February 28, 2007 9:01 PM PST

Google to offer more click fraud protection

Beginning next month, Google plans to give advertisers the ability to prevent their pay-per-click ads from being shown to competitors suspected of repeatedly clicking on the ads to drive up their cost.

The move, to be announced in Google's AdWords blog on Thursday, is an effort to curb click fraud, which involves generating clicks solely for the purpose of increasing the cost of an advertiser's pay-per-click ad.

Google, king of pay-per-click advertising, will allow advertisers to specify which Internet Protocol addresses--numerical addresses assigned to individual computers--will be blocked from receiving the ads. The move is designed to stop rivals from using click fraud to eat through a competitor's advertising budget and to prevent them from bidding on the ad's keyword for the purpose of using it in their own ads. Fraudulent clicks can be generated by people paid to click ads over and over, and also through automated software programs.

Also beginning in March, Google plans to give advertisers more information on how much money they are saving by filtering out fraudulent clicks, a Google spokesman said. Before July, Google will provide a standardized interface for advertisers to report click fraud and request investigations.

Companies that sell click fraud protection services say the industry is rife with click fraud. One study puts the rate for top-tier search engines at less than 12 percent. Google claims that click fraud represents a very small amount--a percentage that is in the single digits--of total clicks, and says it catches nearly all of it before customers get charged. Google has said that less than 10 percent of all clicks on ads it serves are dubious in nature and it does not charge advertisers for those. Google provides refunds to customers who request them because of suspicious clicks for less than 0.02 percent of all clicks, the company said.

Both Google and Yahoo have settled lawsuits over the issue. Those companies are working with the Interactive Advertising Bureau and others to establish guidelines for quantifying click fraud.

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click fraud, pay-per-click advertising, advertiser, Google Inc., click


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What a joke of a gesture
Once again, Google is trying to paint over the seriousness of the click fraud problem by trying to frame a definition that is way too narrow. Here are the problems with this story:

1) The really good, and most successful, fraudsters moved beyond anonymizing and otherwise cloaking their IP addresses a long, long time ago. Only amateurs click on the same ad from the same IP.

2) By showing how much money "was saved" by their hopelessly outdated tactics, they want to lull advertisers into a false sense of security.

3) Google states that fraudulent clicks account for a "single digit" percentage of their overall clicks. This may be true, but it only tells part of the story. Almost all fraudulent clicks are concentrated among the high-dollar keyphrases (think real estate, legal, personal injury, and investing terms), so while the overall percentage of clicks may be small, the overall dollar value of the fraud is much greater. Fraudsters leave alone all the 5 and 10 cent keyphrases, and focus instead on the ones costing upwards of $2.

I once used PPC for an investing site, and after doing my own forensics, I found that a full 85 percent of PPC budget was fraudulently wasted. I know this because 85 percent of my PPC traffic did not stay more than one bloody second, whereas only 5 percent of my non-PPC traffic left so soon. That is incontrovertible evidence that real, human, qualified, and motivated eyeballs were not behind those clicks.

Mark Brandon
Posted by 208mbrandon (23 comments )
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Interesting timing
The IP Address blacklisting is more of a PR tactic than anything else. It may be initially effective in some, very simple, competitor click problems, but the new sophisticated fraud techniques all get around this by spreading the clicks over a huge number of dynamic IPs and proxy addresses. Furthermore, any perpetrator using a PC with a dial-up connection would have a different IP address each time they connect.

At the same time, Google announced it's assesment of the scope of the click fraud problem, claiming that 10% of total clicks on paid links are being filtered out as invalid.

Interestingly, Google's release of these numbers seems to be timed with a marked improvement in their filtering effectiveness, as we have measured over the past month. With the recent improvements, their in-house click fraud prevention is leaps and bounds over other search networks, including Yahoo.

That said, their is a new fraud technique that spreading much faster than any of the others and is virtually undetectable to the networks. According to our data, this is growing so rapidly that the current 10% (claimed) may well grow in multiples over coming months. The fact that is almost impossible to detect also presents the question "How much of the claimed 90% valid activity is being incorrectly deemed as valid traffic?".

Our company is studying this new click fraud system and will soon be posting our findings in an article on our web site www.trafficsentry.com

Again, Google seems to be much less vulnerable to this new technique than their nearest competitor, however, by no means immune to the threat.
Posted by ClickHawk (1 comment )
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NIce feature!
Posted by ziggyff (4 comments )
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Hey everbody, Srdjan here...
I see that the topic of this conversation is invalid clicks and click frauds on adsense ads..i found an excellent solution for me and i hope it will help you too!

Posted by srdjan031 (1 comment )
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