Click Fraud: Is Google fighting the wrong battle?

What battle is Google waging?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

In “Google and click fraud: As wholesome as milk?” I question Shuman Ghosemajumder’s Power Point slide “proof” purporting to demonstrate how click fraud through Google can not be more than a “fraction of one percent” of activity. 

Ghosemajumder is Google’s point man on click fraud. Matt Cutts is Google’s point man on “Webspam.” The two blogging Googlers are currently doing a one-two Google punch on the click fraud front. The initiative apparently was spurred by Click Forensics’ “Click Fraud Index” report published earlier this week. 

The Click Forensics company positions itself as “focused on developing an industry solution” to the growing problem of click fraud:

The Click Fraud Index monitors and reports on data gathered from the Click Fraud Network, which more than 3,000 online advertisers and their agencies have joined. The Network provides statistically significant Pay Per Click data collected from online advertising campaigns for both large and small companies. Key findings from data reported for Q4 2006 include:

  • The overall industry average click fraud rate was 14.2 percent versus 13.8 percent for Q3, 14.1 percent for Q2 and 13.7 percent for Q1.
  • The average click fraud rate of Pay Per Click advertisements appearing on search engine content networks was 19.2 percent for Q4.
  • The industry average click fraud rate for high-priced search terms remained at 20.9 percent as it did in Q3 versus 20.2 percent in Q2. High-priced terms are defined as terms that cost over $2.00. These high-priced terms often make up the majority of an advertiser’s total spend.
  • The average Pay Per Click term cost for the top key terms across the five biggest search advertising industries – Retail, Financial Services, Health & Fitness, Technology, and Entertainment – for Q4 was $3.50. This compares to $3.92 in Q3, $4.51 in Q2 and $4.75 in Q1.

Ghosemajumder seems to spend more public time disputing the work of Click Forensics and its click fraud analytics competitors than on publicly addressing the real click fraud concerns of Google advertisers. 

In “SES on Click Fraud: Industry collaboration, or vested interests?” I recount how Ghosemajumder’s fellow industry panelists last August felt ambushed by his surprise “tactical” confrontation:

When Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google Trust & Safety, addressed the audience, he unveiled a strategic Google assault against the work of third party click fraud consultants such as panelists Alchemist Media, KeywordMax, Click Foresnsics…

Apparently timed to correspond with the SES panel, Ghosemajumder announced his posting at the Google blog of a Google engineers’ penned “Troubling findings on how some third parties detect click fraud. "The Google “findings” purport to expose the work of several click fraud consultants.

Ghosemajumder proceeded to detail Google engineers’ analysis that “widely quoted estimates of the size of the click fraud problem are exaggerated.”

Panel members, and targets of the strategic Google assault, seemed to feel ambushed and expressed dismay that they were not advised of the Google “findings,” or alerted to Ghosemajumder’s blog post.

When panelist Jessie C. Stricchiola, President, Alchemist Media, Inc., addressed the audience, she repeatedly stressed the need for advertisers to stay focused on the reality of the click fraud problem.

Commenters now at Cutts’ blog are also questioning the motivations and assertions of the most recent Google public statements on click fraud:

Michael Martinez:

As I have pointed out before, there are serious flaws with Google’s defense and methodology on this issue. Until those flaws are addressed, simply reiterating the same points every time a new challenge to Google’s credibility on click fraud detection is posted somewhere on the Web (and I am aware of the new report that was just published) doesn’t do anything to help Google’s cause.

Your organization may know more about what people do to manipulate clicks than is worthwhile to reveal, but what it has revealed so far leaves those of us who have been around for many years with the very firm, clear, and undispellable impression that Google is either hiding a lot of information or is unfortunately outgunned and way behind the front-runners in this race.

Either way, rehashing highly disputed points isn’t helping the situation. That is why people continue to doubt Google’s claims on this matter.

Tom Churm:

Respectfully, I believe that this comment is not completely accurate:

“Want to know how many unique ad-clicks were delivered to your site by Google? Just count the unique gclid parameters.”

Reason: Google includes some links with the gclid querystring parameter in its index of non-paid search results.

So when you simply count some of the instances of the ‘gclid’ parameter hits in your log files, some of these hits could be from Google or other search engines.

To see what I mean, perform a Google query like this:

Google advertisers and the public at large would be better served if Google’s public statements concentrated on providing actionable information regarding Google’s response to the click fraud problem, rather than simply disputing the work of third party click fraud detection services.

ALSO: Google, Yahoo click fraud audits: When will advertisers demand them? and Yahoo click fraud initiatives: Exclusive update

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