It’s interesting to watch how Google’s ‘Sponsored Links’ capture aspects of the business process, in particular the plundering of customers from a company in trouble. Take CardSystems, for example, facing a class action suit, the loss of its main business and other indignities as a result of the theft of large amounts of credit card data from its vaults. Do a keyword search ‘cardsystems’ on Google and you get a stream of ads:
Let’s ignore the further indignity of two of the ads not being able to get the company’s name right. Where does Google draw the line on this kind of behaviour? Do they allow companies to place ads willy-nilly suggesting problems with their rivals and offering a solution? ‘Is Microsoft going bust? Switch to Apple while you can’ type thing.
Is the whole pay-per-click industry swamped by fraud?
WebProWorld says that Michael Bradley, recently arrested for trying to extort money from Google, is a wake up call to the PPC industry. He claimed to have developed software that would automatically click on Google ads, potentially costing both Google and their advertisers millions of dollars. (Here’s more on Bradley and his Google Clique software from InternetNews and SEOBook.)
As WPW point out, this could be just the tip of an iceberg, both in terms of what is already out there, and what could be out there. While it’s by no means clear how widespread it is, but the potential is strong: Why would companies want to pay for ads if they’re not convinced real people are clicking on them?
And if that happened — or if it’s already happened — what would happen to online advertising?