Google Responds To Fair Isaac Claims

    May 25, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

The early results of a click fraud study by Fair Isaac found advertisers being charged for illicit clicks, at a far higher rate than search engines like Google claim takes place.

The 10 to 15 percent rate of pathological traffic hitting Fair Isaac’s small sample of advertisers, less than a dozen sites, far exceeds the 0.02 percent rate touted by Google.

It’s news that has grabbed the attention of the search industry. Even though Fair Isaac has been careful to note it only discussed early results of its study at InterACT 2007, the figures they have found for advertisers being charged for illicit clicks corroborates some third party research into the matter.

We talked with Dr. Joseph Milana, who worked on the Fair Isaac click fraud study. He stressed the expertise Fair Isaac possesses after years of fraud detection in other industries, and that it could be applied to illicit clicks.

A follow-up message we received from Google bears out Dr. Milana’s point. Google and Fair Isaac both use statistical anomaly detection as part of their click fraud detection process. Here’s Google’s response:

•  We have post-click data from thousands of advertisers through our conversion tracking tool. They are claiming post-click data from a “handful” of advertisers.

•  It sounds like FI is doing the same kind of analysis we’re doing – statistical anomaly detection – only with considerable less data. That is, if you assume an advertiser has a 1% CTR, that means they are receiving 100 ad impressions (no one but Google gets ad impression data) for every one click. As a result, Google has 101 pieces of data to analyze vs. their 1.

•  Most clicks don’t result in conversions, and in fact many/most (depending on the site) clicks don’t result in much “advertiser side data”. Imagine legitimate users who click an ad and then immediately leave if they don’t like their site. That’s obviously not click fraud.

One point Dr. Milana made at InterACT will be of interest to the statisticians among our readership. He said Google’s automated effectiveness claims at detecting click fraud would be roughly equal to a Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test score of 95.

He called that figure “not believable.” Without some more openness from Google into their fraud detection methods, which they guard closely for the protection of their advertisers, or more results from the Fair Isaac test, it’s hard to tell who to believe right now.