• http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/ Don Dodge

    Danny, Are the click fraud rates for the Google search site only, or for all clicks through their advertising network?

    I have always believed that Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft could control and filter click fraud on their own sites. It gets more difficult when you are trying to filter clicks that originate from advertising network sites. I may not be using the right term, but what I mean is a clicks from independent web sites that use Google to place ads on their site.

    I am not surprised that Google has solved this problem, but I am surprised they were able to get it down to .02%. Did I read that right? I could certainly understand 2%, but .02% means they are catching 99.98% of all invalid clicks? Amazing!

    Don Dodge

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    Rates are for the entire network, on Google and anywhere Google is showing ads.

  • http://www.exposureonline.com/ exposureTim

    It also important to note that it’s possible there is a counter argument to Ghosemajumder’s opinion… It could be that Google is NOT better at tracking those invalid clicks than others.

    In fact, I think Google could intentionally NOT be better than independent resources. It’s not really in the interest of Google to admit that they had charged you for invalid clicks nor to admit that the advertiser was quicker at catching their mistakes.

    Once they claim that a questionable click is valid, it’d reflect poorly upon them to later have to admit that they were wrong, that their systems didn’t catch it even after the advertiser did.

    They don’t want to be proven wrong so they self-fulfill their desired outcome even when presented evidence that is clear to the naked eye (let alone some algorithm).

  • http://www.useit.com Jakob Nielsen

    As I read the article, the 0.02% number refers to the number of fradulent clicks discovered through client-requested investigations divided by *all* the clicks on Google.

    This doesn’t mean that 0.02% of clicks are fraud that was not discarded automatically. For that to be true, *all* clicks would have to go thorugh the manual investigation.

    In other words, the percentage is calculated by using different scopes for the numerator and the denumerator. The type of classic math mistake one would not expect from Google.

    The only valid percentage is the number of manually-discovered fraudulent clicks divided by the number of clicks in those campaigns that complained and were investigated.

    Presumably, most campaigns don’t complain and thus are not investigated, meaning that they hide some additional clicks that would have been found through manual investigation.

  • Sean McCoy

    Google’s provided number is absolutely a slap in the face! Ask any of the service providers doing click fraud analysis or those who have high target key terms. We have reports of click fraud numbers from Google that are over 60 to 70% of the inbound traffic from both Google direct as well as their affiliates. If Google wants to come clean they should provide their advertisers with an itemized accounting of what they are charged. Every phone carrier on earth has a financial responsibility to provide a detail of who called you, who you called, and the duration of the call. In practice this issue is really no different but Google’s claim is that revealing this data would divulge some magical trade secret; complete rubbish.
    The business model is inherently flawed and the problem won’t be resolved until Google has had time to offset their revenues by cleaning its conversion of fraud to high stock prices.

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    Danny *you* should get Google’s permission to run some tests that would help get to the bottom of the disagreements about this.

    You’d be given “immunity” from Google and would open several new Adwords accounts under fake names and try to spoof the system, then publish the results.

    About a year ago wasn’t somebody in SEO going to try some experiments where they would click on their own advertisements (ie defraud themselves and pay for it) and publish the results?

  • http://www.useit.com Jakob Nielsen

    A further thought: the true percentage should be derived by taking a random sample of campaigns, whether or not they have complained, and investigate them manually.

    (Only investigating campaigns that complain might bias the sample, if you assume that some companies have the ability to estimate the extent of fradulent clicks in their campaigns.)

    All of this, of course, assumes that the manual check is in fact capable of identifying the fraud. The way to check *that* is the method suggested by JoeDuck: to deliberately induce fraud for some sample campaigns and then see how much of that is identified by the investigators.

  • http://www.seoyak.com Toivo Lainevool

    I find the headline to this story very misleading. Google says nothing about the actual level of click fraud going on, they are simply reporting how many invalid click they are catching. The actual level of click fraud may be higher. I have more details on my blog post.

  • http://MatchTo.com Steve Morsa

    The “funny” thing about this (though no one paying for the fraud is laughing), and really, all discussions anywhere concerning click fraud, is that, until such time as everyone–or at least most everyone–agrees just what constitutes “click fraud,” such discussions are largely academic…

  • http://www.lynchpin.com Shona

    An average across Google’s entire click portfolio is perhaps slightly misleading. Certain industry sectors are undoubtedly going to be more likely to be hotbeds of click fraud (not least those with high CPCs), meanwhile other sectors with extremely high volume but low value clicks are arguably less attractive for fraudsters and will help bring the average right down.

