Posted August 8, 2006 12:01 pm by with 1 comment

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Google has had enough of the FUD surrounding click fraud and has fired back at the companies releasing click fraud studies.

In a report released by Google (pdf), the company attacks three studies claiming that they are either based on guesswork or they are tracking too many “ficticious clicks”.

“Thus the reportÂ’s conclusions about the percentage of fraud and financial loss for the industry are essentially a poll of the perception of the size of the problem (with the backdrop of the previous coverage of high estimates) rather than actual size of the problem. This is analogous to estimating crime rates in a country by asking some residents how much crime they think there is, and averaging those guesses to state that number is the actual rate.”


Google claims that two main reasons account for the inflated click fraud numbers:

Fictitious clicks due to detection of page reloads as ad clicks. This is the
counting of page reloads on an advertiserÂ’s site as multiple clicks on the
advertiser’s AdWords ad – which did not actually occur. Page reloads can occur
for various reasons, including:
o user browses more deeply into the advertiserÂ’s site, then hits back button,
causing a potential reload of the original landing page
3 of 17
o user presses browser reload button on the landing page
o user opens a new window in Internet Explorer, causing a reload of the
landing page

Fictitious clicks due to conflation across advertisers and ad networks. This is
the counting of one advertiserÂ’s traffic in another advertiserÂ’s report, even if the
advertisers span different ad networks

The report is lengthy, but Google takes the time to point-out the problems with three previously released studies on click fraud. It’s good to see Google finally tackling the real problem with click fraud – too much hype and sensationalism by companies hoping to sell click fraud monitoring services.

  • Correction, Andy. Google is not attacking the companies releasing click fraud studies. It is attacking the click fraud monitoring services. Instead of concentrating on how to deal with the click fraud problem, Google is attacking the sources suggesting that there is a problem.

    In the study Google decides to pick and choose the problems of the three services by attributing the problems of one to the rest. For example, page reload issue was reported only in one service while it was attributed to all three.

    As far as the back button issue goes, give me a break. Most of these services need at least 5-7 clicks to report the visitor as fraudulent. Even if some of them do make a mistake of counting back button visits as another click, how many times do you need to hit “back” and “forward” buttons in order to trigger the click fraud warning?

    Now let’s look at the issue of confusing the ad networks. Each of these services works the same way: it generates a unique tracking code for each campaign which user then pastes into his pay-per-click campaign. Because each tracking URL is unique, the only way to “mix up” the ad networks is to have the same URL for all your campaigns on all search engines. So this issue results from users making a mistake of using the same URL for multiple ad networks and has nothing to do with the service itself.

    These services are not perfect but neither is AdWords, which lacked any kind of fraudulent click reporting up until now. And even now, the definition of “invalid click” is not very clear.

    Third party monitoring services need to exist in order to keep Google honest, even if they are not always 100% accurate.