There is a theory in law enforcement that goes something like this:
If someone breaks a window in a building, and it isn't fixed quickly, others will soon be broken. As the evidence of neglect builds, vandals will be more emboldened to break into the building and commit more vandalism and eventually destroy it completely.
If, on the other hand, that window is promptly fixed, it discourages further crime because it is clear that someone is watching the store.
Further, if instead of just fixing the window, you find the vandal and hold them accountable for it, a message goes out loud and clear: we're watching and you will get caught.
The problem with the broken windows theory is that it requires more than police action to put into practice. If the community isn't involved in the cleanup effort, the initiative fails. When the community is drawn in to help police the problems, to report them and to 'mind the store', so to speak, crime rates drop.
This theory can be extended to police nearly any venue where there is unacceptable behavior - including the problem of click fraud in the venue of PPC advertising. At the moment, the PPC industry is like a vacant building with nobody watching the store. It's easy to enter fraudulent clicks. It's even easier to get away with it. At the moment, a large percentage of advertisers leave the detection of fraudulent clicks up to the PPC provider - and the policy of most PPC providers is that they will provide refunds for proven click fraud upon request from the advertiser.
What happens when:
- The PPC provider's software detection methods don't catch the click fraud ?
- The advertiser doesn't use fraud detection software ?
- The advertiser can't back up the claim of click fraud ?
- The major players in the industry refer to the problem as 'negligible' ?
Simply put - the click fraudster gets away with it. The rewards are enormous - estimates put the amount of money lost to click fraud in the range of billions of dollars annually. But the loss to any individual advertiser is usually negligible, and even Google sees refunding money to advertisers as no more than the cost of doing business.
If we're ever going to put a dent in click fraud, three things have to happen.
1. Advertisers have to take responsibility for monitoring their own campaigns. If you don't know it's happening, you can't take steps to stop it.