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Inflated Adsense pageviews.

Anyone else? What's the motive?

     
1:03 am on Feb 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have a website: www.example.com. ("www" is the preferred version, as declared in .htaccess as a redirect, the redirect works)

Somewhere along the line I declared both example.com and www.example.com as "owned" sites in my Adsense console.

On a few days over the last 2 weeks, I've had days where my reported Adsense pageviews were 2 to 4 times normal levels.

I've finally figured out that Adsense is reporting extra pageviews have come from example.com (the non-www form, which due to my .htaccess redirect, shouldn't ever be receiving any traffic at all).

Curiously enough, none of the errant non-www adsense pageviews ever generated any clicks. So it wasn't some type of click-bot thing.

Also adding to the puzzle, when I look at my server stats as reported by my hosting (Webalizer), none of the extra pageviews reported by Adsense show up there (and similarly hits, files, visits, sites, kbytes all look normal).

It's as if pageviews of my site are being shown, just on some days, massively so, but not by my server.

In fact, if it wasn't for my Adsense report, I'm not sure how I would have ever known any of this was going on.

Any ideas about where the cause of this issue lies and how to resolve it?

As far as my Adsense reporting goes, I've removed example.com (non-www) from my "owned" sites list, so I don't think I have any issues there. I'm more interested in what the motive here was, how it is done and how to stop it.
4:21 am on Feb 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Rather bizarrely, just noticed a similar thing on one of my websites today. Again visitors get redirected from non-www to www using htaccess. Yet adsense is reporting a three figure number of pageviews to non-www version. No clicks or income. In GSC I don't have a preferred domain set for either non-www nor www version.

According to adsense stats, the same thing happened on Feb 4th on the website, just didn't notice it at the time.
5:16 pm on Feb 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It seems I'm still struggling with this to some extent.
It dawned on me that all of my pages that serve Adsense also have GA tracking code on them.
In Analytics I've gone to: Audience>Technology>Network>Hostnames
There the non-www version of my site doesn't show up at all, just the www.
Hostnames identifies the sites on which your GA code has been served from, for example googleweblight.com shows up here.

So basically my Adsense code has detected massive amounts of pageviews served from from the non-www version of my domain (something that the non-to-www redirect in my .htaccess file should prevent).

Yet GA tracking code reports none of this activity. (Actually, when I look at one year's data, GA attributes a few "sessions" to the non-www hostname. Compared to all other traffic however this accounts for 0.0% of all sessions.)

I'd love to know what's going on here.
9:48 pm on Feb 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There was an error of some sort yesterday, my adsense dashboard is showing me a lot of impressions for the non-www version of my site but my .htaccess file prohibits that version from displaying and my server logs say all non-www hits were properly redirected 301 to their www version. Either adsense had issues or someone managed to trick adsense into thinking pageviews belonged to the non-www version of my domain... those pageviews were not served by my server.

Thankfully those pageviews also generated zero clicks or earnings.
10:49 pm on Feb 14, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Well, I've now had 4 days where my adsense stats show impressions on the non-www site despite the htaccess file.

I've posted on Google's adsense help forum with no response as of yet.

@Broadway, can you confirm that the non-www was excluded from your Owned list prior to the impressions against it?
@JS_Harris, welcome to the club! Similar question for you, which version(s) of the site do you have in your Owned list?

I have both, but I'm thinking about removing the non-www version.
12:59 pm on Feb 15, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have both versions in the owned list, and have for years. I don't think it matters because it won't change the (wrong) data Google is gathering.

I also have a pesky SEO1 site appearing in my reports, you'll recognize the domain I'm talking about if you have had it too, despite my having that domain blocked and not on my owned list.
9:26 pm on Feb 16, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yeah I have a similar problem in my stats for the Feb. 14th.
43k (fake?) pageviews on site that usually receives only 1500 pw.
Nothing unusual in analytics so I don't know what's going on.
6:44 pm on Feb 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Copying my post from the February Earnings thread:


