Check out Steve Rubel’s post on Click Fraud and the source article in BusinessWeek. According to the article, click fraud is “a dizzying collection of scams and deceptions that inflate advertising bills for thousands of companies of all sizes. The spreading scourge poses the single biggest threat to the Internet’s advertising gold mine and is the most nettlesome question facing Google and Yahoo, whose digital empires depend on all that gold.”
Says Rubel: “My take on all of this is that advertising is clearly at a major crossroads. The old model of throwing stuff up there and seeing what sticks is dying. Search engine marketing, while certainly effective, can have its challenges too and clearly can be gamed. Over time, people are going to say “enough.” They’re going to want companies to engage them in conversation before they are convinced they should buy. This is why I believe we’re about to enter the golden age of PR.”
Rubel is right. Unless Google, Yahoo, and others change their practices, the click advertising model is likely to collapse in upon itself. It’s not just about scammed advertisers abandoning the model. Search for an item, say ping pong tables, and you get more links to more tables from more sellers than you can possibly assimilate. It’s unpleasant and intimidating—unless you are already dealing with a select group of trusted retailers.
Which is why Rubel is right that relying purely on search engines will likely be replaced with something more conversational, which paves the way for trust. Still, the “golden age” of PR may be a bit further off than we hope. While many of the experiments in community—and Eastwick is involved in several—are extremely successful and point us in the right direction, companies need to be more tech savvy and invest more time and money to create a community. And while large retailers and tech companies will move more quickly to adopt new models and reap the benefits, new tools and partnerships will be needed to help smaller retailers and non-tech companies to participate.