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Google Sues Click Inflators 277

Rollie Hawk writes "As is the case with any pay-per-click (PPC) advertising service, Google AdSense is vulnerable to click inflation, where the per-click values of ads go down thanks to excessive clicking. What is different this time is that it is not greedy webmasters clicking ads on their own site but rather the advertisers themselves. In a lawsuit filed last year, Google alleges that Auctions Expert used hired hands and automation to generate high numbers of ad clicks that resulted in $50,000 in revenues. This was done with two goals in mind: forcing wasted advertising expenses on competitors and inflating their own click values, lowering advertising costs. Industry insiders claim that Google AdSense and other PPC advertising providers are undermanned and therefore don't catch many of the estimated 20% fraudulent clicks. It certainly seems that some heuristic software could help reign-in some of these activities, yet Google seems to do a large amount of this work by hand. Often criticized for its policies of non-disclosure for many of its online services, Google claims the secrecy is justified in the case of not giving advertisers details on fraudulent clicking. They say the last thing they want to do is provide a 'road map' to would-be frauders."
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Google Sues Click Inflators

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  • Tracking purchases? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eunuch ( 844280 ) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:37PM (#12285776)
    How hard is it to track purchases that are due to a particular click? That would solve the problem in a hurry. Wouldn't work for more "image" type advertising, but it would be an interesting challenge for a purchasing framework.
    • by wpmegee ( 325603 )
      Not very, I would imagine. You could just have a cookie, and write down every single click you make for each visitor. Or without cookies, you could force your users to logon to the site and store it server-side.
    • by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#12285888)
      That I don't purchase something means little.

      I can not EVER remember purchasing ANYTHING the first time I have visited a site. It almost always requires a 2nd or 3rd visit. The internet allow me to search for better prices or better products. That does not mean that I have never purchased something from a website that I found through an ad the contrary. I have purchased much this way.

      It would not be fair to google for an advertiser to not be paid for getting me to a website via a google ad from work that led to me purchasing that item when I got home. I suspect that the majority of legitamite click throughs do not result in a purchase with the initial visit. Google (or any other ad provider) has done it's job properly though and should be rewarded.
      • by ewg ( 158266 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:23PM (#12286220)
        Also, many people research products on the web site and then pick up the phone to place the order. The web site supported the sale, but that fact can't be tracked to any individual web session.
      • by atomic_toaster ( 840941 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:23PM (#12286229)
        The thing is, they're not charging for how effective the ad is. They're charging for how effective its placement is, like how Superbowl ads cost a frigging fortune in comparison to something that runs on the local cable channel. It's very much as if Google was a huge shopping mall, and the advertisements are the signs and the ads in the windows of the stores. When you pay rent to the landlord to have your store in a mall, you pay more for the same square footage dependant on the location of the mall, the store's location in the mall, the popularity of the mall, etc. -- basically all of the things that the mall itself can provide that makes it more likely that people will come into your store. But it's not the landlord's responsibility to get the people actually into your store (that's your ads, signage, and window displays), or to buy anything in your store (that's based on your products and prices). PPC is just a way of tracking if the "mall" is actually drawing people to your "store". This makes Google tracking the click-to-purchase ratio pretty useless. Now, if the site itself is tracking the traffic-to-purchase ratio, that's a different matter entirely.
      • by Evro ( 18923 ) * <> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:35PM (#12286336) Homepage Journal
        Most retailers can track you across visits. Tracking your click-through history (which Google ads you've clicked on before making a purchase) is incredibly valuable information to the retailer. Just because you didn't buy something today doesn't mean your click wasn't tracked and can't be linked back to that click.
      • But still, through some work they can tell when you've visited the site from google at all, and when you've made your purchase.

        If ever there's an http_referrer of google it'd be up to the web site to track that and link it to a purchase.

