February 2005 Newsletter

What is a Referral?

**** 4specs Recommended Reading

Articles concerning click fraud:

Newsweek: Internet Scammers steal money with Click Fraud
[Link no longer works]

Pay Per Click Analyst: Click Fraud: The Reality
[Site no longer works.]

**** The 4specs Perspective

What is a referral?

Sounds simple to many, and yet we still hear every month "Where is the package of bingo cards you sent us?" when we discuss referrals.

The 4specs definition of a referral is when a user goes to a 4specs section page and clicks on the manufacturer's name and is redirected or "referred" to the website. This is also called a clickthrough. We are able to track the referrals as every referral goes through a script on the 4specs server. This permits us to log the information we need. This definition and procedure is used by every Internet advertising server, including Google AdWords.

The logged information includes:

ip# - the internet connection number
date and time
url - the place the user was sent
cookie - helping us track unique users and repeat users. This cookie is not manditory to use 4specs.
referring page - where the user was when they clicked
browser - the type of browser they used

We do the following to protect the integrity and validity of the 4specs referral system:

  1. All referrals come through 4specs. We do not use any affiliates which are more prone to click fraud as the affiliate site is looking to increase their revenues.
  2. There are several automatic robot blocks to prevent robots from running through and visiting all the listed sites. These robots can be nasty. Several times, while these blocks were not in place, a robot would download the entire 4specs website and visit all the links. Needless to say this distorts the month's performance unless the referrals are deleted.
  3. I review the clickthroughs for each day. I review any questionable users and delete their clicks from the database.
  4. At the end of the month we eliminate all the daily duplicates - only one user-date-manufacturer per day.

Our goal is to present valid and accurate referral statistics. Problems are generally easy to spot. Our traffic is very steady from day to day (in the 1-2% range week to week) and any variances are easy to spot.

Next month - how to track incoming referrals to your website.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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