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Techno Bull: Click Fraud Just Another McGuffin By Cody WillardThis column was originally published on RealMoney on Jan. 24.
So let's talk about this Google click fraud thing for one second, as it has become a large part of the bear case on Google right now.
Look, Google knows there are some teens in Siberia, and yes, probably Duluth too, who are messing with click-through rates by repeatedly hitting ads.But the big question isn't whether or not this nefarious stuff is going on. It's whether or not this evil stuff (to borrow the Googlite phrase "do no evil") is going on to an extent that Google's customers will be surprised to find out about. It's related to how advertisers in television and magazines (and all other media) have to account for TVs that are left on for the dogs while nobody's home, or for subscribers who never open the magazine. And guess what -- both the sellers and the buyers of such advertisements are aware of and account for this ahead of time. You see, Google tells its customers beforehand that there will be click fraud, and it even accounts for that in its pitch. That's right, when Google tells a customer that they can expect X return on investment (ROI) when using Google's ad network, Google's already included click fraud in those numbers. So in essence, the only way for this supposed click-fraud issue to really become problematic is if it's worse than Google realizes. Consider it the online marketplace version of Wall Street's "worse than expected" scenario.