Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
×
Google Businesses The Internet The Almighty Buck IT

Google Battles Fraudulent Clicks 386

hthb writes "Google admits on CNN Money that fraudulent clicks are becoming a very large problem for them. 'A top Google official said that growing abuse of the company's lucrative sponsored ad-search model jeopardizes the popular Internet search engine's business. "I think something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model," Google Chief Financial Officer George Reyes said Wednesday.'" We had an earlier story about attempted extortion.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Battles Fraudulent Clicks

Comments Filter:
  • I think something has to be done about this really, really quickly

    How about ending the advertising? I wouldn't miss it.

    • by BuddyT ( 521738 ) * on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:04PM (#10986888)
      But then who will pay for Google then? Somebody has to keep the power on at those server farms.
      • Maybe they could set up a Paypal account?
        • by severoon ( 536737 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @02:09PM (#10988793) Journal

          Why don't advertisers track *sales* that come in through google as a separate channel from the rest of the web? Then, google gets a percentage of the stuff that's actually sold. I think that's fair, and it would do away with fraud altogether.

          Whenever there's fraud like this going on, the first question I ask myself is, where's the money flowing? The disconnect here is that advertisers are expecting some percentage of click-thrus to generate revenue, and the fraudsters are taking advantage of that by artificially inflating the click-thru-but-don't-buys. Do away with the assumption, and the fraudsters would have no way to attack it.

          Couldn't a company simply lie and say that it sold less of its products via the google than it actually did? I guess...but who's trusting who right now to keep accurate track of the click-thrus?

          • by richyoung ( 721218 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @05:10PM (#10991315)

            We [experienceplus.com] sell bike tours and have in the past had relationships with web sites that used the model described above. It's not always a case of intentional dishonesty -- it can be really hard to recognize whether a customer came from that site or not. But the most important problem is that it's not Google's fault if someone comes to look at our web site and doesn't buy -- they're being paid to deliver people who click on your ad because it interests them.

            At least Google cares about this issue. I've actually received refund checks from Google for fraud reimbursement. Overture just downplays the issue and keeps taking our money. I'd stop using Overture altogether if it were my decision.

            PPC advertising is gross, at first glance -- but it's really interesting to compare the ways Google and Overture implement the idea. Google is very good at making it clear what's paid and what's natural, while Overture (and their many affiliate sites) lets the boundary blur. It's that intentional blurring of the boundary between natural and paid results that smells foul. I think it's very similar to the notion of a boundary between editorial and advertising in a journalism setting.

            If you're involved with PPC marketing and worried about fraud, make sure you realize who's your friend. I hope Google doesn't get a disproportionate share of the wrath here just because they spoke up about the problem. If it were up to Overture, nothing would ever get done about it.

    • by Deekin_Scalesinger ( 755062 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:05PM (#10986910)
      Um, how would we enjoy google then? I see the ads as pretty unobtriusive and have actively purchased items from them when I am looking for a product. For all that google gives us (thanks Gmail!) and their need to have a successful business for their shareholders and prospects for the future, they gotta get the renevue from somewhere. If it be ads that are a heck of a lot less obnoxious han most other ones (including ones see on /.) that keep google going, then I'm fine with it.
      • by DarkEdgeX ( 212110 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:35PM (#10987350) Journal
        No kidding. Just as other advertisers were moving to large and intrusive Flash advertising (often with audio, meaning you'd visit a page only to forget you had your speakers turned up from listening to music and get blasted out of your chair), Google went the exact opposite direction with relevant search-based advertising (AdSense). Instead of seeing an ad for the latest feminine hygiene products while viewing technology articles you actually got advertising for technology, and often times for the very technology you were reading about.

        I imagine the fight against fraudulent clicks will be a downhill battle, but hopefully they find a way. The alternative to Google AdSense is much much worse.
    • That's a good one, then we can all start paying per search on Google...

      No really, I rather have the (somewhat) related advertising near my results... the way Google handles its advertising (in a non-blinking, agressive way) should be an example for other businesses, rather than saying they should get rid of it. It would make the web a lot better :)

    • Yeah, that would hurt their business model more. So... no.
    • by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:16PM (#10987090) Homepage
      How about ending the advertising? I wouldn't miss it.

      So you're happy to enter your credit card number on Google and any sites that use AdSense adverts to fund themselves?

      I for one welcome Google's approach to adverts - it's a hell of a lot better than the completely untargetted, very annoying Flash, animated GIFs and popups that other advertisers use. Whats more, Google's targetted text ads are sometimes actually useful.

      Everyone complains about adverts but obviously don't think about the economics - web sites have to fund themselves somehow, so either you're going to have to pay directly or put up with the ads. IMHO ads designed to be annoying and untargetted can be blocked without any problem but Google style ads are reasonably non-intrusive and targetted so you should allow them - you want to push the advertisers in the direction of sensible unobtrusive ads rather than forcing the sites to close down.
      • So you're happy to enter your credit card number on Google and any sites that use AdSense adverts to fund themselves?

        That's a little excessive. How about I enter my card number on Google, and any site that currently carries Google adverts instead charges my access to Google and Google agregates the bills and charges my card?