        Webmasters know where the referrers come from. Whether they chose to disclose it to Google OTOH is a much different story. I'd bet most web stores track from the referrer to the purchase, they just won't disclose that to anyone.
      • by mpcooke3 ( 306161 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:12PM (#12286678) Homepage
        This doesn't really matter. For ad networks using CPA (cost-per-acquisition) rather than CPC the tracking is done using cookies which will record a sign up or purchase even on repeat visits.

        Although CPA based advertising is a lot less prone to fraud there are issues of which the biggest is in deploying pixels to do tracking on all sign up/purchase pages there are also more fixable issues with double counting (crediting to more than one ad network). CPA may be vulnerable to publisher fraud of course though this is usually less of an issue as you have a contractual relationship with them.

        CPC click fraud was a problem long before google starting selling space on a CPC basis. I believe commission junction used to have a whole fraud detection team (they may still do).
    • It would be bad biz to show customers how bad the click-to-buy ratio really is.
      • If you run an advertizing campaign then they have hooks to let you feed in associated sales and you can look at your response not just in clicks per $ but in revenue per $ advertizing.
    • >> How hard is it to track purchases that are due to a particular click?

      Let's put the shoe on the other foot. How hard is it to track an someone who generates nothing but worthless, non-buying clicks?

      >>FTA: allegedly recruited as many as 50 people to click on online advertising, generating about $50,000 in ad revenue.

      That's a lot of empty clicks. Kind of like going to the local Kwikkee mart for 6 hours a day every day for a month and never buying anything... small wonder they got notice
    • I used to work for MatchLogic [], which was an non-evil DoubleClick. Regarding tracking of purchases, it's easily done. When you receive an ad, you get a bonus cookie with it. Then on the destination site (Dell, etc) there would be "web pings" (1x1 gifs) on various pages. This way we could track how far into the site you got, if you ended up making a purchase, etc. Not every advertiser did this with us, but those that did were always impressed. But it doesn't really help in terms of weeding out spiders/aut
    • It's not easy to track from the click to a purchase. There are several reasons why: Google does not control the shopping cart. Sales can have multiple states, ex pending, completed, reversed. You may encounter scaleability problems as the number of clicks increase.

      Being able to track the customer down to the purchase is what separates CPC (cost per click, overture, adwords) ad networks from CPA (cost per aquisition, linkshare, networks. Google does allow you to place a pixel on the confirmatio
    • This is already standard practice for both Google and Overture. It's called "conversion tracking", since in industry parlance a "conversion" is a sale/subscription/any other concrete action taken as a result of an ad impression. Currently both services' "pay for performance" model prices based on click count, not conversion count (AFAIK), however.

      Here's a little bit more info on Google/Overture conversion tracking: link [].
    • I just mention this because I saw it on their site today... But Busted Tees [] pays you $4 to refer someone if they end up buying a shirt. Don't know how they do it (cookies?), but that's what they do.

      Also, if you search for "Mortgage" on Google and click on the ads, someone paid $18 for you to do that. I'm sure other searches for high margin products (anything asbestos lawsuit related, maybe) is also high in price.

      Next time you feel like spending money, click on 5 of those ads. $90 down the drain!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:38PM (#12285793)
    They say the last thing they want to do is provide a "road map" to would-be hackers.

  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:39PM (#12285803)

    From the article:

    Stricchiola harshly criticizes Google, saying the firm typically will not divulge much information to advertisers about the nature or scope of click fraud on their Web sites. Google defends the practice, saying it does not want to provide a road map for those with bad intentions.

    Security through obscurity...always a sound threat-management strategy.

    Seriously, what exactly does Google hope to accomplish by trying to keep a lid on this? News flash, Google: the 'road map' is already out there, and being used to the tune of approximately 20% of all clicks on ads (stat from TFA). The secret is one can gain by covering up the one, that is, but the people perpetrating the click fraud.

