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Seth Godin Advocates Click Fraud (affiliatetip.com)
29 points by rob 3226 days ago | hide | past | web | 31 comments | favorite

Don't use a screwdriver to open bottles; use a bottle opener: http://tipjoy.com

I don't think the analogy fits perfectly though.

This sort of clickfraud is like using someone elses bottle opener to open the bottle vs buying your own bottle opener.

Clicking on adverts, you're using advertisers money to reward the website, instead of using your own.

Clearly it's not a good thing to advocate, but you can sort of see why some people may decide to do it.

A better suggestion IMHO would be for websites to use pay per lead/sale affiliate links, and just ask that if people were already going to buy something, that they use the websites links, thus giving the website a commission. That way no one is defrauded.

I had an idea for a browser extension that would rewrite all "sponsorable" links, whether they already were from a certain affiliate or not, to be from yours. You'd register at the extension's site and it would then automatically register you at all the sponsorable sites they supported. Best of all, the extension wouldn't be fixed to any individual donatee; rather, users would be able to click buttons on sites that read "sponsor me/us from now on", and switch the extension's target. There could also be a menu to select from previously used sponsors, obviously.

A more general idea for blogs/forums... When anyone points to a product that is recognized as having an affiliate program, modify the link to capture the commission and give it to the blog/forum owner.

Could quite easily be done just as a small javascript include and could work pretty well provided they get enough people posting links to products/websites with affiliate programs.

The last part of my idea, I figured, was essential to its success--if it wasn't the consumer's choice that caused already-affiliated links to be repurposed, it might break those "common carrier" rules that allow a lot of more questionable forums to exist (would an ISP be allowed to embedd an ad-blocker in their traffic proxies without then doing "decency filtering" censorship?). Additionally, users might not like the idea of their own links being hijacked in this way, filtering the scripts out with adblockers ;)

True, I agree it'd be best to be completely upfront about it with the users, and possibly give them a way to opt out of it.

This is called "link hijacking" or another variant is "cookie stuffing". Generally looked at as unethical and dishonest. Though it is done quite frequently and very successfully by some people out there.

When you click on an Ad, the owner of the site gets only a fraction of the revenue. Tipjoy is much more direct and favorable.

Sure, but that is more than evened out by the fact that tipping is always going to be more work for the user than clicking an ad.

Clicking an add usually takes you away from the page. Tipjoy doesn't. You don't even have to pay right away - we trust that you'll pay eventually.

But putting money into a system is certainly a lot of work for lots of people.

No analogy fits perfectly. I hope TipJoy catches on in a big way everywhere. Voting the link up on social link sites is another good way to support what you like.

As much as I like tipjoy (until recently I shared an office with them), I think that Seth brings up a very interesting issue.

We've got the metrics and acronyms down. But will we continue to deny the importance of emotional connection between a site's audience and its creator?

I think that connection is really important. Tipjoy doesn't do a perfect job of accentuating it, but we try by pushing the tipping information out wherever we can, like friendfeed, twitter, and RSS.

Blogs are an interesting one-to-many-to-many dynamic where a content creator feeds an audience, each member of which feeds their social news services or friends.

Tipjoy could do a lot better to harness this relationship, and we have lots of plans, but Ads are so far removed from the relationship that I agree with Paul's analogy.

Have you thought about doing a causes-donation type thing where the beneficiary is some advertised cause (eg: ACLU)?

Yes. We actually already provide the functionality to dedicate your earnings to a non profit.

The issue here is that you need to make a marketing push into non profits. That hasn't been where we've focused our resources.

First, I think it's too easy to say "But only click on ads you like! It's not click fraud then!". The problem is that this argument is used both by people who are trying to make a valid point, and by people actually advocating click fraud ("Click on our ads or the site will shut down. But only click on ads you like, wink wink nudge nudge"), and it's pretty much impossible to tell the difference, especially from something as short as Seth's original post.

But mainly, I disagree with him on the form of tipping.

My form of tipping is to give a thumbs up on Stumbleupon, or even on Digg or Reddit. If it's not on Stumbleupon, even better, I submit it!

