When we first covered LeapFish, once a domain name appraisal service, they had just launched a new meta search engine which I claimed no one would ever use. Practically immediately after posting, we were flooded with anonymous comments praising the service, all coming from the same IP address and within half an hour (CEO Ben Behrouzi later apologized for the astroturfing).
But there were other reports on the net that showed the employees were indeed painting a far better picture of the company than the reality would suggest. Some of those targeted blogged about their experiences of being approached by super-aggressive sales people from LeapFish, which is ok up to a point. But I have never heard of sales tactics like this: blatantly committing click fraud to drive up the advertising cost for potential clients using other systems in the hopes that they would be inclined to switch to LeapFish instead, and bragging about it to those potential clients!
And that’s exactly what happened this morning.
We got an e-mail from Matt at Pong-A-Long who had been contacted earlier today by a LeapFish employee named Chris who was looking to sell him the company’s online advertising services. After being told that Pong-A-Long wasn’t interested, Chris called back a couple of minutes after the first call to try again. He got the same response. Apparently, he ended the second telephone call with the words “well, have fun spending money on Google” (LeapFish might have targeted Pong-A-Long because they noticed the company was advertising using Google AdWords in the first place).
Chris later decided to follow up on his two unsolicited phone calls with an e-mail to Pong-A-Long saying:
I just clicked on your link 50 times. Pay per click hurts. Found you on page 2 of the sponsored links. Call me for an advertising solution (888)REDACTED-EXT 765.
As Matt puts it: “Admitting to click fraud is an interesting business model.”
(For the record: we called the number and determined that it was in fact the LeapFish office)
Update: Behrouzi responds on his blog. He’s disappointed in TechCrunch.
See also the official LeapFish blog post.