    Google better do an about-face on this issue, and fast, before it winds up biting them on the ass even more than it has already.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:59PM (#12286013)
      You know, "No security through obscurity!" is an aphorism, not a law of thermodynamics. It's not like disclosing their practices is going to accomplish anything (no, they're not waiting for your 1337ness to ride in and save them) and the fact that there's an existing problem isn't proof that things can't get any worse.

      Sorry, "No security through obscurity!" is just something Slashbots repeat to sound smart...

      • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:30PM (#12286285) Homepage Journal
        "Sorry, "No security through obscurity!" is just something Slashbots repeat to sound smart..."

        What's more, it's often dead wrong.

        "Security through obscurity is no security at all" is often the mantra, and yet when pressed, you have to admit that having a password; having some systems be honeypots that feed DNSBLs; and many other valid security approaches are STO *and* are valid additions to your security framework.

        The key to good security is layering. Put out your STO layer, and then add in your logical security layer, followed by your physical security layer, followed by your auditing layer. This is how you build good security.

        At every point in your security model, you should have a sense that there's some ablative layer that can be compromised without a full failure of security. What's more, you should be auditing that intrusion to discover the failure, and ideally reacting to that information (e.g. by modifying firewall rules to stop the intruder).

        Getting back to our friends... Google is showing you the first layer of their security approach: don't tell them what our security model is. Now, if that's their whole model, then they're screwed, but it seems reasonable to assume that it's not (else, why bother not telling you?)
        • by mr.newt ( 244023 ) <> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:41PM (#12286386)
          I think you have totally misunderstood the concept of security through obscurity. It's a matter of degree. If you were being very literal, *all* security is security through obscurity. After all, encryption only works because the encryption key is obscure (in that case, only two people should know it). However, that term applies not to security in general, but security that is had by simply failing to disclose vulnerabilities that are easily discoverable anyway. Generally what is known as security through obscurity is only effective in keeping out very casual users of the system in question, and is not a valid reason for failing to disclose something relevant such as (in this case) type and extent of click fraud to paying advertisers.
    • by Florian Weimer ( 88405 ) <> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:09PM (#12286111) Homepage
      The secret is one can gain by covering up the one, that is, but the people perpetrating the click fraud.

      Not true. If you've got a solution for click fraud, you should keep it to yourself because it enables you to give better service to your customers, especially better than the competition who doesn't know of your discovery.

      Have a look at spam filter heuristics for some inspiration. The most effective ones are not widely published, and thus not widely used. I don't think this is a coincidence.

      Security through obscurity doesn't work in cryptography. A competitive edge through trade secrets is not completely unheard of. In the end economics win, and not cryptography.
    • Security through obscurity is a valid means of security. Security is a matter of depth, meaning that you rely on multiple layers of security within your system. Obscurity is one of those layers. The "security through obscurity" cliche that you often see here on /. is in regard to security solutions that rely almost soley on obscurity.
  • Pay to Surf Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by disc-chord ( 232893 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:41PM (#12285824)
    During the early days of the "Pay 2 Surf" fad, some friends of mine in college devised some of the original scams (including bots that have led Yahoo and others to include image verification to determine if a real person is making an account). They were monumentally succesful, one claimed he paid for nearly a whole year's worth of tuition from scamming these guys.

    None of them ever had the slightest bit of legal woes as a result of it, and none of them even got complaints from the companies. As far as the companies organizing Pay 2 Surf programs were concerned the more the merrier as it meant more ad revenue for them.

    I wonder why Google has decided, against their own interests, to go after fraudsters like this.
    • by millwall ( 622730 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:45PM (#12285884)
      I wonder why Google has decided, against their own interests, to go after fraudsters like this.

