Click Fraud Survey & Discussion

Monday, December 12, 2005


Google and Yahoo, the two biggest pay-per-click business providers, do not provide users with enough information when it comes to click fraud. Their inaction has led to my action, and together we can fight back.

Once upon a time, I had a Google Adwords account... and since this is a blog about click fraud you know what transpired. I started getting lots of extra clicks, but not a corresponding increase in the business. Google didn't help, and since watching, detecting, and claiming click fraud are full time jobs themselves, I threw in the towel and shut down. Sad story, yes, but I'm doing something about it.

I am conducting a survey on click fraud to figure out what's going on and to make sense of the click fraud world, which is only murky because of the way Google and Yahoo choose to side-step the issue. I'll post the results here FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. It should be interesting to see what people have to say. And as far as I know you will be participating in the first ever click fraud study! You're a pioneer!

So, all Google, Yahoo, or other pay-per click advertisers, would you please answer the following questions and either email them to me at or post here? Thank you very much, and I look forward to seeing what we uncover.

1. What service do you/did you use? (Google (Adwords or Adsense), Yahoo, something else)

2. Are you still using the service?

3. Approximately how many clicks per day do you/did you receive?

4. Type of goods sold?

5. Approximately how many keywords do you/did you pay for?

6. What is/was your average cost per click?

7. Did you ever complain to your service provider about click fraud? Were they helpful? Did you get a refund?

Thank you and look for the results soon!


  • 1/ AdWords (7 figure spend), Overture (6 figure spend), Kanoodle, Search123, SearchFeed, goClick, Mirago (4 figure spends).

    2/ Yes, to all

    3/ 40,000 or so

    4/ travel, financial services, hospitality,

    5/ 100,000 keywords across all engines

    6/ hugely varied - 20p/click to £7/click - depends on product, ROI, etc.

    7/ No

    We use unique tags in adverts so we can identify traffic from SEs; we periodically reconcile claimed clicks and web server log files; we do long period checking for repeat clickers (variety of signatures), etc. There are types of fraud we can imagine, that we wouldn't detect. Anything sufficiently like noise is... noise... not a signal. It's the SETI problem.

    Reconciliations suggest that various types of fraud are less than 1% of clicks.

    However, the Google boosting type of fraud you describe is less interesting to advertisers, IMO. This would affect advertisers equally, albeit painfully during the initial period; the ROI for all advertisers would be unaffected over a long enough period (assuming other advertisers are rational); you just see a lower conversion rate and hence you bid lower; you change adverts to increase CTR but you'd see only randomness when they are tested.

    The most this would do is to shift the Nash equilibrium, for a while. The signature would be an increased CTR across all adverts, including brands, especially high ranked adverts and a further reduced conversion rate on higher positions. This is, itself, a signal but it is non-specific in that filtering the clicks from certain types of fraud mechanism would be effectively impossible.

    What worries advertisers, rather than investors, is targeting a specific advertiser company - driving up a single advertisers spend with no increase in revenue, etc. This unfairly advantages other advertiser(s).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:21 PM  

  • Thank you anonymous.

    By Blogger Click Fraud Survey & Discussion Board, at 11:26 AM  

  • I'm not a click fraud victim, but I'd support any action against it. It's no different that shoplifting at WMT. (I'm "arbitrage_player" from the Y! Finance Message Boards).

    GOOG luck! ;)

    By Blogger Raphael Blogger, at 4:46 PM  

  • My AdWords campaigns start out ok but then I have a huge fall off in conversion shortly after I start a new keyword phrase that sends me decent traffic. For example, I'll start a new exact match phrase and on the first day I'll have a 200% ROI. The next day, I might start out the same but suddenly the clicks begin converting only half as good as the previous day or worse. I most likely then end up breaking even or losing a few bucks by the end of the second day. So my ROI goes from 200% to 90-100% in one day. The next day I'll only have a 1% ROI and end up owing Google bigtime!

    I could let it keep running but the ROI will never climb back up enough to make that keyword phrase profitable again! So I'll stop the ads and create a new exact match phrase that's similar. It'll have the same pattern where it starts out ok and becomes a loser within days!

    I've wrote Google about the problem and they give you the basic "look over your logs" stuff. But I'm afraid that the type of people that are running bots are a little smarter than Google lets on. They aren't some dummy sitting there clicking on my ad over and over again! It's far more sophisticated than that and would most likely be undetectable to me in my logs since I'm not some pro admin. Well, unless they are an amateur who isn't very smart, but these are the ones that Google will catch and filter too.

    The main reason I almost instantly blame fraud as the reason for the quick reversals of my conversions is that I stumbled acrossed one of them scammers on a forum and saw what these guys are capable of. This was several months ago before I even started using AdWords. While Google can imply that they're on top of it and monitoring clicks coming from the same IPs and such, they won't dare talk about the possibility that a fraudster is using the same shady techniques that a spammer would use to get around email filters, in order to outsmart the Google system.

    I'm talking about them running software that they can configure to click on certain ads and avoid their own. Software that uses a mix of proxies and trojaned computers in order to get around IP patterns and blocking and such. Software that can perform a search and spoof different brands of web browsers and truly appear to be real people searching and clicking on the ads. There was also mention of making it spider your landing page and click on links to other pages and exit the site at random times! We're talking slick stuff here! Imagine all that wrapped up into one little program. If you're running ads in a highly profitable and competitive market, watch out! It's a scary thought.

    I just don't know if Google can actually do anything about it. I'd hope so because they are full of brilliant engineers. But good luck proving it's happening to you if THEY themselves can't see a pattern or footprint and stop it!

    I was forced to turn off my ads.

    By the way, my experience with Overture was even worse! A product that converted 1 in 7 on Adwords, did 0 out of 120 on Overture. That's all it took for me to pull the plug! :(

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:33 AM  

  • I heard about Megaglobe, a new search engine coming up, it will offer a zero percent click fraud, here's a link:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:05 PM  

  • Hey Guys if you have been dumped by adsense or given the run around by Yahoo then you need to look at this, Fair Ads Network are only taken 10,000 members then they are closing the doors, I suggest that you take a look Now before its too late :

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