Ben Edelman Accuses Google Of Conversion Inflation Fraud

In a new report by Harvard professor Ben Edelman shows how he believes Google and its partners inflate conversion rates and, in turn, increase advertising costs. From his report:

Google and its partners systematically inflate advertisers’ conversion rates by interceding in transactions advertisers would otherwise have received for free. This conversion-inflation syndication fraud overstates the true effectiveness of the ads Google delivers — leading advertisers to pay more than they should.

He cites four cases that can be read in full in his report, but here is a summary:

Traffic source How users are found What would have happened had Google and its partners not interceded
WhenU – adware User requests advertiser’s site. Adware covers advertiser’s site with pay-per-click listings. Advertiser’s site displays as usual, with no covering popup. User stays at advertiser’s site, and advertiser pays no PPC fee.
SmileyCentral – toolbar Reconfigured browser tricks user into running a “search” for a site’s domain name. User’s browser retains its ordinary configuration. User runs a direct navigation, and advertiser pays no PPC fee.
Typosquatting User misspells advertiser’s domain name. User’s browser shows a list of alternatives, and user selects one — reaching advertiser’s site at no charge. Or, user sees an error page, notices the misspelling, and corrects the spelling to reach the advertiser’s site without a PPC fee.
Chrome – browser suggestions User typing a web address is encouraged to run a search instead. User finishes typing the site’s web address and reaches the advertiser’s site without a PPC fee.

Personally, I might not agree 100% with all these cases. We may dig deeper into this report at a later time.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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