        • How about I enter my card number on Google, and any site that currently carries Google adverts instead charges my access to Google and Google agregates the bills and charges my card?

          Whilest I think there is certainly a good case for providing a "pay-for" version of a site without adverts, I think that completely removing the ability to provide a free service with ads too is very shortsighted - there are some of us who are prepared to put up with Google's non-intrusive ads instead of paying for a site and
          • Would you care to comment on the number of people who actually subscribe to slashdot vs. the number of people who just use the free version, ads and all?

            Well I'm not in any position to comment, being just a Slashdot user, but as you can see I'm also a subscriber. Perhaps there should be an option, pay for all adsense sites, view adverts for all adsense sites, or give me the choice for each site. I probably would pay for my regular sites, even though it wouldn't make much difference to me because I use a
    • Good idea (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How about ending the advertising? I wouldn't miss it.

      Yes, this is a good idea. To replace it they should have a button that says "Get Free Pizza". And when you click on it, then someone will deliver free pizza to your address within 10 minutes.
    • How about ending the advertising? I wouldn't miss it.

      There are a huge number of (non-commercial) sites out there that depend on adsense to keep running, generally speaking it is at least possible to cover server costs alone for a reasonably high traffic site with adsense.

      This is why personally I've never understood why people run things like 'Adblock' to block out all adverts (other than in the case of annoying pop-unders etc) - these adverts are most likely what pay for the site you are viewing.
    • Google, like TV stations, doesn't exist to provide you with a handy search tool. It exists to provide advertisers with you, their audience.
    • For the curious, these two patent applications (note they're just applications at this stage) by Google cover most of the AdSense/AdWords technology:

      Methods and apparatus for serving relevant advertisements [uspto.gov]

      Serving advertisements based on content [uspto.gov]

      Eric
      Who is publishing a book about AdSense [ericgiguere.com] in the spring

  • okay... (Score:2, Insightful)

    As much as I like Google, I have a hard time feeling sorry for them on this one. What did they expect?
    • Re:okay... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:23PM (#10987182)
      As much as I like Google, I have a hard time feeling sorry for them on this one. What did they expect?

      I'm guessing you are refering to a failed advertising business model?

      Advertising, as good as it is by how many mouthes that it feeds, has gotten pretty annoying over the years. Its particularly annoying since the pseudo-science that is attempted to be applied to advertising.

      The way I see it, there are currently only 2 forms of advertising that have any kind direct feedback to the "effectiveness" of the advertising. 1) TV comercials that advertise the $19.95 gizmo with $7.50 shipping and handling and the unknown cost of extra crap that the phone salesman pushes on you. Trust me, when the calls stop, so do the ads on TV. 2) Web comercials that get "click" values or "page view" values.

      The later ones have gotten to be annoying. These have lead to the fun that we have on the web today. Obnoxious animated crap that you almost want to click on just to see it stop. A few years ago, popups were a big advertsising "page view" feature. We all know the drill.

      The problem is that the feedback from web ads either by click throughs or page views has little to no correlation to selling crap and the new pseudo-science marketing types think the feedback is something real to the outside world, and they will do _anything_ to increase these numbers to some arbitrary number that is higher than it was the last time they measured it.

      I'm sorry guys, there is nothing really there with these data. You need to go back to your companies that you work for and treat web ads like regular TV, magazine, and newspaper ads. They provide name recognition, establish some kind of emotional value to their product, etc. But the data from ads mean nothing.

      I'm shocked that as smart as the people at google are have fallen into this myth. I'm guessing that they have always had some kind of stress associated how they were going to make money off of thier incredible services, but by billing people with arbitrary clicks on a world-wide available webpage that can be "clicked" by anything or anyone at anytime in the world at any time has its obvious drawbacks.

      I say go back to thinking that advertising is just advertising and not some real game that can be won. As much as I and everyone else hates advertising, it must be a pretty cool job. You get to work on a neverending stream of short term projects that are pretty much only limited by your imagination. That has to be fun for you, it sucks for us, but it does pay many paychecks, and it looks like we are stuck with it at some level.

      Now for the important stuff!

      The guitars sound good, now give me about 10db more on the cow bell.

      You GOTTA have more cow bell!
      • Re:okay... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustypNO@SPAMfreeshell.org> on Friday December 03, 2004 @01:44PM (#10988394) Homepage Journal
        Google advertising is like ads in the yellow pages. You don't have any problem with ads there, do you? You see ads for what you're searching for.

        I've gone to google LOOKING for the ads when I wanted to find the major companies that sold an esoteric product I was interested in seeing. There are places where ads are relevant, and this is one of them.

        So, on that note, I have a solution for them: they keep track of surfing habits for click-throughs by giving advertisers a monitoring program to run. Abnormal click patterns would indicate fraud.

        This would almost always work because for fraud to be effective, it requires lots and lots of clicks without purchases, which means you'll see the same IP address/block click-in and then die. Maybe they'll even click on some other things, but they still won't buy anything. Going to the same purchase site 40 times in an hour without buying anything is wierd.

        They could also do that thing they do with internet sign ups: give an image that is machine-unparsable and require users who wish to click through to type in the values it indicates. It doesn't even have to be that secure; a single value would be enough. Any IP that has too many failures at this could be locked out.