      I think it's a long term strategy from Google. If they would embrace the revenue generated by the scammers, the real and legitimate advertisers would get less out of their ads, and in the end stop using Google for marketing.
      • Re:Pay to Surf Fraud (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dfjghsk ( 850954 )
        I think you're exactly right... The company I work for once tried to expand their advertising by using Looksmart... after 48 hours they put the advertising on hold -- they already received thousands of clicks and spent hundreds of dollars. After 3 months, not a single one of those visitors ever returned to our site, and we dropped Looksmart.. they probably won't get a dime from us ever again.
        • I noticed that too for a client that I set up. All the "searches" we were getting were coming from very very odd sites, that I can't imagine anyone would ever visit. (These are the sites spammers mention when they say "Add your site to over 45,000 search engines!"). Stupid sites like or

          Needless to say we are not paying any more money to LookSmart.
    • It's simple. Though what they sell directly to their customers is clicks, what their customers want to be paying for is people visiting their website and actually browsing/buying/registering/whatever. If Google clicks start to lose value (as the percentage of clicks that turns into something valuable for the customer drops), customers will not be willing to pay as much for them. If what you say about the "Pay 2 Surf" fad is true, most likely, the people paying for advertising were not tracking what rate
    • or any game actually. One just has to look at "independent market analysis" used by Microsoft and others or benchmarks generated by CPU and compiler vendors etc.

      I agree that the clicking thing is fraudulent, but no more so than many other activities. It seems we're getting immune to this and expect to be lied to.

    • by Anonymous Luddite ( 808273 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:52PM (#12285963)
      >> I wonder why Google has decided, against their own interests, to go after fraudsters like this

      They are doing it precisely because it is in their best interests to do so. Advertiser's have many places to spend their budget. A lack of confidence in the adwords program would drive those dollars elsewhere.

    • I wonder why Google has decided, against their own interests, to go after fraudsters like this.

      I wonder, why would Google want to go against fraudsters who are costing innocent people money.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A guy I knew had one of those adbars, where it paid for you to keep the window open,as it was constantly showing you ads. If your screensaver went on, it stopped paying. So he put a piece of wood on an incline, put his mouse on it, and then tied the mouse cord to an oscillating fan. Bingo, instant "always on" surfing. ;)
    • It is strongly in their best interest to appear to be doing something about the problem. Issue is, it is also in their best interest to minimize the cost of doing something about it - so, put a guy on it in his spare time, publicize whatever he comes up with, leave it at that.
  • Good deal. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Future Man 3000 ( 706329 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:41PM (#12285833) Homepage
    Greed is ruining the Internet (pop-ups, e-mail spam, blog spam, P2P, ungrounded cease-and-desists, spyware/adware, "phone-home" software) and it's about time to defend one of the last remaining quality services of the Internet: search engines.

    Google got to the top of the game by providing an excellent service efficiently. But like anything else, people have no problems ruining it to make a little more money.

  • by neurosis101 ( 692250 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:42PM (#12285842)
    Google sets up a way of doing advertising business with them. You sign a contract that most likely links your rate with your clicks, provided they aren't fraudulent. Now somebody got caught and they're gonna get sued. What's the problem? Its not like its a right to have an advertisement on their site. Google can tell you to shove it if they want. Reading the summary makes me think the issue is that Google isn't disclosing how they caught this advertiser because its done by hand. Again, why should Google disclose more than necessary to prove to the court in their case? I'm not seeing the issue.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The issue here is legitamate advertisers do not know the exact performance of the ads they are paying for, nor do they know how much they are paying each time someone clicks on their ads. Google has to become more transparent or advertisers will be forced to sign up for 3rd party services ala [] If Google continues with their secrets, the advertisers will lose their trust in Google and leave.
    • Most of us I think should actually encourage this action. The more fraudulent clicks that are not paid out the more valuable the service is. As a guy who tries to cover some of his costs by running google ads on a few sites, I'm happy they're going after this fraud. I'm not in this to make a fortune, but the more valuable the service overall is, the higher advertisers will pay for the click, the more money I make. If click fraud becomes rampant, the opposite happens and I lose the little bit of money I
    • by TedTschopp ( 244839 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:08PM (#12287178) Homepage
      Here is one issue. We used Google ads for a while until they shut us off. Turned out that someone else (not those of us running the site) had set up a bot and had been clicking away at the links.

