Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Click_fraud
To what degree might Google shareholders click Google ads simply to boost their company’s profits? I think it would be an interesting and valuable point to research.
It is so easy to do that some shareholders might not even think it is wrong. Clicking a few Google ads a day is much easier than sharing copied music, for example. However, how many shareholders does Google have? How much would it boost Google’s profits if many of them clicked a few ads per day? These small acts could quickly add up.
What if people started buying ‘pay-per-click’ business stock simply because it gives them this direct control over company profits? I ask myself this, and I get flashbacks to dot-com scammers who worked the web to influence stock price. We know those kinds of people are out there.
This is all the more concerning given how many publicly traded companies are rushing into pay-per-click services, like Microsoft. If advertisers felt that click fraud was out of hand, it could be the end of Web 2.0.
Update: More Ruminations
It occurs to me that click fraud might be perfectly legal for most shareholders. There’s no law against clicking ad links, and Google’s Terms of Service doesn’t even mention it. AdSense and AdWords users are constrained by stricter terms.
I also suspect that even if click fraud became as pervasive as email spam, Google would always have AdWords advertisers. These kinds of online ads would never go mainstream, however. They would remain a niche.