On Clickfraud – An Interview With Joe Holcomb, SVP of Marketing

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A few days ago I posted about an article (actually a couple of them, in parts) by Joe Holcomb, Senior Vice President of Marketing at BlowSearch, and thanked him on confronting this issue. Well it’s time to thank him again, but this time personally on an interview with him. Read on to find out more about Joe, what inspired him to write the 5711 word article (just counted 😉 ), what BlowSearch is doing to prevent it, and what the response has been so far. Cheers Joe!

SY: Hi Joe, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview. What is your background and how did you get into BlowSearch?

JH: Sid, I’m glad to have the opportunity to speak with you. I started online about eight years ago developing and building affiliate web sites. At one point I managed a network of over 100 domains which drove about 5 million unique visitors a month. I drove traffic to these sites through link partnerships and plenty of search engine optimization. You might call me an old school “black hat”. Back in the days of doorway pages and keyword stuffing I did pretty well getting lots of traffic to my network. I still have a network of sites and follow SEO very closely even though I no longer employ those old techniques.

From there I stepped into the web hosting reseller market as a way to get more control over the management of my domains. It wasn’t long before I realized there was easier money to be made online and I scaled back my network of sites to enter the hosting business full time. I grew the business out of the reseller phase into full hosting company specializing in virtual hosting for SEM’s (small to medium enterprises).

In late 2003, I was recruited by Kanoodle to be part of their Business Development team. I worked with Kanoodle for two years building out a network of over 700 enterprise level partnerships with web development, hosting, and search marketing companies. The program helped to propel Kanoodle to a much larger position in the search market. I’m happy I had the chance to be at Kanoodle. It was a great experience that built the foundation for me to learn the business side of search.

After nearly two years at Kanoodle I decided it was time to move on and I landed here at BlowSearch as their SVP of Marketing last December. I’m one of those guys that really loves his job and is happy to be working in such a fascinating and fast paced market.

SY: What exactly does BlowSearch do, for those of us who don’t know?

JH: BlowSearch is a meta search engine and advertising network. The engine is capable of collecting data from up to 30 different search engines at the same time. Most meta engines are only capable of importing 3 to 4 sets of data. We’ve optimized our technology to handle much more, very quickly. We bring in the data, remove dupes, and then resort based on our own relevancy. There are paid listings in the mix including those of our own advertisers.

Our pay per click search advertising program is just out of beta but we feel we have one of the strongest and most complete offerings on the Internet. With partners like the InfoSpace and AdOn Networks, our advertisers are reaching more of the middle market than many other search providers. Plus we provide tools and services which really set us apart from the pack. We believe in giving advertisers what they want, more control over their advertising.

BlowSearch provides tools like Competitor IP blocking which allows our advertisers to stop malicious clicks from abusive IP’s. There is also Traffic Source Selection which allows our advertisers to “cherry pick” where they want to receive traffic from. We’re also launching our Click Defender technology which eliminates click fraud from automated click bots.

We also recently launched the BlowSearch Secured Instant Messenger which is the only 4,096 bit secure instant messenger on the net.

SY: You recently wrote a pretty long article regarding click fraud and how online advertising companies are fooling the average advertiser to gain a higher revenue. I personally would like to, for the second or third time, thank you for confronting this issue. What inspired you to write the article?

JH: No reason to thank me. It’s something that had to be done. Other engines have put up smoke screens on this issue and have refused to address the market in a direct manner. The bottom line is that there are millions of dollars involved in click fraud and all of the search networks, from the top tier to the middle market, benefit from it. It’s an industry wide issue that deserves industry wide attention.

SY: In the second part of the article, you focus on what BlowSearch is doing to prevent click fraud. I won’t make you repeat every single word of that article, but can you give us a brief overview of your soon-to-launch product, Click Defender, for those who don’t want to read the whole article?

JH: Sure. Click Defender’s main goal is to eliminate the automated sources of click fraud. The technology is real time software that makes sure clicks originate from real searchers, not machines and scripts. It is currently in testing on our publisher network. It will be launched to our whole network soon.

With anti-click fraud technology like this coming into the market the advertiser has a choice to make. They can continue to be defrauded or move their ad revenue to a network that can protect them. We believe that the advertiser will make an educated choice. BlowSearch has the same, if not better, network coverage as most of the middle market players. It’s a no brainer for the advertiser to bring their ad spending to a company that can protect it for them.

We’re doing the right thing for our advertisers, and regardless of the revenue hit we take, we will prove that to the market. It is the advertiser’s choice now. Let them speak with their advertising dollars.

SY: Finally, how has the response been to the article (I saw quite a few comments on it) and what do you think will need to change the state of this industry? Simply put, will the launch of Click Defender change anything?

JH: I’d say that across the board the response had been extremely positive. I’d really like to thank the marketing community online for their support.

I have a bit of a different perspective than most other exec’s in this business. I consider myself a search marketer first and a search engine executive second. Having that mind set allows me to see my role in a different light. For me this business is about the marketer. Designing services and tools catering to their needs is what this business should be about. As a company BlowSearch needs to have tools and services that advertisers can appreciate. Click Defender is one of those tools.

Will my speaking out change anything in the market? I hope it will. Look, I was always taught that to be a leader you need to surround yourself with the right people and have a positive direction and vision. That vision needs to be in the best interest of those you serve or else you risk losing everything. BlowSearch has the right people and we are committed to building the best products and services in the search market. The other search networks will eventually be forced to answer to their advertisers over click fraud. They can either face the truth now or face the consequences later. If they want to lead they need to do so by example.

The launch of technology like Click Defender means that the rest of the market must step up to the plate and address this issue or risk losing market share. BlowSearch is not going to tell anyone how we do it. That’s our advantage. So, as long as we have that advantage we’ll use it. I expect we will change the landscape of the market to some degree. To what degree we we’ll soon find out.

All I know is that we’re preparing for an exodus of middle market advertisers coming to BlowSearch over the next couple of months. If that happens, great. If not, then maybe advertisers really are okay with the fact that they are losing money to bogus clicks. I’d hate to think it was the latter because advertisers now have a choice and they deserve better than being left exposed to click fraud.

Thanks for letting me talk to your readers Sid. I hope it helps them to understand the direction of our company and why we’re taking the road that we are on.


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