SOMEONE'S MAKING A LOT OF MONEY FROM YOUR PPC BUDGET
WHAT A PITY IT ISN'T YOU
"Have you ever wondered where all your non-converting traffic is coming from?"
This article explains where your Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) budget really ends up.
I really don't know why people bother with PPC engines when all
their advertising money ends up here anyway.
The Paid To Read Email biz, IS In Fact, a ppc Parisite, and I Really think we'd All do ourselves, And our Industry a Great Service, if we were to, On a Mass Scale, Accept this, if somewhat putrid, Stark Reality. -MadMeikal, member of Paid-to-Read programs
A little background
I was using several of the top feeds to advertise various affiliate and lead generation programs when I noticed that my results were steadily worsening to the point where the advertising was becoming unprofitable.
Being somewhat technically inclined, I traced back the logs - to smaller "partner engines" - but I still couldn't figure out where they were getting their terrible-quality traffic from. There was a lot of it, but there were no specific usage spikes pointing to click fraud and nothing I could complain about - and all the while my accounts were steadily dwindling to the point where I had to pull them because all my ad money was being wasted with nothing to show for it.
I started looking into alternative advertising, and found something called "Paid-to-Read-E-mail" (PTR) that promised targeted advertising to an interested user base.
Well, mailing lists are cool, right? Just to be on the safe side, I joined some programs to see what was being advertised through them - always good advice to keep up on what's being repeatedly advertised through programs, right?
I also found a forum dedicated to this "industry," as it likes to call itself.
And suddenly I realized where all my non-converting traffic was coming from.
Much of the information here has been compiled by both joining Paid-to-Read programs myself, and by reading through Getpaidforum.com and quoting comments made by members.
Usernames on that forum are not readily traceable back to "offline" identities. Where possible I have traced back usernames of Paid-to-Read (PTR) program owners. Quotes in this article are attributed to forum usernames. The quotes have been left "as is," without correction to grammar or spelling.
1. Intro - PPC Profit Sharing.
3. Third-Tier Search Engines.
4. Affiliates of These Engines.
The Scale of the Disaster
Because the PPC engine affiliates found out that relying on natural traffic wasn't making much money, they turned to PTRs (Paid-to-Reads) to pay people for searching through their affiliate links.
To be honest Mike, we aren't getting paid to read, we are in fact getting paid to search as with most sites. And I believe the results are getting worse because of the sheer volume of search ads being sent. There are just so many searches to do on a daily basis. I am in about 20-30 sites [PTRs] now and cannot complete all the searches I receive as I reach my limit. - PTR program member
This affects all search engines out there, including Google. Some members have also seen redirects on "search links" going through srv.perf.overture.
How many people are involved? How many searches are the result of people being paid to click on your PPC link? This PDF file contains the numbers from the PTR programs using CashCrusader, the most popular PTR script.
Currently there are 1,528 sites actively running CashCrusader scripts, with 3,053,261 members being served. Presently, the largest site powered by CashCrusader scripts has 34,236 members.
There are other scripts in use at PTRs as well, such as Create Your Get Paid, albeit they have considerably smaller numbers of users.
There are over 300 "smaller search engines," all of which use the top feeds. Most of the smaller search engines have no advertisers of their own.
PTR site memberships range from 500 for the smaller programs to around 40,000 for the larger ones. Here is an example of a typical PTR site, with an average membership. Here is what the average "mailbox" in that PTR looks like. Bear in mind that each e-mail received is generally comprised of more than one search.
As you can see from this example, there are over 6,000 members in this Paid-to-Read program, receiving approximately 25 search ads each per day. This results in 150,000 potential fradulent search engine clicks per day, from one mid-size PTR program alone. Multiply that number by 2000 sites, and you'll have a fair idea of just how many fraudulent clicks are happening per day from PTRs.
This is just one site. Download this file (8 megs, zipped) to see more examples of such sites and search portals. For the sake of completeness, I have compiled several relevant discussions that have taken place at Getpaidforum.com, but the files are simply too large to post here (about 26 megs total, compressed). These files are available upon request by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do people really search for pay?
The money earned in Paid-to-Read programs would be less than pocket change for most of us - most often less than a penny per click. But there are a lot of folks out there - disabled, students, pensioners - who need every penny they can scrape together to get by. PTR is not just a hobby. Nor is it confined to third-world countries. Most third-world countries are banned from participating in PTR searches - only people from those countries deemed "search-friendly" are allowed to participate in many PTRs - this is one of the things that helps make your traffic look more "real."
When you look at the screenshots of the Paid-to-Read site inboxes, you'll see that 98% or more of the paid mails are searches - in almost all of the programs. If members don't search, they will never earn enough to get paid. It's that simple.
Many PTR members belong to 20 to 100+ sites, and receive 20 or more search links from each site every day. The numbers aren't 2000 * 2k members, or 4,000,000. It's closer to 100,000 members counted multiple times, and all these people, at least the ones who live in "search-friendly" countries (USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand), are searching, day in and day out.
