At SES San Jose last week, I watched the Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues panel, but this time, there was a twist – both Yahoo & Google were represented on the panel to discuss the issue of click fraud from the point of view of the search engine, and what they are doing to combat and prevent click fraud.
The panel was excellent this time around, with it being much more balanced than in previous years when neither Google not Yahoo (then Overture) were on the panel to talk about how they were handling the issue. And kudos to both Google and Yahoo for taking the step of having people on the panel (and in the hot seat!) to address the issues. And there were very few times that either of them didn’t answer the questions, except when it came to the pending litigation. The panel was much more balanced this time, and a lot more useful for those attending… as well as not nearly as anti-Google/Yahoo/Overture as it has been in the past.
The discussion of click fraud by publishers came up during the Q&A, and Shuman Ghosemajumder from Google commented that publishers are suspended from AdSense for click fraud every day. I found this an interesting comment – and I admit, I had been curious to know just how frequently publishers were suspended from AdSense, whether it was one a week, one a day or one an hour. Of course, the fact that at least one publisher is suspended a day is meaningless without knowing just how many AdSense publishers there are, but it is an interesting stat nonetheless.
Jessie Stricchiola of Alchemist Media told an anecdote during the same panel about someone she knows with an AdSense account who is earning between $10,000 and $30,000 a month with purely autogenerated traffic and clicks. However, when she also revealed that this same publisher has not cashed a single AdSense earnings check, she outted the fraudulent publisher… I can’t see that there are many publishers who have multiple uncashed checks earning that kind of money a month.
I am frequently asked about whether I feel there are many publishers being suspended who are completely innocent of doing anything in violation of the terms and/or policies. I know at least one publisher who was suspended for click fraud and then reinstated when she provided copies of her logs to the AdSense team to look at, after they determined she was not at fault. And I know publishers who are well deserving of being suspended.
What should you do if you are guilty and get caught? First, don’t claim that you are innocent – they know why you were suspended, and you will have a better shot if you confess your sins and promise to be a law abiding AdSense publisher. If they know you made a habit of clicking an ad or two every single morning, thinking they would never notice the odd click here and there, trying to deny it will get you nowhere.
And if you happen to get suspended and you really are innocent? Offer to provide any raw logs to aid in their investigation, although it may take a couple of tries once you are suspended to get them to respond about it.
And if you are suspended, be extremely polite, don’t fire off a nasty email accusing Google of being evil. The Google team members are people too. And I know I am a lot less likely to help someone if they send me a nasty email than if I got the identical request worded politely. So be nice
“Publisher Paranoia” is pretty common of late, as suspended publishers are very vocal about the fact they have been suspended from AdSense on the various webmaster forums. But I honestly tell publishers that if they are not doing anything wrong that it isn’t something to spend time worrying about.