Google’s Response to “The Sausage Manifesto”

Today’s SearchDay, It’s Time to See What’s In the PPC Sausage, looks into Jeffrey Rohr’s open letter to paid search networks about click fraud. There was not room enough to fully cover both Rohr’s concerns and Google’s responses (I’ve not heard back from other paid search networks yet), so I’ll run through some of them here.

Please note that these statements from Shuman Ghosemajumder, who heads the click quality team at Google, were not all given directly in response to each statement in the manifesto, but pulled from different parts of our conversation. So if it seems that the response is incomplete, that is likely a shortcoming on my part rather than Ghosemajumder’s.

Addressing some specific points in the document, Ghosemajumder said that (#1, #2) Google has been working to increase its education and transparency, and recognizes the need to continue to do so. Google is not only investing in proportion to the problem (#3) , but in excess of the problem.

He said that (#4) Google does not promote conversion tracking as a solution to click fraud, but just as a best practice for advertisers to follow and a way for advertisers to better show Google where the problem lies so it can be investigated. Undetected click fraud will manifest itself either as an unexplained drop in ROI, so it’s important for advertisers to be monitoring their ROI in some way to show Google where to look when they think there’s a problem, he said.

Customer service is a priority for Google (#5), and the company has metrics in place to measure its ability to deal with customer inquiries in a timely manner. Ghosemajumder said at SES in San Jose last August, he offered his personal help in escalating any click fraud issue that was not being adequately resolved, but did not get any e-mails from advertisers taking him up on the offer.

Google has added more educational materials to its site (#6), and is communicating the issue on blogs and in other public forums more than ever before, and plans to continue to do so, he said. With its participation in the IAB Click Measurement Working Group (#7), Google is hoping to explore opportunities for industry-wide cooperation, define a click from a technology standpoint, and define click fraud and invalid clicks. It is not creating a mechanism for detecting click fraud, but it will help put everyone on the same page, he said.

Google has expressed its concerns with methodologies of click fraud reporting tools (#8), and to date none of the providers has addressed what Ghosemajumder says is a fundamental flaw in the measurement stemming from the way a browser cache deals with multiple pageloads.

Prosecuting click fraud cases in court presents a challenge (#9), since it could force Google to reveal information that could be exploited by fraudsters, he said. The Bradley case was unique, since it involved extortion, and reports that he was earning $30,000 a month are inaccurate, since he would have had no need to attempt to extort $100,000 from Google if it was true. He said that Google does continue to work with law enforcement to refer click fraud cases to them. He also pointed out that Google did win a civil judgment against Auction Experts in a civil suit last summer.

The IAB working group is a good place to begin the discussion about industry-wide solutions like a third-party auditing system or “perp registry” (#10), though Ghosemajumder said the usefulness of such a registry would be limited, given the

Ghosemajumder acknowledged that there is room for improvement in Google’s communications with advertisers (#11), but also noted that progress has been made, with increased education and transparency efforts like its invalid clicks reporting tools.

UPDATE: John Slade from Yahoo has added his voice to the discussion in a comment on the Sausage Manifesto blog.

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