        Then again, that would keep google from selling to advertisers who sell anything for the blind...
  • Google needs to not just police fraudulent clicks, but their own counting system. My dad tried their system to promote a fledgling e-commerce site for his wife's business. In two weeks, they reported about 400 clicks. Thing is, his web host reported only about 300 hits on his home page. This is not how many clicks from Google were in his referrer log. This was total traffic from all sources.

    He complained and Google gave him this totally bogus, highly-technical explanation about referrer logs and that
    • Draw your own conclusions, but I think even if Google eradicated fraudulent clicks, their ad program would still be a huge scam.

      I wouldn't draw any conclusions from a single anecdote. The conclusions that I would draw is that their program is massively successful due to the number of web sites I see using Google advertising (either buying or selling)
      • So according to your logic since nearly everyone runs windows their shouldn't be any real security holes, or problems with MSFT software because people only use the best products available?

        Sorry people use what is convient for them at the time, not the best. Just beause a product is widely used doesn't make it a great product. A lot of people shop at walmart to. It doesn't make Walmart the best place to try and sell your product from though.

      • I wouldn't draw any conclusions from a single anecdote. The conclusions that I would draw is...

        Wait. you wouldn't draw a conclusion? Or are you drawing a conclusion? Or, Is it conclusions? Hard to tell...

    • "Google gave him this totally bogus, highly-technical explanation "

      IOW, you dad got a taste of what he does to other each and every day he works.

      Forgive me if I find this midly funny.
      • IOW, you dad got a taste of what he does to other each and every day he works.

        Sure, and if he was Black, you'd call him a welfare cheat and talk about his love of fried chicken?

        You don't know what kind of law he practices, who his clients are, and whether he helps the big guys crush little guys or helps little guys stand up to big guys.

        A hammer can be used to build a house or bash in someone's skull. A law degree has good and bad uses as well.

        There are a couple of words for the attitude in your comment... prejudice and bigotry.

        And don't give me any mumbo jumbo about it being okay because there are so many bad lawyers. Under that logic, you can start justifying some really dangerous attitudes toward ethnic minorities so long as they meet some minimum arbitrary criteria you've set.

        Hate is hate, no matter how you try to justify it.

        • I don't have to know what type of law he practices (besides it it was a 'simple' form of law you would have said so). Laws are written for lawyers by lawyers. You can not look at the laws currently on the books and tell me they are simple.

          And, son, don't confuse the facts with prejudice and bigotry. When you have to fall back on those words it just shows that you have nothing left to debate on and wish to use emotion to win your case instead of logic and the facts.
          • I don't have to know what type of law he practices (besides it it was a 'simple' form of law you would have said so). Laws are written for lawyers by lawyers. You can not look at the laws currently on the books and tell me they are simple.

            Why would I have said what form of law he practices? My post was about Google's clicks, not about my dad, nor about law. He was just an actor in the story. This isn't a prospectus where I'd need to give two page bios on the principals. And what kind of law he practices is immaterial. Making a judgement about his character or the kind of treatment he deserves from others, merely because he practices law, *is* prejudiced.

            And what does the complexity or simplicity of the law have to do with anything? The bible is hard to read, full of contradictions, and we leave it up to priests and theologians to interpret it. And at times, the bible has *been the law*. Yet I do not judge all men of God who choose Christ based on the misdeeds that are rife in the history of Church-sponsored oppression and abuse.

            My wife and I are an interfaith couple (and I'm the non-Christian), but the minister who presided over our wedding is one of the most wonderful people I've met. OTOH, that Brother Jed character who used to come to my college campus and damn everyone was a total pr*ck. But I don't judge Christian men of God based on either. I judge them based on what they, as individuals, do.

            And, son, don't confuse the facts with prejudice and bigotry. When you have to fall back on those words it just shows that you have nothing left to debate on and wish to use emotion to win your case instead of logic and the facts.

            No, calling someone Hitler to evoke an emotional response is a fallback. Identifying something as prejudice when it is prejudice is just shedding light on it.

            If you think any Muslim you meet is a potential terrorist until he proves he isn't, you're prejudiced. If you think any lawyer you meet is a sleazebag until he proves he isn't, you're similarly prejudiced. If you disparage an individual based on your biases about a group, that's bigotry.

            It's that simple. And if you choose to remain prejudiced, it's *your* life that will be poorer for it.

            - Greg

    • Prove it. Sorry but you're just some random Joe on the Intarnet making wild claims.

      Maybe there actually was a technical reason. I can't see how Google can tell if the user actually gets to the remote site. I could click the click (registering a Google hit) and then cancel the page load for whatever reason. Maybe your dad's website is ass slow for 25% of people. You have no way to know.
    • He complained and Google gave him this totally bogus, highly-technical explanation about referrer logs and that he may not be able to accurately track how many visitors were coming from them.

      Actually many browsers now enable you to disable the referrer header in a HTTP request (these would not show up in your logs as originating from Google), that said 100 seems to high for that to be the only explanation.

    • Your dad got a highly technical explanation that he obviously didn't understand, so that makes it automatically bogus?