Do the people who send the search ads to PTRs know that they're participating in click fraud?
i can't wait until we are able to stop sending admin searches. we've
cut down on the number of links drastically. after reading some of your
posts, i get a lump in my throat when i click send.
By placing their advertising budgets 100% with the feeds, they've
forced the ptr webmasters to depend on the search engines for lack of
advertisers. All i'm saying is look in the mirror, people who live in
glass houses, shouldn't be throwing stones.
My first google check was $1200. My second was $2200. They owed me
$900 when they cancelled or suspended because too many so called invalid
clicks.. The reason was that stupid me had google as a popup for every
paid link of mine. and members wanting to support the site etc, were
continaullay clicking on the few ads that were displayed.
There are some days where the keyword adult is top payer for the
day...those ads are strickly targeted to those that checked both the adult
box and the search box, there are days when cash is a good key word, those
get targeted to members that have clicked both personal finances and
search...I try to target as much as possible so that members get what they
checked in their intrest boxes...
I'm a member of Mistyandsams [PTR program] and I click on all of them search ads, plus I also click on most search keywords [the portals sent out to PTRs often are "customized" with high-bid keywords for people to click on] to make the advertisers happy (not to mention more money) such as:
I always click on [search result] #1 position (more money)
Forex (Omegasearch.net - #1 position is at 0.33 cents per click)
Just to name a few, so keep 'em comin' boys and girls and I just
keep on searchin'
does she Cheat the Searchengines? i don't think so, but come down from your high horse, if you get paid then why should you care? -coolx
Do average PTR members know about the click fraud they're participating in?Right, they're paying for the ad, so if it's not too much trouble, I like to help them make a return on their investment. -Nikanji
my next question is this. is it wrong of me to select search as an option if I don't plan on searching? -Ryan
Yes this is wrong. you are cheating the person that paid for the ad.
If you dont want to search you [should] not check to receive sersches in
in a nutshell yes it is wrong to opt in to search, and have no intention to do any [searches]. If you are and you receive targetted searches, then you should search. If you don't want to search, then you shouldn't click the link. -Sarsons
If they stop sending search links, how would the webmasters make money. Right now, ptr depend on search engines. Advertising real products dont work, because nobody wants to buy stuff. They are trying to make money, not loose money. -slik300
Wow... Ryan looks to me like you are really really taking advantage
of me and my Sites. Because of that, I will be unselecting "Search" and
"Searches" in my sites for you. This has nothing to do with me or my Admin
searchs, as they are Optional in each mail. I however will not have you
cheating my advertisers. And sitting here BLATANTLY announcing your doing
such.. All i need is 2 or 3 hundred of you and Nobody will get paid
because, lol We'll have ZERO advertisers. I am real sure I'll get blasted
for Saying any of this and thats all fine..You click admin Searches and
not search.. I couldnt care less, But i will not have you Cheating my
I understand and agree with you 100% on this Michael but it just impossible to get thru to some people. They want to click the link so they get paid but they dont want to do a valid search so that you have satisfied customers who pay you and than you in turn get the money to pay us who are in your program??? -slik300
Clearly most clickers don't realize the big picture; they don't think beyond the search affiliate advertisers and trying to make them happy, as the search affiliate advertisers are the ones paying them to be traffic.
Some of them do realize what they're doing, but keep on regardless.
The 'Real Advertiser', (Not an advertiser at a ptr prog), Pays Cash to a 'Company' called a 'FEED Provider', to get Targetted Keyword Specific Traffic to their Website: -This is done by 'Bidding' on 'Keywords', the Higher the bid, the Higher up towards the top of the list of results generated, when a person searches for that keyword.
The 'Feed Providers', (there are only a handfull of them), ''farm out'' these 'results' or 'matchups' to the ppc se's. (Pay Per Click Search Engines), there are Hundreds of these thingys out there.
The ppc SE owners, All use an 'affiliate structure', to get Clicks on their portal pages. They PAY their 'affiliates' a % of the bidded amount of the keywords clicked on by the searcher. the % is Very High. Most of the money ppc se's bring In, goes back out to their affiliates.
So, the Feed Pays the SE, ONLY AFTER the Site for the keyword has been Clicked, and visited, and The SE Pays the Affiliate, that Sent that clicker, that clicked the link.
Many SE 'Affiliates' 'Advertise' their portal pages at ptr programs. Their hope is, that they will get enough clicks, on high ranking keywords, to Earn More at the SE they are an affiliate of, than they Spent, for the ad at the ptr.
Again, there is Only ONE Big Loser here, and it IS the Real Advertiser, Paying the Shot, for Feed, SE, PTR PO [Paid-to-Read Program Owner], PTR Advertiser, AND PTR Clicker, that clicks the link, and Does the search, in Most cases I'd assert, it's a blind click.
Again, there ARE a few that Do Only do Valid, And Legitimate searches, and the Real Advertiser Likely is Glad to see them, I'd assert they are in a Desperatly undernourished minority in ptr.
So, going 'UP' the 'foodchain', MO clicks the 'ptr-advertisers'
portal page link, and GETS Cash from the ptr for Doing it.
