The meteoric rise of search engine marketing (SEM) has been well documented, but marketers have been reluctant to discuss the growth of click fraud. That is changing.

Search engine advertising has become too big a business for major search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, to ignore the damage — real or imagined — click fraud is doing.

An article in The New York Times, "Marketers Demand Better Count of the Clicks," reports how a group of large companies that includes Kimberly-Clarke, Colgate-Palmolive and Ford Motors is demanding that online publishers hire auditors to check ad and viewer counts and that they do so no later than the middle of next year.

"When you grow up, you have to do certain things," Mainak Mazumdar of Nielsen//NetRatings told The Times. "The Internet has matured to a place where traditional marketers, companies that have been spending much more money on television and print, are asking the questions that they would ask for the print side."

In Mr. Mazumdar's opinion, this is a positive development because it legitimizes the Internet as an advertising medium. Not everyone is so upbeat.

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