      It's possible that there was a totally non-bogus technical reason. For instance, if a lot of people were visiting the site from the same few ISP's, only the first ones would be counted in your dad's server logs because the rest would be loading the site from the ISP's cache.
    • by Len Budney ( 787422 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:43PM (#10987462)

      Google needs to not just police fraudulent clicks, but their own counting system. My dad tried their system to promote a fledgling e-commerce site for his wife's business. In two weeks, they reported about 400 clicks. Thing is, his web host reported only about 300 hits on his home page.

      There's a decent chance that Google was right and your Dad was wrong. A click-through link sends the browser first to Google (where the hit is counted), and then refers the browser to your Dad's URL.

      What can happen is that your Dad's web page is cached somewhere--on the user's computer, a cache provided by the ISP, etc. Google's links defeat caches by including unique strings, precisely to ensure that every click is counted. Your Dad's URLs, on the other hand, look the same every time. As a result, the user's click is logged by Google, but then the page is loaded from a cached copy, without ever touching your Dad's server.

      This scenario is extremely common, because users tend to visit sites more than once. If someone didn't bookmark your Dad's page, he probably used a Google search to find it again.

      --Len.

      Disclaimer: I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any company that earns revenue from click-through ads.

  • Deal?? (Score:4, Funny)

    by cYbertr0n ( 836287 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:02PM (#10986865)
    Bring back the 'search by date', and we promise to behave ourselves =)
  • I don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scribblej ( 195445 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:02PM (#10986867)
    Google decides they'll pay people based on clicks, and people realize that all they've got to do is click the link to get paid.

    This was OBVIOUSLY going to happen. Anyone remember AllAdvantage? If you pay someone to do a job that's so easily automated, you can BET someone's going to automate it and ask for all your money.

    The solution is simple. STOP PAYING for clicked links! If your business model sucks and is inherently flawed, CHANGE IT. Don't bitch that you're getting taken advantage of.

    "Doctor, it hurts when I do this..."

    "THEN DON'T DO THAT!"

    Seriously. I have been a google fan for a long time, like most slashdotters, but this press release just makes me sad. This may officially be the first Truly Stupid statement I've heard from the people of Google.

    I'm choosing to see this as a sign that the end times are near. There are still plenty of smart people at google, but someone started letting idiots in, too.

    • Eh, I *read* the article, but somehow in my non-caffinated state I got the details wrong.

      Everything I said still applies; it's the business model that is stupid.

    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xugumad ( 39311 )
      Something I wish Internet advertisers would realise is that I'm really unlikely to click their link right there and then (with the exception of on-topic adverts when I'm doing a search). However, I tend to remember seeing these adverts, and will frequently go search for an advert I saw a while ago, weeks or months later.

      Same for TV, unless I'm the only one who doesn't immediately leap from their chair and go buy something that interests me?
    • The solution is simple. STOP PAYING for clicked links!

      I'd agree here - give sites hosting the adverts a percentage commission on sales resulting from the click.

      A slightly more advanced tracking system is needed but it's certainly not the science of rockets.

      I should mention that I host Google ads on my site. I do not defraud Google (nor would I condone it) and I would support a commission based system as a replacement for the pay-per-click system. The reason is simple: Cut out the fraud and I, as a leg
      • Science of Rockets? nope, it's just getting everyone to agree to put a tracking system into there backend, which is impossible science especially with the million+1 E-commerce engines out there.
      • Commission Junction does commission based advertising. I used them for quite awhile. I still have all the stats. Well over 60,000 impressions, and not a single penny in revenue generated. That was when I went to subscriptions. I made quite a bit more that way. Then I discovered Google AdSense and I make more than I made with subscriptions.

        TV advertisers don't get paid commission for sales, why should web-site owners?

        If you don't like their system, think it's stupid, then there are plenty of other op
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Apparently a whole bunch of people didn't get it either (all those who found this insightful). Google is not paying people for clicking, it's the other way around. You put up an ad, Google charges you based on the number of clicks the ad generated.

      What they're describing is people abusing the system by generating more clicks on competitors' websites to make these competitors spend more.
      • You're talking about the ads that display when you do a Google search. If you click your links, you screw yourself.

        We're talking about Google's Ad affiliate program that you can put OTHER PEOPLE'S ADS on YOUR website, which you recieve a portion of the income.

        If you click those links, Google pays you.
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by D. Book ( 534411 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:43PM (#10987465)
      I found the unintended dual meaning of your post's title quite amusing. It's a pity that people, in the rush to get their post in quickly and stand the best chance of being modded up, fail to read and comprehend the linked article(s) if they visit them at all.

      On the issue at hand, there is one thing that's not clear in your argument (which, as you said, still applies to some extent). Is it based on actual abuse, or theoretical vulnerability to it as well? If it's the latter, let's take a look at the impression-based billing model. Theoretically, it is open to abuse. Want to destroy a website? Don't DDoS it. If it's dependent on ad revenue, simply point your zombies at the site's banners, massively inflating the click-through ratio. The advertiser or ad network will instantly assume it's fraud, the banners will be pulled, and payment will be cancelled. Even if they believe you when you plead innocence, it probably won't make any difference, as any ad campaign they run on that site will now have a black cloud hanging over it.