      We have no idea if this was to 'help' us or to hurt us. But the problem remains. Want to screw someone over who has uses Googles Adwords on the site. You know how. Want to screw someone over who is advertising on Google. Now you know how.

      The assumption that is being made by google is that there is a relationship between the clicking on an add and the recievership of money. In our case there might have been a relationship, but it was done without our knowledge. Now we can't use any of Google's Ads.

      The issue is a bit harder than it orignally seems.

  • Perfect opportunity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stecoop ( 759508 ) * on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:43PM (#12285850) Journal
    This sounds like a good outsourcing candidate. I would hate to click all day but I imainge someone overseas wouldn't mind making a buck doing it and best yet I bet that it wouldn't be illegal there nor even any recourse that a company could seek.
  • Good for Them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by doublem ( 118724 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:43PM (#12285853) Homepage Journal
    Google ads don't annoy me. Fraud hurts their business model, and as a result may cause them to go away.

    At which point we'll be left with pop-overs, pop-unders, flash and every other annoying thing marketing slime can come up with.

    Click Fraud hurts my web browsing experience.
    • And we don't have enough of that crap already? It's not going to go away no matter what.
    • Protest with you skill , if i find an advertiser who uses any type of ad i find abusive on a site , i inform the site admin and use ad-block on firefox to block objects from the ad-server (for the worst offenders i have my router redirect traffic) till the situation is sorted.i get many many faviourable responses from the admins ,naturaly.

      Not that i am so convinced that this is fraud , i imagine it would be a contract issue as i cant for the life of me think where else this would be coverd in the law, so
    • You know, I'm not a Catholic, I really don't know a lot about the new Pope and I have no particular interest in defending him, but I find your .sig ridiculously provocative and disingenuous. It's not like this guy was some kind of rising star in the Nazi party. The article that you linked to indicates that his family was forced to move several times because of his father's anti-Nazi activism, that he joined the Hitler youth only after it became compulsory, that he got out very quickly, that his service in
  • by TheWart ( 700842 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:43PM (#12285855)
    Can you imagine having the job of clicking on your companies' ads all day?

    "Yes, I am up to 100 clicks a minute, time for a bonus!"
  • by MadAnthony02 ( 626886 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:44PM (#12285862) Homepage

    The slashdot blurb gives the impression that Auctions Expert was clicking on other ads to drive up competitors advertising costs. But while that is mentioned in the article by another guy, what Auctions Experts was doing was standard "put google ads on our page, and keep clicking the links so we get paid"

    From the article:

    Auctions Expert allegedly recruited as many as 50 people to click on online advertising, generating about $50,000 in ad revenue. The self-clicking was "worthless to advertisers, but generated significant and unjust revenue for defendants," the Google lawsuit said. Auctions Expert, Google claims, appeared to be created solely to profit from manipulating the Internet ad process

  • by Virtual Karma ( 862416 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:44PM (#12285864) Homepage
    Hello YourName,

    We've noticed that you're displaying AdWords ads on a site
    (YourSiteURL) that violates our program policies.

    Our program specialists regularly review AdSense websites for various
    criteria, including, but not limited to, site content, clear navigation,
    and the site's potential value to the AdSense program and the user

    We've found that many of the ads that would appear on your site would not
    be relevant to your site's content. Because these ads wouldn't provide a
    valuable experience for your site's users or our advertisers, we believe
    AdSense isn't currently appropriate for the website listed above. As a
    result, we've disabled this URL.

    Google has certain policies in place that we believe will help ensure the
    effectiveness of AdWords ads for our publishers as well as our
    advertisers. We believe strongly in freedom of expression and therefore
    offer broad access to content across the web without censoring results. At
    the same time, we reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when
    it comes to the ads we display in our AdWords program and the sites on
    which we choose to display them in our AdSense program, as noted in our
    respective terms and conditions.

