Click Forensics has released statistics for the first quarter of 2009 revealing that 13.8 percent of clicks are a result of fraudulent behavior. Although that figure is down from 17.1 percent in Q4 2008, it's still too high for search marketers' comfort as they watch every penny spent and earned. Ron Jones reviewed some basic tips for fighting click fraud in a recent Search Engine Watch article. Among those to always keep in mind:

Use reputable search engines. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN have a vested interest in providing users with qualified traffic, Jones notes, and therefore actively seek to rid their sites of click fraud. "These search engines often detect fraudulent clicks, and never charge advertisers for them," he says—and they'll ban the abusers, when caught, from their sites.

Monitor your paid search clicks and site traffic. Use analytics tools to identify patterns or spikes that are outside the normal traffic pattern for your site. Some specific symptoms to watch for: a sudden burst in traffic/clicks originating from a single IP address, a spike in the number of clicks for a keyword, a drastic drop in conversion rates.

Report suspicions. Alert search engines to any suspected fraudulent activity, and collect data for a click-fraud appeal for credit. Google's Invalid Activity Appeal gives you an idea of the kind of data required.

The Po!nt: The best offense is a strong defense. Taking simple preventive steps like these can help bolster your fight against click fraud—and its resulting costs.

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