    Perhaps a % based on click revenue would be more interesting (and therefore most likely remain unpublished!)

  • http://gregbo.livejournal.com/ CPCcurmudgeon

    I still don’t see how this constitutes proof that Google is detecting almost all of the click fraud that is out there. It does not at all address the situations I have been discussing for years now, where human clickers or botnets can generate clicks from a wide selection of IP addresses, user agents, language preferences, etc. — enough to make it look like ordinary traffic.

    I am not the only one who feels this way. Noted Internet technical experts such as Bruce Schneier and Lauren Weinstein have made such commentary. As an aside, I still wonder why it has take so long for Google to even come out with rudimentary filtering, when the problem of fraudulent clicks has been known and documented for over a decade. Futhermore, anyone who has some experience with Internet protocols and architecture knows that traffic can be easily disguised and generated; look at the volume of (unflagged) spam, for example.

  • http://www.trafficsentry.com ClickHawk

    Jakob Nielsen’s comment above hits the nail on the head.

    With regards to the 0.02% statement, many people interpreted the statement as “0.02% of total clicks are both fraudulent and not being detected and discounted..”. What was actually stated (as you know) is that the number of billed clicks reported to Google by advertisers and then found (by Google) to be invalid, is 0.02%.

    Close examination of this statement brings us to the conclusion that the statement is worded in such a way that it means absolutely nothing without other variables that they are not disclosing.

    Getting to a number as low as 0.02% should be relatively easy.
    First, we all know that the vast majority of advertisers are not
    taking the time to file complaints, for any number of reasons.

    Once you remove all of the potentially reportable clicks that are
    never reported, you are most likely already well under 1% of total
    billed traffic.

    Next, out of the small number that ARE submitted by advertisers for
    further review, you have the vast majority of those which are
    declined by Google. This is a number that they do not seem to be
    disclosing and without it, you cannot complete a calculation of their
    0.02% claim. We know from our experience of filing claims that only a
    small fraction of the reported invalid clicks that have previously
    been billed are later refunded.

    At this point, we have already eliminated most of the clicks from the
    total; those which are not reported, those were have already been
    filtered out, and those which are reported but declined.

    Finally, and perhaps the largest unknown variable, are all of the
    clicks that are both unreported AND undetected by Google. Note that
    any such clicks would come out of the 90% that they claim are
    “valid”, and that however large the number of such clicks, it would
    not affect the 0.02% figure, based on the way that it was worded.

    Our company is studying a new click fraud method that is virtually undetectable to the networks. Our findings will be posted in a whitepaper on our web site at http://www.trafficsentry.com

  • Tic Howard

    0.02 is a perfectly good percentage, but it has nothing to do with click fraud. “Reactively identified invalid clicks”, whatever that is, doesn’t sound like click fraud. On the other hand, there’s no mistaking the headline.

    Click fraud is not a function of validity. It is a state of mind defined in terms of malicious intent. It exists only in the mind of the perpetrator, and no machine can read the perpetrator’s mind. It is therefore impossible to quantify click fraud. But it may not be impossible to change the public’s perception away from malicious intent to blatant red herrings, such as “return on investment”, “manageability”, “controllability”, “validation”, and “statistically insignificant”. The fact is pay-per-click is a fundamentally flawed business model which invites malicious intent with no controls except those which are imposed long after the fact and at great expense, and even then they are ineffective.

    The industry’s attempt to redefine click fraud in terms of a different language may indeed be succeeding. If you believe that the rate of click fraud is 0.02 percent, then you must also believe that your intent is irrelevant. But it’s easy to prove. Click away with as many clicks as you muster, and that percentage will never change, because it has nothing to do with intent. If your intent is malicious, that is, to bring “unqualified” financial charges against a publisher, there’s nothing standing in your way because one way or another, you will drive up the publisher’s costs. When those costs become high enough, the publisher will lose interest in pay-per-click as a business medium.

    Here’s what’s wrong with pay-per-click. It does not target an interested class to the exclusion of a disinterested class. By inviting a disinterested third party to control the business transaction between two other interested parties, the intent of the third party is made transparent and impossible to determine, although it is highly relevant. That is not a good business practice and no level of technology will ever correct it.