Trust Me, I’m A Jedi Scientist — Those Aren’t The Fraudulent Clicks You Were Looking For

Nice catch by Threadwatch,

Click fraud concerns bruise Google
from Bloomberg, where Google CEO Eric
Schmidt is quoted saying to trust him, as a computer scientist, Google can stop
those bad clicks:

Believe me, as a computer scientist, we have the ability to detect the
invalid clicks before they reach advertisers.

Then again, Google’s about to
settle a click
fraud class action suit
for $90 million. I’d agree with the Google view that
the sum is much smaller than some would estimate click fraud to be. But it’s
still a large amount, and one that suggests Google’s click fraud kryptonite
isn’t as foolproof at Schmidt suggests.

In fact, the quote needs a big heaping dose of perspective:

  • Google (and Yahoo and others) already have lots of click fraud detection
    in place and do indeed catch a lot of fraudulent clicks.
     
  • Google (and Yahoo and others) don’t catch everything, whether they have
    computer scientists on staff or one actually running the company.

Indeed, if Google’s system was perfect, they wouldn’t need to have any appeal
or review period at all. They do. In fact, they flat out

open the possibility
they won’t catch everything:

If we find that invalid clicks have escaped automatic detection, you’ll
receive a credit for those clicks.

Again, Google’s view is only a small amount might escape their
review
process
, as it
blogged
recently
. But that same post — unlike Schmidt’s comment — also admits that
some invalid clicks do indeed reach advertisers:

When we believe those clicks are invalid, we reimburse advertisers for them.
Some invalid clicks do make it through our filters, but we believe the amount is
very small.

Schmidt might have had other comments going along with his quote, of course.
He might have qualified it in some way that didn’t make it to the story. But to
me, the answer isn’t that Google gets perfect in stopping all invalid clicks
before billing. The answer is keeping the amount as low as possible and actively
working with advertisers and third parties to ensure there’s better defense and
support for even that small amount that will inevitably get through.

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