The measurement and eradication of click fraud—bogus clicks on pay-per-click ads from anything other than potential customers—took an express ride to the top of the hot-topic agenda in search engine marketing when Google chief financial officer George Reyes told an analyst conference in December 2004 that such fraud was a threat to his company’s business model.

Since then, click fraud has gotten a lot more attention from both the natinal press and the people it affects the most: search marketing players, from engine to agencies to merchants. Google’s proposed $90 million settlement in the Lane’s Gifts class action suit is still up in the air, and may be for another few weeks. But one way or another, click fraud will stay on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

And except for solving it permanently, there’s nothing players in the industry would like more than to get a fix on the size of the problem of bogus clicks.

“The data are very unreliable,” says Dmitri Eroshenko, CEO of Clicklab, a Miami-based company that is now beta testing a service to run down click fraud offenders. “For one thing, there’s a large disconnect between search advertisers and Web analytics and auditing firms. Search networks are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to negotiating refunds or discussing what is really going on.”

Get the full story at multichannel merchant