      That's the theory. In practice, I've never heard of this type of abuse, which I find kind of surprising. Perhaps kiddies are too stupid to have thought of it yet. But, just like you said about the click-based billing model, the vulnerability is obvious to anyone with a few brain cells. If devious people were to start engaging this type of abuse, would you criticise those who are launching the attacks, or reproach the victims for their lack of foresight?
  • by underpar ( 792569 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:04PM (#10986887) Homepage
    So, it would be wrong for us to try to /. the University of Pheonix ad?
  • Cha-ching (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kyouteki ( 835576 ) <kyouteki.gmail@com> on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:04PM (#10986905) Homepage
    Well, part of it is because their click-throughs are just so lucrative. I mean, I'll click on an AdSense link of my friend's with every new IP I use. (i.e. wherever I go) That's just a few cents a click, but it really adds up.

    However, we've yet to see just how aggressively the adjustment affects the amount he's getting paid. We'll see.
  • Hmmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zenetik ( 750376 )
    On the one hand, the companies are paying for "clicks". Unless the contract is explicit about what constitutes a "click", it sounds like they're paying for clicks. And what the heck is a "fraudulent click"? I mean, how do you fake a click?
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Aceto3for5 ( 806224 )
      Click, but dont release, slowly pull the mouse away from the link, THEN release.
    • A friend of mine is dealing with a "fraudulent click" right now. The way the ads work is that you get charged every time someone clicks on your ad. A competitor in his area was clicking the ad over and over again, racking up hundreds of dollars and eventually knocking his site (ad budget ran out for the month) off the results. Competitors bid for keywords....If I bid $3 for keyword and someone else bids $2.99, my ad would show up first. If they wanted first place and didn't want to over bid me...they co
  • Illegal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mopslik ( 688435 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:07PM (#10986947)

    Reyes, speaking at an investor conference sponsored by Credit Suisse First Boston, was referring to an illegal practice known as "click fraud" that occurs when individuals click on ad links that appear next to search results in order to force advertisers to pay for the clicks.

    I have trouble understanding how this is "illegal". Certainly unethical, but that's not the same thing.

    I mean, as an advertiser, you enter into an agreement that you will use this "pay-per-click" model to promote your product. Obviously, this can be tampered with by having someone click your link non-stop. But what constitutes "too many" clicks? If I'm a small business, I can be hurt by even a fraction of clicks that some of the larger corporations can get.

    I can see how Google has to take some steps to prevent people from doing this. I can also see how advertisers have to be more aware of this problem. But how exactly is it "illegal" for me to, say, repeatedly click on a link? The people who sponsored that link -- who agreed that they would sell their product via "pay per click" -- knew this and went ahead with it anyway. Can I be indicted for fraud charges for clicking 1,000,000 times? How about 100,000? How about 1,000? Or 100?

    Unethical, but why illegal?

    • Re:Illegal? (Score:3, Insightful)

      Unethical, but why illegal?

      Because, according to the article, some people are deliberately setting out to sink a competitor. Suppose you run a company that makes and sells WidgetX. I, as your competitor, make and sell WidgetX lookalikes. You start advertising via Google. It would definitely be to my benefit if I could make you pay out excessive amounts of your advertising budget by repeated clicking on your ad, because you're supposed to be paying Google per click.

      I don't know that it would be fraud

      • Re:Illegal? (Score:4, Funny)

        by oexeo ( 816786 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:36PM (#10987367)
        Suppose you run a company that makes and sells WidgetX. [...] It would definitely be to my benefit if I could make you pay out excessive amounts of your advertising budget by repeated clicking on your ad

        Yeah, please stop doing that my WidgetX sales have gone down a two thirds last quarter.

      • Re:Illegal? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mopslik ( 688435 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:38PM (#10987386)

        It would definitely be to my benefit if I could make you pay out excessive amounts of your advertising budget by repeated clicking on your ad, because you're supposed to be paying Google per click.

        But this is what I was getting at. You're paying Google "per click" as per your agreement. It's not as if this was unknown to you when you signed up for Google Ads. 1,000 clicks from one visitor costs you the same as 1,000 clicks from randon web surfers. The only difference is that one individual is unethically the root of all of these clicks.

        I don't know that it would be fraud exactly, because I wouldn't getting money from you under false pretences.

        Again, this is why I don't see this as an "illegal" practice.

        I'm not disagree with you outright. I just don't see how signing up for a particular business model, and then having an undersirable effects happen to you as a result of pre-agreed upon conditions, is breaking any laws. It just sucks.

    • Absolutely (Score:3, Interesting)

      Also, this just means that advertisers will be aware that not all of the clicks serve the purpose for which they initially thought. In other words, the price per click will come down based upon what is assumed to be 'fraudulent clicks'

      I say so what. As an example $1 per click (assuming every click is 'real'). 1000 clicks = $1000. $0.50 per click (assuming 50% of clicks are real). 2000 clicks = $1000. You still pay the same amount for the number of "real" clicks.

