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-- Google AdSense
---- Adsense predictions for 2007
ronburk - 5:25 am on Dec 22, 2006 (gmt 0) Google will continue to downplay their click-fraud problem in 2007. Google will not allow any third-party audit of their click-fraud rate in 2007. SmartPricing will significantly improve AdWords ROI on the Content Network by the end of 2007, largely due to the data gathered by shoveling money into the Google Checkout program during Christmas 2006. Actual Google profitability will suffer somewhat, as Google discovers that when they stop shoveling money at Google Checkout vendors/customers, they stop using the program. Reason? Like most non-search endeavors, turns out Google just isn't very good at doing payment processing. The whole Google culture is built around the idea of having built something so neat that people will flock to use it. When required to actually interact with individual vendors and sell them on switching to a Google service from a longstanding, highly experienced competitor, the Google culture is a disaster. The whole Christmas 2006 enormous cash infusion into Google Checkout would have been largely unnecessary if Google had a stronger sales culture, with sales people patiently explaining to the techies why their sales prospects say Google Checkout sucks and needs improvement. MSN and Yahoo! attempts to build a content network will become even more laughable by the end of 2007. Most of their applicants will be former Google publishers that SmartPricing has determined provide lousy ROI for advertisers. Probably, both MSN and Yahoo! will openly reposition their "content networks" as niche content networks, open only by invitation to selected large publishers that can provide selling points for their larger advertisers. By the end of 2007, it will be clear that AdSense is the only "common man" CPC publishing game in town from here on out. Folks hoping for (English language) AdSense competitors are out of luck. Malicious attacks that exploit the automated AdSense publisher banning system inside Google will experience strong growth in 2007, at least doubling the 2006 rate. Any anti-social anger ball on the scale from expert down to "power user" who has a bone to pick with anybody on the Internet will check first to see if they have an AdSense account worth banning. 2007 will see the first documented case of click-fraud blackmail. The same lightweight criminals in poorly policed countries that currently collect blackmail from mid-sized companies by threatening DDOS attacks will realize that they can get the same effect much, much easier by threatening to get AdSense publishers banned. The ransom note will go something like this: "On Thanksgiving Day, you will see hits on your home page from over 5,000 unique IP addresses that contain the unique URL of www.yerdomain.com/#payup-or-else. You will wire $2,000 to the following bank account by Dec. 15th, or else we will use 5,000 other unique IP addresses to click-fraud your account during the second half of December. Google will then freeze your Christmas profits and then ban you. If they don't ban you, they will still keep your funds. In any case, we will attack again until Google does ban you."
This is lose-lose for Google. When Google gets looser at banning publishers, then click-frauders will just use botnets to increase their bogus AdSense revenues. When Google gets tighter at banning publishers, then the truly criminal click-frauders can switch to blackmailing other AdSense publishers. In fact, a criminal AdSense click-frauder who gets banned may produce a bogus blackmail email and tell Google it wasn't their fault.
This is not a problem with a technical solution. It is a structural flaw in the CPC model itself. There is no automatic technical way to determine who the instigator of distributed click fraud attacks is. Algorithms cannot detect human intent. This is the core threat to the entire CPC model. Google will be a key player in a business-funded initiative to disinfect infected PCs that will be announced sometime in 2007. The inability to effectively and automatically mask click fraud when it is incoming from over 200,000 separate infected machines (each of which also produces 100% valid clicks from real users) will force this move. Google will roll out more failed ventures in 2007. Just as Microsoft continues to fail at most all their ventures except for the cash cows of Office and Windows, Google will continue to fail at most all their ventures except for the cash cows of Search and Search Advertising. Google will not tighten AdSense admission, since they have already plucked the low-hanging fruit of what can be automated in the admission process. They will instead continue to allow algorithms to discourage unwanted behavior. Webmasters will continue to whine for solutions that require Google get into the human intervention business. Google will continue to ignore all such suggestions. The total number of AdSense publishers will continue to swell, which means the average AdSense payout will continue to drop. By the end of 2007, the average monthly AdSense publisher payout will be under $10 (it's probably well under $25 already). A new image of Marcus holding up a check will appear in 2007. The Power Law curve of AdSense publisher income will continue to mean that a very few people will make a lot of money, they will be unable to keep quiet about it, and their (unusual, largely unreproducable) example will attract hordes of other folks to fill out the less fortunate portion of the curve. The WebmasterWorld AdSense forum will need an increased number of moderators to keep up with all the incoming debris. Google will attempt a wrenching, top-down redesign of the underlying data scheme for AdSense/AdWords. It will fail under its own weight and never be released to the public. AdSense publishers will continue to wonder why they only get 200 channels as 2008 approaches.
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