Google’s Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety, provided answers for some common questions about click fraud after Google disclosed it was nearing a settlement in a lawsuit filed against it over the problem.
For one thing, Google isn’t going to tell how they detect invalid clicks. Ghosemajumder noted in the Q&A posted at the AdWords blog that a lot of smart people developed the methods and technology used in tracking those down. “Doing so would make it easier for fraudsters to try to defeat our systems,” he said.
Google also sees a problem with all invalid clicks being called fraudulent. Many clicks happen due to other causes, like someone double-clicking on an ad. While Google can identify a click as invalid, it is “practically impossible to “prove” that an impression or click was caused by deliberate deception,” Ghosemajumder said.
There is a wide discrepancy between how much activity is believed to be invalid versus how muchreally is not valid. Ghosemajumder dismissed a report used in some places as a source for a click fraud figure of 30 percent.
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“When invalid clicks are detected after an advertiser is charged, we reimburse for them. Because of our detection efforts, losses to advertisers from invalid clicks are very small,” Ghosemajumder said. He also claimed that while some invalid clicks make it past Google’s defenses, they believe that amount is very small.
Two issues come to mind when considering these questions and answers. First, Google does not provide numbers to back up their contentions. The lack of transparency frustrates not only its advertisers, but also its investors. Google has plenty of motivation to continually improve their system for defeating invalid clicks, and will continue to do so.
The other issue is the marketplace. The lack of transparency has begun to open a market for products that claim to be able to detect fraudulent clicks and clicks resulting from ad campaigns that need to be fixed. I spoke with a marketing executive from a well-known firm offering such a solution, and he flatly refused to answers questions regarding how much click fraud versus problematic clicks may be taking place based on his firm’s research.
That was unfortunate because it could have shed some more light on the issue. But it could also indicate Google’s claims are correct, and click fraud is a small portion of invalid click traffic. Definitely not small enough to avoid a $90 million settlement for its click fraud case, though.
By David Utter
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David is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.