines can attempt to uncover potential fraudulent activity, but again there are ways around these for the fraudsters.
More comprehensive software is being developed which profiles and reports on the browsing habits of each click-through to enable companies to track and monitor suspicious behavior, although this could be seen by many as intrusive and ineffective as anything on a small scale is still likely to go unnoticed, based on the vast coverage of ads across the internet.