      I think Google may be doing this as a

  • Google = RIAA? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TrollBridge ( 550878 )
    This lamenting about their ineffective and easily-exploited business model sounds very similar to the whining we all love to hate by certain media industry groups, doesn't it?
  • It's an easy fix... pay per unique visit, per time period that you care to filter by. In other words, the same person clicking 1 time per minute's no good,but up to 2 times per day is worth money to me. I agree that pay-per-click sounds like it's doing exactly what it should -- paying for EVERY CLICK. What the hell is a fradulent click? It sounds like they should be caring more about Unique visitors up to a certain number of visits per day, or sales, etc.
    • by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:23PM (#10987187)
      It's an easy fix... pay per unique visit, per time period that you care to filter by.

      Right. And how do you propose to track unique visits. By IP address? Then what about the AOL proxy caches? Also, a large percentage of these are probably robots. They can play all sort of tricks with cookies.

      This is a difficult problem.
    • > It's an easy fix... pay per unique visit, per time period that you care to filter by.

      I think if you read their terms for the program, they are already doing this.
    • That plan doesn't really jive well with things like the big AOL proxies, where millions of people appear to be a handful of IP addresses. Thus making "unique" somewhat difficult to determine.
    • The Slashdot crowd tends to underestimate the amount of brain power going into these technologies in the private sector. I have some personal experience with this market, so let me point something out: this is a multi-billion dollar market that Google's stock price is heavily based upon. Private companies have VERY smart people thinking about this issue. They already track user IP and the time of each click. They track a lot more, even, and do very sophisticated statistical analyses to filter out fraud.
    • If I have a class c address I can get 255 clicks. If I make a web page about mesothelioma, those clicks are worth up to $165 per click which I'll probably see $10 to $20 of that money. Thats a lot of cash. After I burn the first class C, I'll just get another class C. Now If i have a 100 Zombie PCs sitting on internet connections with DHCP, I can get 100 click over however long their DHCP IP lease is. Personally, I don't like google adwords. It works great googles website, put allowing people to put it on
  • by oexeo ( 816786 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:14PM (#10987050)
    *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*
    *click* *click* *click* *click* *click* *click*

    What was the story? I wasn't paying attention

  • by Hiro Antagonist ( 310179 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:14PM (#10987053) Journal
    Microsoft has ordered over ten million new mice and trackballs for their central offices.
  • Per Inquery or Per Order are really the only ways to sell advertising on the net. The big guy doesn't get ripped off, and the little guy doesn't get run over.

    The problem is the amount of labor it takes to track this. There has to be a way for both the advertiser and the advertising firm to track the sales and or actual product inqueries, in a manner that both can trust.

    *Smiles as he views business possibilities*
  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:16PM (#10987084) Homepage


    Actually there is no problem: A company can easily determine how many click-throughs from Google eventually lead to sales, and thus assign a dollar value to their presence in Google. Now they divide this total value by the number of click-throughs reported by Google (even if said number is totally bogus) and that is exactly what they bid for in adwords.

    The CFO is just not familiar enough with the basic economic behaviour.

    • Actually there is no problem: A company can easily determine how many click-throughs from Google eventually lead to sales, and thus assign a dollar value to their presence in Google. Now they divide this total value by the number of click-throughs reported by Google (even if said number is totally bogus) and that is exactly what they bid for in adwords.

      That's only true if the behavior of the market isn't changing, and isn't influenced by your actions.

      If bogus click-throughs are on the rise, then last

  • by Ron Bennett ( 14590 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:17PM (#10987099) Homepage
    Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, in my view, always seemed to be more a fad anyways.

    Impression based advertising, or even better yet a hybrid of flat-rate advertising priced based on an estimated, not guaranteed, number of impressions expected during a particular period of time, such over the course of a month.

    Prime example of this type of pricing scheme is seen with traditional magazine advertising. I personally have been using a similar pricing setup for years for various on-line services I operate ... an example can be seen here:

    Marihemp Network Ad Pricing Info:
    http://www.marihemp.com/advertising/ [marihemp.com]

    Long time visitors to the Marihemp Network sites know clicking on ads is pointless *unless* they truly are interested in the product/service advertised, and advertisers know upfront what their costs are - don't have to worry about their ads ending prematurely nor unexpected ad cost overruns.

    And from an operational standpoint, selling flatrate advertising, as explained above, is much easier to manage both now, as well as well into the future.

    On a related item, even if a visitor is interested in a specific product/service, that doesn't mean the visitor is ready to buy right then and there ... many advertisers, in particular larger ones it seems, recognize the value of impression advertising and branding.

    Ron Bennett
    • Indeed. Every other medium has to guess advertising value by dead reckoning - ultimately, the intarweb must do the same.
    • by harvardian ( 140312 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @01:11PM (#10987826)
      Do me a favor and go to Overture.com and click on "advertiser center" toward the top of the page. Now click on the "View bids tool" in the middle-right. Search for the bids on "mesothelioma" and enter the CAPTCHA.

      Look at the top bid. $160. That's not a mistake. That's highly targeted advertising. If somebody is searching for "mesothelioma," chances are much higher than normal (say, in an impression-based model) that they or somebody they know could use a lawyer to deal with this disease (which is the cancer caused by asbestos inhalation). And if somebody CLICKS on the ad? That's worth $160 to somebody.

