Friday, January 16, 2009

Google Adsense and Click Fraud

If you have an account with Google AdSense you probably have heard about an emerging practice in the underworld of the virtual community called "click fraud". But what exactly is this click fraud and how is it accomplished or how does this happen?

Google AdSense uses a payment method that awards a certain amount of money to a publisher (someone who holds an AdSense banner or ad on their page) every time a person clicks on the said ad or banner. Therefore, click fraud is the attempt to have people clicking the ads just so that they can earn more income.

There are people building web sites for the sole purpose of fraudulently generating revenue through Google's AdSense program. These users get an incredible number of clicks through many methods, some complex and sophisticated and some rudimentary and very simple.

One of the most complex is through the use of so called "hitbots". These are automated programs or robots who emulate clicking the links in AdSense banners (there are some that actually click the banners as well).

Google's AdSense protection or security scheme is by no means perfect and nearly anyone can find the loopholes around the protection mechanism, ironically just by doing a Google search.

Another, more rudimentary method is hiring a lot of people in a poor country to click the links on your site. This means these people will actually sit all day and just click and click links so their employers can earn a fortune. They come from very poor countries like and they are prepared to do so for as low as 50 cents an hour.

But, there is a problem with this. Once Google receives a large number of clicks from a single IP address, the address and the site that had the AdSense ads will be banned, and the illicit behavior might even get the fraudster sued.

To keep this from happening, many people utilize a large number of proxy servers for clicking. purposes. These are basically called trojans, located on computers around the world but mostly in the United States). What's even more daunting is that these clicks will appear to come from an actual computer so such scams are really difficult to detect.

And do not think that this happens only in isolated cases. In fact, there is so much that if search engine companies do not increase their security with such advertising programs as Google AdSense, such criminal behavior could become more become even more damaging.

Big G has a very strict policy regarding click fraud, and it has sued or banned those using such techniques in the past. But while the search engine giant tries its best to minimize the risk of click fraud there's certainly room for a lot of growth and improvement.

It is estimated that more then 20% of the clicks that follow a Google AdSense link are just done in order to make money from the person paying for the ad. Some people believe the number of fraudulent clicks to be even double.

There are a great number of schemes involving click fraud, such as groups of AdSense publishers clicking each other's banners (which is also known as "clicking rings", or spamming people so that they click such links).

Despite Google's strictness on click fraud, the phenomenon is certainly raising concerns for the advertisers on AdWords, but despite this, advertising with AdSense still remains more profitable for advertisers, as opposed to traditional untargeted advertising schemes.

There are some means of protection against such schemes and all advertisers should be prepared enough to use them. Many advertisers choose to avoid the content network at all for fear of this issue called click fraud.