Google Click Fraud

Companies who sign up to use Google Adwords can expose themselves to a serious click fraud problem.

Click fraud is this:  Companies sign up with Google to have their ads displayed. When the companies’ ad is clicked on, a payment is made to Google. Google displays ads when a person uses Google search and the ad is predicted by some algorithm to be potentially interesting to that person. So if you are searching on cherry wood furniture – ads for cherry wood furniture might show up. Google also has partners or what they call display partners. MH Reporter is such a partner. We reserve a small portion of our website for Google to also place our ads. When someone clicks on an ad on MH Reporte,r a small portion of the money that Google collects for that ad click is then sent to MH Reporter. (This income source has been less than $100 to date) and does not cover the cost of the site. All other ads display in print or on our site are free. Now let’s say I start clicking on lots of my own ads in order to generate money for myself. That is considered click fraud.

Google says they have a relatively low rate of click fraud. Perhaps they do, I have no way of knowing their click fraud rate system wide. However, I can say with a very high level of certainty, that anyone who signs up with Google for Ad Words and accepts all defaults will experience a very high level click fraud, even into the 90%+ region.  Further, I can say

  • That Google does not make discovering the click fraud easy when using their tools
  • That Google does not effectively ban many click fraud websites even though it would seem easy to do
  • That Google does readily acknowledge the severity of the click fraud problem though it is inconceivable to me they don’t understand it or the extent of it

This does not mean that Google Ad Words is not a powerful advertising tools when used correctly. It is a powerful effective tool when used correctly. It just ticks me off that Google appears to profit from fraudulent use that results from just accepting the standard defaults. It is inconceivable to me that they don’t have the expertise and knowledge to prevent most of the incorrect use.

Now let’s get specific.

All of the Google Ad Word click fraud I have discovered is in the Display Network. So far, all of the Search ads I’ve reviewed seem legitimate. However, this is a small comfort as the Display Network (if you make no adjustments) can represent the vast majority of where your ads are displayed. Google claims to detect some click fraud and indeed they do.

So here is the real data. In one account I recently reviewed, there were 1900 Google approved clicks and 284 Google identified click fraud clicks. Our analysis only reviews the 1900 Google approved clicks.

So I sorted clicking websites by number of clicks.

#1 with 146 clicks is

The first thing you should notice is that this Chinese website does not display Google ads on the homepage or anywhere easy to find. So where did all the clicks come from? Next, the click fraud website has nothing to do with the Google ad companies’ products. Even more laughable, the website offers cell phone fraud detection!!  You’ll also notice that exactly 1463 ads were place on this site in some location that I could not find, and that 146 clicks occurred. Is the clicker a computer with an algorithm to ensure clicking just under then 10:1 ratio?

Another bit of powerful circumstantial evidence that this is click fraud is the click to ad placement ratio. When this account places ads in highly selected websites, where only people viewing the website would be interested in the product, the click through rate is less than 1%. So how is it possible that an English language ad has 10% or 10x click through on a website that is not even close to the type of products offered?  Also, remember Google works slow in China due to censorship so most Chinese prefer other search engines.

#2 with 55 clicks is Anonymous Google

Because the person is using Anonymous mode on Google Chrome, we can’t tell if this is legit or click fraud.

#3 with 34 clicks is and #4 with 29 clicks is

These websites appear legitimate and are in the right product area.  But once again, I can’t find Google ads anywhere that have the shape and format of my accounts ads. It begs the question of how is it that this accounts ads were clicked on? These two sites have less than 1% click through also indicating they could be legit.  I put these in the possible legit, but likely click fraud category.

#5 with 28 clicks is

This is a child’s video game website from China with 6% click through. Clear click fraud.

Now the click fraud really gets blatant:  We find sites that are identical and make very little effort to conceal the click fraud. These sites offer no information other than ads  and there is near zero chance anyone would go to the site for any reason. They have odd names that mean nothing.

By looking at these sites, you can tell the companies that are being defrauded as their ads pop up on these fraudulent web sites (IF they have not taken precaution to only display there ads in limited locations). These odd named sites have very high click through rates. Just the fact these ads appears is worrisome. The companies being defrauded are companies that have not taken precautions in Google Ad Words to avoid fraud and are probably unaware of the scam. The list here are from ads appear on the site that Google has determined are interesting to me (Tech, Energy, etc.).  I compiled this list in just a few minutes of companies that are being defrauded if they have not blocked their ads from showing up in China and other regions of the world where click fraud is prevalent. It will be easy to do some quick research the next time I’m in Asia.

  • Verengo Solar
  • Cal PT
  • Session Control
  • Blekko
  • Sungevity
  • Rohm Semiconductor

The next clue about click fraud is noticing where the ads are placed. Top world locations (when no screen was put in place) was China, Algeria, Bosnia, Iraq, etc. … not exactly where most of us do a roaring business. In fact in this US account with zero business in Bosnia, Google showed more ads in BOSNIA than in the USA!  :-)

So how to get the goodness of Google Ad Words without all the badness.

1. LIMIT the geographical location to areas of the world that are meaningful to your business. The Display Network ads in the US appear to have a much higher level of legitimacy.

2. DON’T USE China on the display network even if you do business in China. Excluding sites is nearly meaningless because there are just too many of them. I’ve not found a way to only INCLUDE known good sites. China by far led the list in click fraud undetected by Google.

So far, Google Ad Word and Click Fraud detection assistance, while friendly, has obscured the issue rather than aggressively get to the point and prevent click fraud. I based that comment on a really smart company apparently unable to figure out that a bogus website like is click fraud.  I’ll let you know if Google suddenly gets truly helpful and serious about this issue because a lot of companies are unknowingly losing a lot of money.

It would be interesting if Google would publish a list of their most profitable Display Network Websites. Long story short:  out of the 1900 Google approved clicks, about 500 of those can be demonstrated to be click fraud with very little effort. 600 more are suspected click fraud where the site makes some attempt to look legit but has only automated content. Only a small percentage of the clicks can be consider legit (by legit I mean where the site name makes sense, it has real content, and a real person would actually view the site for a reasonable purpose).

JapaneseproDo I worry about getting sued by Google. LOL, NOT AT ALL :-)  The evidence is overwhelming and damning. One of the sites even had a prostitute type background with Google ads then displayed over it