    Please feel to reply to this email with any questions. If you manage or
    own another site on which you'd like to display AdWords ads, you may reply
    to this email and include the URL in the message. We'll be happy to review
    this site and consider it for Google AdSense. If the new site complies
    with our program policies, we'll approve your application and allow you to
    serve ads on that specific site.

    Thank you for your understanding.


    The Google Team

  • pfft (Score:5, Funny)

    by Arctic Dragon ( 647151 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:44PM (#12285866)
    "In a lawsuit filed last year, Google alleges that Auctions Expert used hired hands and automation to generate high numbers of ad clicks that resulted in $50,000 in revenues."

    A real con artist would use 1000 monkeys with 1000 typewriters instead of hiring people (professional ad clickers?). More effective that way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:45PM (#12285872)
    Its the "pay-per-click" method which is broken,
    because its too simplistic. The advertisers and
    search engines need to come up with better
    technology to make sure that payment only follows

    Clicking your mouse on a search engine results
    page, as many times as you want, should be
    considered a First Amendment protected form of
    Freedom of Expression. Clicking your mouse on your
    stock broker's BUY button, for instance, is
    obviously quite different, because you and the
    broker have a contract where your clicks are
    treated as orders.

    But there is no contract between the users of a
    search engine and the search engine's advertisers.
    If companies want to transfer money between
    themselves based on those clicks, they had better
    think long and hard about the conditions where
    that actually makes sense.
  • low value webpages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PW2 ( 410411 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#12285890)
    Another problem I've noticed is that some people post webpages that contain nothing more than a few keywords that somehow get highly ranked in Google searches. These low value webpages must be making money because I've seen more than a few of them. I'll check someday to see if Adsense has a place to report abuse like that.
    • by Nos. ( 179609 ) <.andrew. .at.> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:58PM (#12286006) Homepage

      Some of these are the result of expiring domains that have been snapped up. For a couple of days I kept an eye on expiring .ca and .com domains and ran them through a little google PR checker. I watched one .ca domain with an average PR of just below 6. .ca domains that have expired are released within a 15 minute window. I was doing a whois on the domain about twice every second. I never saw the status become available. It went directly from to be released, to registered.

      There is a whole industry out there which revolves around snapping up expired domains with high PR. They have pages up within minutes of registering that are filled with nothing but ads, and maybe a few keywords.

  • Waste of money (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Momoru ( 837801 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:47PM (#12285902) Homepage Journal
    There have been so many examples now of AdSense abuse, it seems that the ROI of AdSense ads is getting lower by the minute. As a webmaster who has tried AdSense, both from a generating money by putting it on my site and a paying to advertise on it point of view, neither gets you many results. Even on extremely popular sites you don't make more then a couple hundred advertising for them, while traditional banner ads brought my site in thousands. And from an advertiser point of view, you are much better off getting someone to "Google bomb" your site and get permanent good placement rather then 50% random people clicking your ad to make money off their blog and 50% "real" people.
  • by rewinn ( 647614 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:50PM (#12285942) Homepage

    The expense of detecting and suing over click-fraud could be greatly reduced by adding terms such as this to the ad contract:

    1. The advertizer agrees not to [define prohibited conduct here]

    2. Google may offer a bounty for truthful testimony by any person hired by advertizer to perform [prohibited conduct], and advertizer agrees to permit such truthful testimony on the subject of [prohibited conduct] notwithstanding any other agreement with any party.

    Drones paid sub-minimum-wage for click-fraud would jump at a reasonable bounty, especially if advertizer has already agreed to allow it.

  • Wouldn't SPC (statistical process control) be a good candidate for stopping this?
    • I was thinking that topological statistics might be most appropriate. The idea is pretty simple: say you want to measure three (possibly dependent) variables. You make each datum a real triple. Then you measure the distances between distinct points. You might want to set a fixed radius about each point in which to measure in, to avoid dealing with billions of data points at a time. If you collect enough data and analyze it using a small enough neighborhood, assuming that the variables are independent,
  • Oh, wow! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by James A. Y. Joyce ( 877365 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:52PM (#12285962)
    You mean Google doesn't exist solely to satisfy Internet users?! Shurely shome mishtake!

