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Is PPC a virus? In some cases, my anti-virus seems to think so!.

The author

James Holding

Head of Analytics

Approximately 1 to 2 months ago whilst browsing the internet, I found a few PPC links that were taking me to static blank pages (an attractive plain white screen). At the time I thought nothing of it, pages are temporarily down and errors in the destination links do occur. Before Christmas, and while doing a lot of my Christmas shopping online thanks to the snow, the problem seemed to be a much greater issue for me with many sites refusing to load through PPC links. These sites included many big brands such as Nike (from who I was trying to buy some bloody trainers) and various other online stores.

Browsing Habits

My browsing tendency means I open many relevant tabs from a search results page (so I have several links open, each in a new tab), and then quickly scan through them looking for relevant products/information. Any of the tabs that presented me with a blank page, I then proceeded to close (assuming the pages were down). At this stage I was a little suspicious at how often this was happening but decided it was not worth the effort to discover the problem. This causes problems from an advertiser’s point of view, as I was just finding the next available site that could meet my needs.

The Source of the Problem

After using a comparison site, I found that the majority of these links also caused the same problem. Also one of them was advertising a deal I wanted so I decided to find out what was wrong. My initial assumption was that I had some kind of virus (a Google re-direct virus has been in the press recently) although my virus checker, and the symptoms were not consistent with the problem. I ensured my anti-virus was up to date along with my computer and router firewall settings. Finally I tried pausing my anti-virus protection, after which the links worked perfectly again. It seems that any PPC or affiliate link that went through re-direct tracking systems (including links from the big tracking players such as DoubleClick and Affiliate Window) were being halted by my anti-virus program. This could cause large issues for both PPC advertisers and affiliates, costing money for every click without even receiving a visit in return. On top of this it is likely that each of the re-directing systems are charging for that click (although I am not sure the links loaded properly to count), and these companies usually pay big money for additional tracking services, and do not expect them to cause problems in acquiring business.


This problem would have still charged the advertiser and prevented me from reaching the site. Confidence with the advertiser in question would also be affected, as most people would assume the site was having issues or the advertiser had made a mistake. I made no changes to the security level of my anti-virus program that I am aware of to bring about these changes, which I find a little strange and I have currently not found a resolution (other than stopping protection). I use a major brand internet protection solution, and if this begins to be a wide-spread problem this could become much more of an issue. After looking for solutions I have not found many other instances of this problem, so it could be an isolated circumstance. However it is worrying that such a little change could have such a large impact. This might be an isolated case but what about Microsoft’s anti tracking ability touted in the new version of Internet Explorer?