Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Online Advertising and How People Cheat

Ben Edelman (who actually does some theory when he's not doing law and business) gave a great talk today at the Harvard Center for Research on Computation and Society lunch lecture series. It was about Web advertising scams -- how people cheat pay per impression, pay per click, and even pay per conversion schemes, for big bucks. The talk was based on this book chapter (here available as a working paper). (If he gives me a link to the slides, I'll update the post with it.)

One of the scams he gave for pay per conversion schemes is related to this blog. I often encourage people to buy my book on randomized algorithms -- to remind you all, the Amazon link is here. Now, when I put on that Amazon link, I've embedded a link that includes my Amazon Associates information, so if you buy the book, I get a small cut. Very small.** In fact, if you buy anything else after clicking that link, I get a cut -- I actually think this link alone puts a cookie on your system, so if you happen to buy on anything on Amazon for the next week or so, I get a cut. I think I got about $100 in store credit from Amazon last year, from people buying the book off my home page or buying things after hitting an Amazon link on the blog.

So again, I'll encourage you to click that link. (Heck, really, while you're there, just buy the book!)

For me naturally the gain of doing this is small, but apparently, scammers have found a way to make big money off this sort of thing. They have sneaky ways of getting these cookies onto your system -- not just for Amazon, but for other vendors also, multiple vendors at a time -- so if you click one of their links, and then buy things on the Web, they get a cut for "recommending" the purchase to you, even though they've really done nothing of the sort. When you think about it, a 5% cut from the purchases of a million Amazon customers can really add up...

If Ben Edelman happens to be coming to present at a venue near you, I highly recommend you go. And that's not false advertising.

**Actually, not so small. I get almost as much from Amazon as I do from the publisher if you buy the book through the link. Of course, I don't get much from the publisher either.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link and the kind words!

My slides are here:

Anonymous said...
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L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

I am told people are actually employed to play out these tricks as part of their job. Anyway let me take a look at the slides. Seems interesting.

Let me look for your book here in my neighbourhood bookstore. From Amazon the shipping costs are very high to India.

Anonymous said...

FYI, here are various thoughts of mine on click fraud:

Of particular interest, perhaps, are my thoughts on the Tuzhilin report.