      This is an extreme example, but the point is still a good one: impression-based advertising has its place for branders and whatnot, but performance-based advertising makes much more sense as a business model for many advertisers. Why would you want to spend money on impressions that have less to do with your target sector when you can spend them on people who care about your product, and have expressed this in an action?

      So do you really think that a 2 billion dollar market (which has been projected to grow to 4 billion in the next few years) is just a "fad"? If anything, it's only a step in the direction of paying for conversions (actual purchases resulting from a click) where every move we make, from impression, to click, to conversion, is monitored and optimized for.
  • My experience (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigberk ( 547360 ) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:19PM (#10987130)
    I think that Google AdSense (if that's what they're talking about) is worth protecting... it is a lucrative system. I think that Google is being fair with their payout to advertisers -- personally their statistics look consistent to me; 4000 page views at my site versus the 3000 page views acknowledged through Google (not everyone has javascript enabled). Also the revenue I've collected from Google has been superior to other ad systems.

    I think Google is fair to its ad publishers.

    Well Google has all these geniuses they keep hiring from MIT, I'm sure they can fix up a way to detect likely click abuses. It's not rocket science, after all.
  • I think if they only allow 1 click per IP to count (during a time period, like 1 click per IP per week or something), then most ad-users would not be able to significantly increase their revenues without insert a "fake-click" mechanism in a virus or spyware of some sort.

    And Google can keep track of any ad-user that tries to pull this by cooperating with antivirus software makers: if a fake click for company X is found in a virus, just cut company X from the program. It's not perfect, but it's better than w
    • > I think if they only allow 1 click per IP to count (during a time period, like 1 click per IP per week or something),

      Then when I search for something I wanna buy and five ads come up on the side, I can click on only one link and come back an hour (or a week) later?

      >And Google can keep track of any ad-user that tries to pull this by cooperating with antivirus software makers: if a fake click for company X is found in a virus, just cut company X from the program.

      The problem is that people probably
  • The only time this hurts google is through their adsd on other websites. Say a scammer puts google ads on his website, then automates clicking on those ads, google then has to pay him for a portion of each click. This hurts google obviously.

    Ads on google.com only hurt the advertiser, and as someone mentioned, they knew the deal when they signed up. Each click, fraudulent or not, is unlikely to become a sale.

    I suspect that the proportion of fraudulent clicks used to hurt antoher company (by raising their advertising costs) is small compared to the number of scammers trying to make money by hosting google ads. I don't know the proportion of revenue google makes onsite vs. ads hosted on other site, but it would seem off-site ads may have to be stopped until a better business model can be figured out.
    • Say a scammer puts google ads on his website, then automates clicking on those ads, google then has to pay him for a portion of each click. This hurts google obviously.

      Wrong. If Google thinks the clicks are genuine and pays out, that means Google gets paid by the advertiser. Google is never paying from its own pocket - the advertiser pays out and Google takes a nice cut of the price.

  • Was anyone else surprised by the statistic that 98% of Google's revenue comes out of the so-called "paid search" business? No wonder they are getting scared and saying stupid things now. They're no longer primarily a search company at all, their core business is now advertising. Amazing how people still ascribe value to their "do no evil" mantra.
  • by DeionXxX ( 261398 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:32PM (#10987309)
    I think I've posted this story like 5 times now on Slashdot, usually every time a story like this comes around. I guess I'll tell it one more time.

    I made a program to make fraudulent clicks for a customer who was being attacked by a fradulent company. The company created a similiar looking domain name and just ripped his entire site and put it on there.

    He was going through lawyers to stop this guy but it was taking a long time. He saw that the guy was advertising on google (right above him). So I created a program that got a list of anonymous proxies from a site, then it would randomly choose a proxy, then pick a random interval, and a random referrer (from a list), and a random browser tag. Anyway, using this program we could click on his ad-word hundreds of times a day, costing him money and making the "bad-guy" max his limit for the day.

    I was actually pretty shocked that it worked, so I gave my client his money back and emailed google about it. I talked with a few people at google including a higher level technical guy. I described my method and he thanked me, and I've never heard from him again.

    Moral of the story... none really, but I don't think these fraudulent clicks can be stopped. This is another case of a company who's business model is pretty much destroyed because of the anonymity of the internet.

    I need a new story to tell :-/

    -- D3X
    • Alright, It's a little complex, but not too much.

      Problem: proxies

      Solution: Google has enough power that they could easily actively scan for open proxies

      Problem: Competitor clicks multiple times using his/her browser on the ad.

      Solution: Check the IP address, use a cookie, check the referrer. Only charge ONCE for multiple clicks. This alone may save many advertisers.

      Problem:User uses multiple referred URLS.

      Solution: Verify that the ad WAS placed on that page.

      Problem: user deletes cookies using an autom

  • this is one problem with the internet advertising... it's all computerized. numbers are too accurate... you know how many visits and how many sales through a website.

    contrast that to tv or print ads. there's no way to track how many store visits or sales as a result. you will get a vague idea, but not as accurately as the web tracking...

    it's a novel idea and with novelty comes unexpected problems. i hope google finds an effective fix.

