Know Your Clicks, Google Says

    August 11, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Advertising clients who feed Google’s revenue machine may not always know the difference between an illicit click and one that’s outright fraudulent. Google wants them to understand which is which.

Ultimately, the online PPC advertising model depends on trust. The promise of having one’s ad budget matched to relevant viewers who click through, giving the ad network a bit of revenue each time.

The model breaks down when someone games the system. An advertiser who sees lots of clicks and minimal conversions will be ready to believe the worst of PPC; some will go so far as to file lawsuits, as Arkansas-based Lane’s Gifts did against several big names in recent years, claiming injury from click fraud.

Not every non-performing click is an attempt to defraud the advertiser. In a recent discussion at the Google AdSense blog, Google discussed the issue from the perspective of the site publisher who may carry the company’s ad placements on their sites for revenue generation.

It’s important to consider that not every click happens for the same reason, and not always for a malicious reason either. People misclick, double-click, simply out of carelessness or clumsiness. Google claims to know how to recognize these. Advertisers are not charged, and thus site publishers hosting those ads don’t make money on the click-through.

“We’d like to stress that invalid clicks are generally any clicks that artificially inflate advertiser cost or publisher revenue, regardless of their source,” Google noted. Within that group comes a subset of activity referred to as click fraud.

It can come from several sources, like a publisher manually clicking on the ads on display, or having others do so themselves or with automated software. Sites pulling in clicks that look like click fraud may fall out of favor with a Google or any other ad network seeing such activity.

Some clicks are not good ones, but not all bad ones hold malicious intent. That’s the basic difference between an illicit click and a fraudulent one.