-The 'Real Advertiser' GETS, SCREWED
hope that Helps. -MadMeikal
and now bkoxefwo has gotten me thinking about how when i do search i'm actually ripping off the people advertising with the SE because i honestly have no interest at all in what i'm searching for. i'm just clicking to complete the search. -Girrl88
Which search engines are exposed to this?
How much money is lost each month to PTR click fraud?
I'm waiting for the $4,900 that CoolWebSearch owes me for the last
Keep in mind that this is one affiliate's payment from one engine, from one program with only 2000 members - less than one-tenth the size of some of the big programs. Carole owns searchdabest.com, among other sites, which contains her affiliate links to over 200 search engines she's personally promoting in various venues.
It has always seemed to me like the search deal is a sort of wink-wink nudge-nudge thing where the PO's [program owners] are hinting really hard that they'd like us to do something they can't quite come out and ask us to do. Kinda reminds me of a scene in a video on sexual harrassment they show at some companies. -Meroveus
Do the feeds know?
Clearly they do. Ah-ha recently banned a number of PTR programs and some of the smaller search engines owned by PTR program owners from using their results, including Mec-co-op-Paidmail.com, owned by Carole Stacey, and the search engine FindatLast, owned by Michael Laskey.
You're failing to see that feeds DO come in here...but of course you
wouldnt know that first hand yet...I guess you would have to trust me lach
and the others who have had our search engines discussed in this forum and
it has effected our businesses. People cant just talk about who pays in
here they have to ask about the highest bids if paid emails are allowed if
PTCs are allowed HELLO thats all incentive and NO feed likes that
period...I really dont think its all that hard to grasp
LOL You think wrong unfortunately Perhaps once you gain experience in running engines and use larger feeds you will understand. Understand everyone that this is a public forum and there are things we cannot post here, I've done my best to provide an explanation none the less.- Lachlann McGregor, Search engine owner and hosting provider
The feeds clamp down on the se's Just Enough to calm the real advertisers at times, and we see occasionally Mass Crackdowns. The SE's, In Turn, tighten the screws on the ptr po's [program owners], to Cover their dexteriors with the feeds, and the ptr PO's, (wise ones, lol), crack down on Themselves, And their database, (for a time), then things calm, and all slides back into complete mayham, and gross abuse by ALL THREE PARTIES once More. -MadMeikal
Representatives of SearchFeed, Kanoodle and Ah-ha do read Getpaidforum.com on a regular basis and talk with the owners of these minor search engines who use their feeds - they can't avoid knowing where their traffic is coming from, as the banning of specific PTR sites whose abuse is too blatant to go undetected shows.
The Reason, the ppc se issue is such a Hot Potato here, is because it is the SOLE Source of CASH Coming ''INTO'' This otherwise Failed business model, we call PTR, and Until the FEEDS Wake Up, the situation IS going to remain the Same. -MadMeikal
How is the fraud hidden from advertisers?
The primary way these search engines, affiliates, and PTR program owners hide what they're doing is to limit the clicks per IP to three per day per feed per search engine, to avoid suspicious amounts of traffic from any single user to your PPC advertising.
Sound convoluted? It's meant to be. This particular form of PPC fraud is a very lucrative occupation.
I always try to do at least one set of admin mail searches and my questions is, is one search really enough to help the point conversion, or do I really need to keep clicking till I'm not allowed to search any more? I know every little bit helps, but does it really help that much? - Ainthere
1 search on admin is not enough to have any affect. You should do at
least 1 on the advertisers searches and 2 on admin for it to have any
"Incentivized" clicking, or rewarding people to click on PPC adverts is against the terms of almost all search engines. Not that that stops anyone in the world of Paid-to-Read.
I think it's extremely low to report the webmaster to their search engines or other places trying to take the program down. That doesn't just get the webmaster; it also gets all the members who're still happy with the program and who want to reach payout. -Manthyra
What does this mean to you?You are being ripped off by the feeds, farming their PPC results out to smaller engines, who sign up affiliates who in turn go to these PTR programs to advertise their search affiliate pages in the expectation of PTR members performing valid searches.
Without a detailed look at the books of the feeds I can't give you an exact number, but an extremely conservative estimate of traffic coming from these "search affiliate advertisers" is upwards of 8 million fradulent clicks per month - based on one search per member per program per month, with the member being in an average of 25 programs. Let's up the ante just a little bit. Assume each member performs one valid search per program 20 days a month, and that's over 60 million searches per month. And we're still in very conservative territory here.
Given the costs of the feeds, that's $5,000,000 US - at the very least - of your advertising dollars. Every month. Lost in Paid-to-Read click fraud. And that's the most conservative estimate I could come up with, based on members making one search per program per month. Realistically I think that number is a lot higher. Someone's making a lot of money from your PPC budget. What a pity it isn't you.
That's where your PPC advertising budget is going. Straight into someone elses pocket - with no chance of your making a sale.
Řystein Halseth Lund
© 2004 Řystein Halseth Lund. All rights reserved.