  • Everyone who uses adsense knows that your listing appears in the order of the amount of money you pay for each click.. Obviously driving up the click-price. Each advertiser also has a daily "limit" they set for the amount they want spent.
    So. If you want your little cheapo cell-phone or whatever website to be listed at number one for only five cents, you click bomb out the listings above yours and as the guys paying $5 per click drop off and yours shows up then you have just got the top advertising spot for
  • by Ron Bennett ( 14590 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @12:51PM (#10987571) Homepage
    Another point to consider is that the on-line adult industry, which collectively often finds innovative solutions to problems, has evolved from paying affiliates (sponsors) on a per click basis to other methods, such as pay per signup (pay per action) and revenue sharing.

    In a nutshell, if the adult industry, as a whole, can't make pay per click work, why does Google think they can? ... so far they've been able to hide the extent/absorb the cost of excess/duplicate clicks, but Google can't forever, especially in a post-IPO environment.

    While the solution may seem simple to many folks, when one examines the issue in-depth, there's nothing simple about it ...

    * What constitutes a "valid" click?

    * What constitutes a duplicate click?

    * How many clicks from a source is too many?

    * How does one define a "source" of a click?

    * Filter clicks based on IP, Computer, User ID, Cookie, etc? ...

    * How does one deal with proxies, such as folks coming in on AOL?

    * What is the threshold for filtering? Allow one click per IP per day?, or per hour?, etc ... or combination of IP, cookie, etc; the permutations are endless!

    * Assuming a click is considered valid, is it truly valid? -getting into the issue of bots, etc.

    * Are bots ok? Seems obvious they wouldn't be, but no so fast ... what about folks, such as those with limited time, using an automated shopping script/website/applet to shop on-line vendors on their behalf.

    * Is sending emails to friends (say double opt-in even) with pay per click (affiliate) links in them ok? -then further, is asking them to click on such links ok?; a growing underground web business is built around such an approach ... for example pay folks who opt-in like 1 cent one-time for each unique link they click in such emails.

    I could go on and on ... Google should be looking at alternatives, if they're not already, to PPC advertising.

    Ron Bennett
  • ...is all us honesty people trying to make a buck or two of adsense with our websites. I'm paying for the assholes freeride.

  • I had an interesting exchange with overture (aka Yahoo) on this very issue a while back. Their vaulted Click Protection [perlworks.com] is amaturistic at best. In fact inside the ad manager if you click on your own links to be sure they work you are charged. If you want to have a look at your competition to see what they are offering they will be charged. This is from inside their manager. For those interested see the paper [perlworks.com] that details my conversion with them.
  • by dvduval ( 774940 )
    What I think is bigger news, but less known is the Google Sandbox Effect. It seems that Google may be broken, because they are no longer able to calculate PageRank across 8 billion pages. They stopped doing their monthly updates earlier this year. Some people think the Sandbox Effect is a result of Google being broken, and some people think it is a tool to drive up Adwords clicks.
  • I would effectively be sad for Google it still was the same search engine as at the begining: the small relevant search engine with original indexing algorithms.

    I think that this happens because wherever people click (firsts search results or ads) the relevancy should be better on the right side, because companies who are willing to pay for every click would be more relevant than the evendor site found in the search (try any electronic gadget for example...).

    Now, Google is threatened by its power, it is t

  • One of the problems that I've personally found is that Google takes a zero tolerance approach to clickthrough abuse. One of my own sites, which depended in part on the clickthrough revenue (fairly modest) was one day 'barred' from AdSense though despite communications back and forth with the AdSense team, they refused to explain their reasons for removal, nor provide any evidence or details that might have helped us identify the culprit/deal with it and/or prove our innocence.

    What annoys me most of all is
  • The value remains (Score:3, Insightful)

    by awol ( 98751 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @01:21PM (#10987979) Journal
    Look this really isn't such a big deal. The worst case scenario is that google cannot charge per click but has to use some other metric to determine fees, either flat, per "presentation" or some other related metric.

    Why is pay per click good? Well there can be only two reasons;

    (1) It lowers the legitimate threshold of entry to make affordable something that would otherwise be unaffordable. In other words by using pay per click they can offer a service to someone who would otherwise be unable to afford it

    (2) It enables Google to generate extraordinary profits (ie overcharge).

    If someone is happy to pay per click because there is some "perception" that a click is something inherently valuable then the fact that these clicks are becoming (or have become) less valuable is merely a correction that returns adWords to the standard advertising channels where "viewers" are the only statistical measure available. However, if the real reason that Google cares is (2) then they deserve nothing.

    In fact even if clicks become valueless, there are many other metrics that Google can use that will mean they can be even more precise with their pricing model than the broadcast advertisers. Things like page views per geographical region or service provider etc etc etc.
  • by yorkpaddy ( 830859 ) on Friday December 03, 2004 @02:24PM (#10989049)
    I have a right to know who is advertising on my blog. I was black and had a website that talked about being black, I would be very upset if the KKK advertised on my website. I know that is an extreme example. I also am interested in who is advertising on my site. I have a reasonable excuse for clicking my own links.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Working...