Joel on Adsense Click Fraud


Responding to a reader post Joel Spolsky airs some thoughts on Adsense click fraud and spam blogs.

This is where Google is actually hurt by the long tail world of millions of small sites. It's easy to evaluate the top 100 or 1000 web sites to make sure they're reasonably legit. It's much harder to monitor 1,000,000 blogs to make sure that none of them were machine generated for the purpose of scamming AdSense revenue. Still, I don't think Google has a choice: I predict that you'll see a massive expulsion of smaller AdSense sites by Google, and it better happen soon, or AdSense will ruin Google's reputation among advertisers, something which could be deadly.


what about adwords click fraud


With millions of ads live from millions of people try and track a few via proxies.


Sometimes I wonder...

...if online scams (spamming, scraping, click-frauding) would be as widespread if enforcement were more solid and punishments more fierce.

No, that's not meant to be a "duh!" rhetorical question. Clearly, in my mind, there are certain crimes perpetuated by people in certain circumstances that would not be measurably contained simply by broader enforcement and stiffer penalties; the 409 scams come to mind, because in many cases, those folks are living in a society in which other opportunities simply are not available, so the threat of even likely jail time perhaps isn't a sufficient deterrent.

* * *

Of course, one could argue that PREVENTION is the best possible idea (e.g., requiring per-site approval for AdSense, throwing 100s more interns at the click-fraud problem to manually review click logs, etc.), but I'm not even sure that would make a dent in the problems.

Your thoughts?

Low barrier

I don't think 100s of interns would have an impact. Maybe 10,000 would.

Remember how long it used to take to add new terms to Overture accounts? Each new ad had to be reviewed. It was a pain, but it did keep the Ads pretty good. I'm thinking approval would help, but even that wouldn't be a solid solution.

Personally, I think PP(Click) will have to be replaced by PP(Conversion) at some point in the near future.

PPConversion... I don't see it happening

Sure, I'm aware of affiliate programs and such... but to manage disparate conversion tracking over thousands, tens of thousands of companies... I can't imagine how this'd be any less ripe for fraud, not to mention scalability issues.

In short, it'd be way too complicated for Google and companies to agree on what a conversion is and, IMHO, also way too easy for companies to simply "hide" conversions or manipulate conversion counts.

Additionally, why should Google or Yahoo send tons of traffic to a vast number of companies who don't have their shit together enough to actually decently convert traffic?

With that said, I also agree that the current PPC model is problematic, and I don't have any pat solutions :|

I just headr from a guy that

I just headr from a guy that actually HAVE tracked the conversions (visitor click to sale) from the most crappy AdSense pages and it turned out to be 3 times better than search. Now, thats interesting news to me ... off to make some more crap to keep advertisers happy :)

Complicated yes...but

With Google's actions lately it wouldn't come as a surprise if they would simply dictate their solution. Since for many, Google is the only game in town you either play by their rules or go home.

why should Google or Yahoo send tons of traffic to a vast number of companies who don't have their shit together enough to actually decently convert traffic?

Absolutely correct. So, Google just throws out the bad converting sites because some site *will* make an effort to close the sale. Either sites progress and treat their small slice of virtual real estate as something valuable or they are kicked out of the program and given a dampening penalty to keep them out of the SERPs.

I know everything I just said is BS, but something will happen... at least something *should* happen.

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