Google Explains Invalid Clicks

Google has rarely spoken publicly about click fraud issues surrounding their Google AdWords program, even with the publicity it has received of late and today’s $90 million class action settlement. So an Inside AdWords blog entry detailing many of the frequently asked questions advertisers have about click fraud and invalid clicks was a surprise, as was the Google Blog entry about the specific settlement details.

While there is nothing unexpected revealed in the two blog entries, there were some interesting quotes from them, namely one regarding percentages of click fraud and their look into an often-quoted figure that 30% of clicks are fraudulent.

So, the 30% figure comes from analysis of a *single* ad campaign, not a study of many. This means that the figure of 30% that is used to characterize click fraud for the whole search and advertising industry comes from the analysis of *one* ad campaign looked at for ten days.

However, this is not the only figure in the 30% neighborhood that has gotten publicity last year. A 38% figure was quoted by Click Defense in conjunction with their own lawsuit. However, that figure has also come under question since it was also used in promotion of the Click Defense click fraud detection software (and Click Defense has since withdrawn as lead plaintiff in the case).

Google also tries to make clear the differences between fruadulent clicks and invalid clicks.

The term “fraud” implies deliberate deception. Our aim in fighting invalid clicks is broader and includes clicks that we suspect may have been deceptive or malicious, as well as clicks that we deem invalid for other reasons, such as accidental double clicking on an ad. The usage of the word “fraud” in this context has caused a great deal of confusion, as it’s practically impossible to “prove” that an impression or click was caused by deliberate deception. Our servers can accurately count clicks on ads, but we cannot know what the intent of a clicking user was when they made that click. When we identify a click as invalid, it simply means a click we won’t charge for, in order to deliver the best ROI to advertisers.

It is also worth noting that Shuman Ghosemajumder, the Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety providing the answers for the Inside AdWords blog, spoke last week at Search Engine Strategies in New York City specifically on the issue of click fraud. He also discussed the fraudulent clicks versus invalid clicks quite clearly, since there definitely has been confusion in the mainsteam media with the two terms acting interchangeably. You can find the write-up of the “Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues” session here, which both Google and Yahoo! participated in.

And for a more detailed look on all aspects of this click fraud settlement and its implications, click here.

Related reading