    Come on, people. Just because something's on the Internet doesn't mean that defrauding cash from a company is magically illegal. Simply because you're physically removed from Google's computers doesn't mean you can't be busted for scamming them out of $$$.
    • Just because something's on the Internet doesn't mean that defrauding cash from a company is magically illegal.

      I presume you meant to say magically legal, rather than illegal, seeing as how the term "defrauding" refers to an illegal act.
  • by bitkid ( 21572 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:55PM (#12285979) Journal

    Inflated clicks are not the only problem PPC concepts have lately. It's a pretty challenging problem to prevent click-fraud; open-proxies/botnets and so on make this even harder.

    A bunch of interesting links:

  • by Skudd ( 770222 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:58PM (#12286000) Homepage Journal

    Hello Tim Garrison,

    It has come to our attention that invalid clicks have been generated on
    the ads on your web pages.

    As a reminder, any method of generating invalid clicks is strictly
    prohibited. Invalid clicks include but are not limited to any clicks
    that are generated through the use of robots, automated clicking tools,
    manual clicks by a publisher on the publisher's own web pages, or a
    publisher encouraging others to click on his ads.

    Publishers may not provide incentives of any kind to encourage or
    require users to click on the ads, due to the potential for inflation
    of advertiser costs. If we find your account to be in violation again,
    action may be taken against your account and payment may be withheld.
    Please be sure to review and remain in compliance with our Terms and
    Conditions and program policies: l= en_US en_US


    The Google Team

    I'm one of the little guys, too. I have only ever clicked my own ads maybe twice. I never had more than 1 click per day, so they can't really bitch. What's worse, they refused to prove to me that there were actually invalid clicks. My solution: I removed the ads from all my sites and replaced them with "Get Firefox" ads.
  • How to adblock the google ads.
    Any ideas?
  • Fraud is Illegal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HannethCom ( 585323 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:02PM (#12286050)

    I don't see why people are bashing Google over this. They are trying to protect their company for illegal activities.

    I can also understand why this is a human process instead of an automated one. People always find ways around programs meant to detect unethical behavior. Just look at how often junk mail filter technology has to be changed. With people looking over the data, they can see things that you wouldn't think of writing software to look for.

    As for not disclosing their process, DUH! Sure people are getting past their checks, but they don't want to encourage people to try by telling them how they check for cheaters.

    • Its not illegal (Score:3, Informative)

      by ad0gg ( 594412 )
      Its violation of a contract. Websites who host google adsense have agreed not to inflate clicks. If the guy wasn't greedy and instead just hired people to click adwords on the google search engine, google would have no case. Since there is no contract between using google search and the user.
  • Reading an article on the new pope, I just clicked on a bunch of silly religious links associated on the page because they were annoying (and from somewhat offensive sects of evangelical groups). Just so I could try to max out their advertising budgets for the day.

    So, can I get sued now? What if it had been some guy on the street corner handing out pamphlets, and I walked by repeatedly, taking his literature so that he'd run out and have no more message to distribute? I think it's the same thing, don't
    • So, can I get sued now? What if it had been some guy on the street corner handing out pamphlets, and I walked by repeatedly, taking his literature so that he'd run out and have no more message to distribute?

      That guy would stop handing you flyers if he recognized you, or he'd beat the living shit out of you, both of which Google is entitled to do.
  • Bah, why should anyone care about any of this?

    In my book, the sooner the advertisement industry crumbles the better. All we have to do is sit back and watch the fireworks.

    Remember kids, adverts eat your branes!
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:15PM (#12286162) Homepage
    I just happen to (presently) work at a company where advertising is the primary source of revenue. It would seem to me that they should attempt to follow a more simple model for advertisment without all the unreliable and exploitable complications of counting clicks.

