Google Disputes Third Party Fraud Detection

    August 8, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Engineers at Google have performed an analysis of click fraud consultants and claimed they have fundamental flaws in their approaches.

Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety, posted the mention of the “troubling findings” in click fraud analysis.

The analysis of third party click fraud reporting found “evidence of the consultants’ defective methodology” like getting the number of clicks wrong, or clicks that actually converted on an advertiser’s site.

Problems with third party analysis come from two ways the firms perceive fictitious clicks, which Ghosemajunder said “are never recorded or charged as ad clicks by Google.” (spacing added):

Fictitious ad clicks because of mischaracterizing events. This finding may be the most significant flaw responsible for exaggerated click fraud claims.

The problem lies in the fact that many click fraud consultants don’t count actual ad clicks. Rather, to determine the number of ad clicks, they use a number of other signals, including counting visits to a particular webpage.

As a result, the consultants count page reloads and subsequent visits on an advertiser’s site as multiple clicks on the advertiser’s Google ad. This generates fictitious ad clicks in the consultant’s reports.

Fictitious ad clicks due to conflation across advertisers and ad networks. Some consultants “cookie” users and track their activity across their network of client advertisers. One often-used consultant implements the cookie in such a way that clicks on Yahoo ads can be counted as clicks on Google ads, and vice versa.

He called out three firms – AdWatcher, ClickFacts, and Click Forensics – for specific mention, saying their products could be harming Google advertising clients:

These kinds of flaws in methodology cause click counts in consultant reports to be artificially inflated. One clear indication that the consultants’ results are flawed: they’re not even getting the total number of clicks correct.

All of the reports we’ve seen from these consultants exhibit the serious problems we have described above. The pervasiveness of these problems concerns us, especially because advertisers may be hurting their businesses by changing their campaign settings based on erroneous information.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.