Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently revealed that he clicks on Google ads "all the time." Asked at the Search Engine Strategies Conference earlier this month "When was the last time you clicked on an ad, and why, at Google?" Schmidt acknowledged:
I do it all the time, probably because I want to make sure that everything was working.
Are such evaluation clicks by the Google CEO registered by Google as "invalid clicks" and filtered out before advertisers are billed? Or, are Google advertisers charged for a click each time Schmidt clicks on a Google ad under the guise of making sure that "everything was working?"
In "Woman sues Google for removing ads," CNNMoney says :
Theresa Bradley's $250,000 lawsuit alleges that her staff spent 100 hours placing Google AdSense ads...only to have Google remove them, alleging that Bradley clicked on her own ads in violation of the AdSense user agreement. (For a website's publisher to click on one's own ads is widely considered 'click fraud,' which is why online-advertising distributors like Google and Yahoo forbid it.)
But Bradley contends that she only clicked on the ads to verify that they weren't for competing products. Google promises to remove such competitive ads on request. And it might seem she has a point there: Without clicking on them, how else would she know whether they're for competing products? Except for one thing... AdSense has a preview tool that lets you see ads' destination websites without actually clicking them on your live site. Nice try, Bradley...
We have to wonder: Can Google countersue Bradley for being a complete dolt?
Google AdSense Program Policies on "Prohibited Clicks and Impressions" states:
Any method that artificially generates clicks or impressions is strictly prohibited. These prohibited methods include but are not limited to: repeated manual clicks or impressions...Please note that clicking on your own ads for any reason is prohibited, to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs.
Google AdSense publishers are therefore prohibited from clicking on Google ads at their sites "to make sure that everything was working."
Google AdWords Help Center states:
What kinds of clicks does Google consider invalid? Some sources of invalid clicks include:
Manual clicks intended to increase your advertising costs or to increase profits for website owners hosting your ads.
Given Google's stated objective of prohibiting any click, from any source, reflecting a "potential inflation of advertiser costs" in either AdSense or AdWords, the Google CEO clicking on Google ads to make sure "everything is working" represents a prohibited click that results in an inflation of advertiser costs.
Schmidt may not "intend" to inflate Google advertiser costs when he clicks on Google ads "all the time" to "make sure that everything was working," just as Bradley may not "intend" to inflate Google advertiser costs when she clicks on a Google AdSense ad at her site to determine if the Google advertiser is a competitor to her business.
I have contacted Google asking:
If a random Google employee clicks on a random Google ad with the goal of "checking" that Google ads are "working," is the click A) deemed invalid and B) filtered out before being charged to the Google advertiser so that C) Google advertisers are not charged for clicks from Google employees that click on Google ads for general evaluation of the Google advertising system?
Google's public relations response may be of little import in the real world click fraud scheme of things, however, as I advise in "Google, Yahoo click fraud audits: When will advertisers demand them?"
When advertising with either Google or Yahoo, advertisers capitulate to the search engines’ modus operandi of being at once judge, jury and witness in any questioning of Pay Per Click advertising charges.
When advertising with Google, advertisers agree to accept Google’s own, internal, unverifiable, self-judgements of the 'correctness' of invoiced charges. According to Google AdWords FAQ:
'By creating an AdWords account, advertisers agree to accept the Google AdWords reporting system and reported metrics as provided in the AdWords program Terms and Conditions. We rely on our own servers' weblogs to supply site traffic data to include in your reports. Similarly, we rely on our data to determine whether a credit for invalid clicks is due'...
The cold, hard facts of search engine Pay Per Click advertiser agreements trump Google and Yahoo public relations bravado aiming to mollify advertisers into accepting, at face value, search engine claims that invoiced charges are justified.
Google and Yahoo publicly embrace transparency in the name of advertiser satisfaction. At the same time, however, Google and Yahoo do not allow their advertisers to obtain satisfaction via transparent auditing of search engine invoices.