    Radio, TV and print ads are only generally predictable when it comes to exposure and public response are concerned. But with generalities, a "value" for the ad placement could be assessed. Sell based on those things. Now a buyer of advertisment needs to feel like he has value in his purchase right? That's why Radio and TV have ratings and print advertisers have circulation numbers. So, at present, no one has devised a web site traffic authority(?) that will independantly serve as a third-party hit counter that will provide "ratings" to people interested in buying advertisment at any particular web site. So how would such a system be devised? You decide, but I think it would be good in that user feedback could shape the advertising on the internet in the future -- people complaining about spam and popups will be heard and an affect could be had! How about that... So who's gonna do it? Not me... I'm too busy sleeping.
  • by writermike ( 57327 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:17PM (#12286180)
    I am a one-person PC repair shop and I used Google Adwords for my business last year. I targeted well, thanks to their help, and had AMAZING returns. In the first three months, I spent ~$70 and made well over $1000.00. I was determined to stick with it.

    Then, suddenly, my per-month charges from Google went up. First it was $50, then $100, up to $300.00 per month. All this time, I had set on the same keywords, using the same targeting that I had been using. I pulled back a little and the numbers CONTINUED to climb.

    I wrote Google, hoping they would be as helpful as they were when I first set this up. (They hand-held my creating the first ads.) No response. I just bailed.
    • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:23PM (#12286783)
      Use overture, since the only fraud you'll get with overture is your competitors clicking your ads. AdWords has both website owners and your competitors defrauding it. I run both adword and overture, and my conversion ratio off overture is more than double that of adwords. I keep adwords around because even with the terrible conversion rate, there lowered ppc price evens it out in the end.
  • click ratios (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:19PM (#12286195)

    I had a conversation with a VP of marketing at a former employer.

    "Clickthrough rates are typically (insert some number under 10) per thousand views."

    He got very angry when I told him that sounded like people accidentally clicking on the banner, and said I had no idea what I was talking about.

    I countered that the only time I had ever clicked a banner ad while surfing the web was completely by accident. Stuff like my mouse falling off the desk, or my hand slipping.

  • Simple... (Score:2, Funny)

    by borawjm ( 747876 )
    One could probably use a similiar approach to generate AdSense revenue as they would do a DDOS attack....

    1.) send out trojan and infect 1000's of computers
    2.) command zombies to goto your website and click on links
    3.) profit!

    But, then again, the average user doesn't have this capability
  • Auctions Expert used hired hands and automation........
    They say the last thing they want to do is provide a "road map" to would-be frauders."

    Why use hired hands to do repetitive tasks? All I have to do is go to one of the first google hits for "crack search" and by simply loading that web page, my computer becomes silently infected with dozens of spyware. Some of which go around trolling for advertising links to click.

    It seems all one needs to do to make money these days is to provide some kind of we
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:31PM (#12286304) Homepage Journal
    I mean when does it become fraud?
    If it is a program not a person click the link is it fraud?
    If I wrote a spider that crawled every link on a page and it hit a page with Ad Sense links is it fraud?

    Do I have to be a potential customer?
    If I find an Ad Sense link to a competitors site and I click on it am I committing fraud?
    What if I just want to see what the heck the ad is for but have no intention of buying it?

    When does it become fraud?
    And how can following a link be illegal?
    • This isn't hard to answer. The difference is intent. If any of these things is done with the intent to defraud either Google or a competitor then it's fraud.

      The legal system is quite adept at making this distinction, in spite of it being hard to write literally into law (or at least it considers itself to be adept :-).

  • Google claims the secrecy is justified in the case of not giving advertisers details on fraudulent clicking. They say the last thing they want to do is provide a "road map" to would-be frauders."

    That can also be used to prevent diclosing the real value of advertising space. It's the same argument used by credit agencies not giving people their own credit information.

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz