Google recently allowed one of its employees to be interviewed regarding click fraud. You can read the exclusive article at the Marketing Pilgrim. Overall the interview is an interesting read if for no other reason than Google rarely talks about click fraud. However, as frequent visitors to this blog might suspect, I have a few problems with Google’s assertions.
Let’s first make sure we know what Google is saying. They claim that the percent of click fraud that actually affects advertisers is in the single digits every quarter. From Marketing Pilgrim’s interview we find out that it is roughly 2%. While that number is quite small, it still amounts to roughly $200 million a year that advertisers are paying for fraudulent clicks. Ok, that’s a ton of money but if that number were accurate, it probably wouldn’t be too bad. However, as “evidence” or “proof” of this number, we are given two snazzy images. (once again taken from The Marketing Pilgrim)
These images somehow are supposed to prove that Google catches 98% of click fraud. Sorry if I’m less than impressed. When asked about the third party estimates that up to 30% of all clicks are fraudulent Google’s mouthpiece, Shuman Ghosemajumder, gives the Marketing Pilgrim a pretty simple explanation: Everyone else is wrong. Google has a “top secret” algorithm to detect click fraud. Of course they can’t share any of that information with us, we just have to take Google’s word on this. I mean, its not like they would have any reason to perhaps distort the truth right?
To top it all off, Google basically admits that their click fraud detection (which would include banning Adsense accounts) consists of a ton of automation and “more than two dozen Google employees manually reviewing and removing any suspicious clicks.” That’s right, more than TWO DOZEN! The automation of 3/4 of their fraud detection (by their own account), leaves the Adsense system open the type of manipulation that I described in my article “How to Get ANY Adsense Account Banned“. Don’t worry though, if your account were to be incorrectly banned, Google has “over two dozen employees” to help you get to the bottom of the problem. $2.69 billion in Adsense revenues last quarter and they have around 24 employees to help fight fraud. If that doesn’t assure you that Google has click fraud under control, well I don’t know what will.
Essentially this article maintains Google’s company line: “Trust us because we say so”. Google answers to no one and only offers their top secret algorithms as proof that their business model isn’t horribly flawed. If you take Google’s word for it, AdWords advertisers paid an extra $50 million to Google last quarter for fraudulent clicks. If you use the third party estimates, Google brought in up to 800 million fraudulent dollars last quarter. To be fair, Google is not defrauding their advertisers, they are simply allowing others to do so. While Google maintains it vigorously fights fraud, those committing the click fraud essentially paid Google a bribe worth between $50 and $800 million last quarter (again depending on who’s numbers you believe). Now I’m a pretty honest guy, but even I’d be tempted to lie to protect $3.2 billion a year.
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