For ad-supported content, I think eyeballs is a fine currency. I tip with something that, in a way, belongs to me: a very tiny slice of my online "reputation" on social bookmarking services, exchanged for a chance for the author to get more eyeballs, which might click on ads they're genuinely interested in.

In Seth's scenario, I'm tipping with someone else's (the advertiser's) money. That doesn't feel right to me.

I've always been surprised the CPC model works at all (and looking at Google it works like hell!), and this kind of reasoning (regardless of its ethical considerations) is one of the reasons.

Google ads are a market, and the market accounts for it. Advertisers pay lower CPC because of the cost of junk clicks. If junk clicks were somehow eliminated, they'd get a higher action rate per click and would therefore pay more for those clicks.

The only people who are hurt are the legitimate publishers. When you click an ad you aren't interested in, you effectively lower the CPC for all publishers. This helps the site you're on, but hurts all the rest who show ads of the same category.

It works well because Google has all kinds of algorithms for detecting fraudulent clicks and not charging advertisers for them.

But Google can't detect when someone makes a one-off ad click for content they like.

The gist of the original was 'click to say thanks, which all by itself is a nice deed for the author'.

The gist of the clarification is 'click and pay attention to the pitch on the landing page to say thanks, which over time will change click-ads to work more like TV, which would be healthy for the ad environment'. (Um... yuck!)

The original formulation sounded authentic, albeit essentially advocating click fraud. The second sounds like backtracking, but has within it the core of an idea in the TipJoy mold:

What if some contextual ads were explicitly of the form, "we'll tip the author X if you watch our Y second pitch", and their TOS allowed sites to encourage clickers?

Then you wouldn't be undermining the value of traditional cost-per-click ads, you'd be adding another variant to the attention-market that works like what Godin wants. It'd be a little like an interstitial (or TV ad), but appear only after you enjoy the content. (An 'afterstitial'?)


Great idea: only requires a few advertisers to dedicate some fraction of their ad dollars to sites they like.

Does Google AdSense allow you to pick sites you want your ad to appear on?

He's rationalizing. The advertisers paid for qualified leads. Godin's idea deliberately tricks them into paying for unqualified leads. Is it exactly the same thing as click fraud? No. Is it ethical? No. If you don't want to play by the rules set up by the advertisers, don't take their money. We don't run ads on our blog.

GREAT point, the writer clearly read between the lines here. Though I think saying he advocates click-fraud is a bit much, this is a good point in stating that advertisers are losing ROI from people clicking ads to say 'thanks' when they really don't care about the marketed product, much less would even buy it. Fantastic article, brief it may be.

Were this to become popular practice, surely:

(1) Overall advertising industry spend would remain constant. CPC would go down. Distribution of advertising revenue may shift slightly towards sites with more "savvy" users.

(2) If, miraculously, distribution shifted significantly, advertisers would view this as damage and work to route around it.

Better advice would be 'Take time to look at ads on sites you like'

Its actually the opposite, by natural instinct. Its all about finding what you want - irrespective of whether it is from the shop owner or offers or ads. If you don't find what you want. There is NO reason to sympathize whatsoever.

For blogs and content site, let them have a donate button which says on the face to show gratitude than promoting click fraud this way.

In the ideal case,

- If you have a decent site (read business not arbitrage or lead gen sites), you must be making more money from serving the customer yourself than letting him/her navigate away from your site.

- Ads are meant to only complete the user experience. Like say I am searching for a "black leather high heel sandal" and the site doesn't have the content relevant, their last attempt to serve the customer should be to show relevant ads as someone out there might serve me.

- Ads are about monetizing a visit.

All adnetworks are aggressively behind click fraud for the very same reason.

However its a bad bad world! :) So to survive most are forced to shed away virtues and values.

I do this already. If I see something really good I see if there's an ad to click on.

In addition to what others say, it also violates the terms of most ad networks. Inciting users to click will get you quickly booted from many ad networks.

this certainly is a zone Google should be aiming for (but not via g. adsense) - hopefully (for them) pre-empting any widespread cultural adoption of this techinque for tipping a creator, which would be totally unsustainable

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