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August 15, 2005

How many publishers are really being suspended from AdSense?

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.

Posted by Jenstar at August 15, 2005 11:19 PM

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Comments

I read those webmaster forums. The people in there complaining that they got banned are funny. They got caught and are mad at google. Google should get a list together of banned people and send it to Yahoo. So this way way we won't see them complaining a year from now that they got banned from Yahoo too for fraudulent clicks.

Every person in prison is innocent too. Yea right!

Posted by: Cellounge Admin at August 16, 2005 07:04 AM

I haven't done it, but when a relevant ad comes up on my own site for a product I'm interested in, it's hard not to click. I really feel that's not fraud, since I really am a potential customer for that advertiser -- but I also don't want to break the rules.

Posted by: Andrew Kaufmann at August 16, 2005 12:42 PM

I also once laughed at those banned by adsense figuring they were crying because they had been caught and didnt like that they couldnt outsmart the system.

I dont click my own ads, and I respect the TOS of adsense. I was banned at one point however. Invalid clicks was the reason given. I had noticed a surge in clicks and earnings on one of my sites and alerted the Adsense team about it.

After several emails, and a few other tatics that I wont go into here, I was reinstated by adsense. No reason was given. Strangely, my earnings were not adjusted, leading me to believe that the clicks were not truly invalid.

I no longer laugh at people who have been banned. Some of them legitimately shouldnt have been banned. I posted about this in my blog: http://www.vbwebmaster.com/blog/?p=24

I was lucky. Many are not. Trouble is, people shouldnt be penalized when they havent done anything wrong. Google needs to improve the system by including things such as ignoring clicks from a publisher's IP. The upcoming competition from Yahoo and the YPN will help things for publishers I think.

Posted by: Joeychgo at August 18, 2005 12:40 PM

Who do you email to ask to be re-instated? I have been suspended - through a naieve set of circumustances - checking out links to see if they work and to ensure that they are relevant to the site + I have an education site for children which means we are very sensitive about what ads get automatically generated. They were checked two or three times and thats it - boom - suspended. Anyone have an email address please? We will know not to do this next time but contact them directly to discuss or target individual ads.

Posted by: Bob Mortim at August 20, 2005 01:59 PM

We have been suspended twice now. And I swear that I have not done any "fraudulent clicks" as they very well claim -- and that peeves me off.

How exactly do we provide "logs" and such?

Posted by: Saigo at August 22, 2005 02:20 AM

Me too

The email out of the blue that says there's been "invalid clicks" is so much of a shock that it's understandable some people react badly. Google really need to provide more information about where and where these clicks were made, and allow people access to their AdSense account to check and confirm for themselves.

Posted by: Paul Wells at August 22, 2005 09:10 PM

Unfortunately google have banned me and decided not to reinstate my account. All they can say is that they trust their algorithm for determining invalid clicks. I have not clicked on my own ads, encouraged people to click on my ads or used any kind of clicking robot to do the same....

Which leaves me puzzled, and quite frankly annoyed that the work I put into the site has been nullified by google - punishing me for something they can't even explain to me. It's a bit like being sentenced to prison without being told the crime...

Posted by: Jonathan Lewis at September 2, 2005 05:02 AM

Well according to my non-scientific poll of banned AdSense publishers (Goojects), there are twice as many innocent banned publishers than guilty ones. The poll's still open...

And, I still see Drudge Report running Google Ads periodically, complete with the "Support The DrudgeReport; Visit Our Advertisers" right below it. Isn't that cheating?

Posted by: James Moore at September 7, 2005 08:51 PM