Posted March 1, 2007 4:56 am by with 7 comments

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Back in December, I caused quite a storm, when I published data from Google’s Shuman Ghosemajumder that suggested Google’s click fraud rate was less than 2% (and actually less than 0.2%).

Speaking with Ghosemajumder last week, it appears that story helped form Google’s strategy for coming clean on the actual numbers for click fraud.

Google has now confirmed that user-identified click-fraud (the clicks not already filtered by Google) is actually less than 0.02% of all Google clicks. In addition, the average rate of invalid clicks (Google’s term for clicks that are filtered automatically and not charged to advertisers) is less than 10% of all clicks.

Not publicized by Google – but I certainly stressed to them they should make a deal of – is that their click fraud numbers are vetted and audited by an outside company. These numbers are not just plucked out of the air by Ghosemajumder.

In an effort to respond to concerns raised by advertisers and so-called click fraud detection companies, Google also plans a number of initiatives for the coming year. Advertisers will get enhanced reporting, a Google guide to click fraud, and a standard method for reporting invalid clicks to Google. The most intriguing new feature will no doubt bring applause, but also call the bluff on advertisers claiming click fraud foul.

Google will roll out IP Filtering, allowing advertisers to filter out any designated IP address. This is an interesting move by Google. Note, they’re not simply waiving the fees for clicks from certain IPs, but actually preventing the ad from being displayed at all. By doing so, Google is demonstrating its confidence in already filtering out invalid clicks and challenging advertisers to accept no traffic whatsoever from an IP. Effectively, if an advertiser is so confident that an IP is sending improper traffic, they can ban the IP altogether. It’s Google’s way of saying “if you’re so sure we’re not blocking click fraud from this IP already, go ahead an turn off ALL traffic from this IP.” It will be interesting to see if advertisers’ confidence remains, when they know their only choice is to ban all traffic from an IP address.

Google’s move seems to demonstrate their supreme confidence in their ability to identify and filter click fraud. Their new reports and filtering, certainly seem to prove this out.

So, what are your thoughts? Are you satisfied with Google’s click fraud claims? Are they now doing enough to combat click fraud?

UPDATE: Here’s the official word from Google.

  • Very interesting information. Blocking ads to a certain IP is very interesting but it also smacks of overkill. I would rather block by the website than by the IP.

  • Nice. Adding the IP stuff is a key move (maybe for the paranoid) in figuring out if your competitors are clicking your ads. With some recent success on the keyword “survey software” (thanks to this blog and others) we are up from #14 to #7 in natural listings, BUT the competition is alerted, and they’ve been trying to use outsourced folks in different parts of the world to get a look at our latest products, and download our trial software. Fun stuff. Will be fun to shut them out entirely.

  • If an ad is doing really well, an advertiser would have a way of blocking a site if the clicks aren’t generating any leads even if the clicks are truly valid. This could be bad for publishers.

  • The open-ness is good news, we’ve had a few clients worrying about click fraud because of all the fuss auditing firms have been making.

  • As a system that provides best effort services to identify some noise in click patterns, I don’t have a problem with this. OTOH, they haven’t proven (rigorously and scientifically) that it actually detects the amount of click fraud they say it does. Especially problematical is the fact that what is considered fraudulent is mainly
    a matter of what an advertiser thinks is fraudulent. If the advertiser has a big budget, and can absorb a lot of fraudulent clicks, the system may not catch them until the advertiser complains.

    All this aside, I still wonder why it has taken so long for them to do what they should have done in the very beginning when AdWords CPC was launched. The system under discussion now should have been implemented before AdWords CPC went live.

    I would still encourage advertisers to watch their budgets carefully, bid cautiously, and scale back spending at the first sign of unusually nonconverting traffic.

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  • This article breaks down reasons why Click Fraud is not 0.02%:

    Google states “Put another way, for every ten thousand clicks on Google AdWords ads, fewer than two are reactively detected cases of possible click fraud.”

    this simply means that they refund less then 0.02%. it does not mean that click fraud is less then 0.02%.