Re plummeting RPM and high Pageview numbers - I've been going back and forth with my AdSense rep about this for a couple weeks now. I have vastly inflated pageviews on three sites, which of course make my RPM numbers look much worse than they are. And these inflated pageviews are NOT reflected in either Google Analytics or StatCounter. I had to once again go all netmeg on them and get an escalation to an AdSense engineer before I could get anyone to look at my various screenshots, charts and whatnot, and even with all that, the only thing they would tell me was "bots". Well I know that bot activity is way up; I still don't entirely understand why the bots are only inflating AdSense and not other javascript-based tracking programs, but the bottom line here is - if your AdSense pageviews don't line up with your Analytics or your StatCounter or your other tracking program by a wide margin, your inflated pageviews and displayed RPM are probably not real. Which means the reports are pretty much useless right now. (This is not the first time I've said this) Right now I'm just looking at the bottom line, which is earnings, and throwing all those other numbers out the window, because they don't mean anything.

The one engineer I was talking to did at one point say something to the effect that they were aware of the issue and working on it, but I'm not entirely sure which issue he was referring to.

I'll be glad when I start my trial subscription models up this spring. I'm tired of ads.


If you normally make $25 a week or more, start taking screenshots and reporting this stuff to support.
7:18 pm on Feb 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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>>@Broadway, can you confirm that the non-www was excluded from your Owned list prior to the impressions against it?<<
JBNZ - I'm not entirely sure what you mean here, but in the Adsense console both the non and www versions were declared as "owned" (both were separate entities, but the www was listed underneath the non-www version).

I dis-owned the non-www version (it is now in my "unclaimed" list). Doing so however did nothing to change the overall pageviews total reported on the Adsense home page.
---
Just today I've had this exact same problem crop up with a second domain on this account.
The www version is the correct one but pageviews are shown for the non-www form too (although it doesn't exist).
In the "owned" list, just one version of the domain was set up, the non-www version (evidently Adsense considers the www version a subset of the non-www form).
I tried to dis-own the non-www form and then add the www form but the Adsense console won't let me. It transforms the www.example.com form I entered to just example.com.
7:29 pm on Feb 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I also wanted to mention this:
Adsense reports over 250,000 "phantom" pageviews were served for the non-www form of my domain (which due to my .htaccess redirect doesn't really exist).
For those 250,000 pageviews, zero clicks were generated, which statistically is a very improbable event.
Also, those 250,000 pageviews generated zero income. But some Adsense ads are CPM (paid by impression). For my account as a whole Adsense serves 10% CPM ads. So how is it possible that 250,000 didn't happen to show even one?

I'd appreciate it if anyone else who has noticed this type of activity would report it to Adsense. I've been using the email support. I first reported this problem 2/1/16. I've heard back from a rep every few days who only says thanks for you patience, a technical specialist is still looking into it.
3:48 am on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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it's happening again today on just 1 website, 30k fake pageviews and 0 clicks, usually I receive only 1500 pw on that site
what's going on?
5:02 am on Feb 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Broadway, thanks for that I was trying to find out if 'dis-owning' the non-www version rectifies the issue. Apparently not.

@Netmeg, thanks for your reply, sounds like a growing/existing issue.

I have now reported the issue to Adsense Support and eagerly await a response :-)

Still no response on the Product Forum :-/
4:47 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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2 days in a row over 150k fake pageviews, this will not stop I think
7:32 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am also getting same Fake impression
10:27 am on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The one site I am having this issue with has the "Matched Content" approved.
5:39 pm on Feb 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My site doesn't have the "Matched Content" option
12:50 am on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Matched content: Not eligible
Yesterday that site celebrated 10th birthday.
And I'm receiving more and more fake pageviews, it will be a new record today :(
Maybe a birthday present from G?
12:56 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It's got to be some kind of glitch. I make extensive use of custom channels, so in fact a single ad unit might have three or four channels, but I'm not seeing the impressions on ALL the channels that are assigned to any given ad.
4:28 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My problem sites don't use matched content.

I've yet to receive an answer from Adsense. I do get an email every few days saying "technical specialists" are still working on figuring it out. Those emails come during the night for me (central time zone USA), so that layer of Adsense support (the top level, where the person really doesn't know anything, just directs your problems to others) must be located elsewhere in the world.

Netmeg, I noticed that you commented in another thread and said that Adsense told you that they attributed the inflated pageviews to "bots."

I'm waiting for that response. If that's what they say I'll tell them to go ahead and close the ticket but they aren't fooling anyone at my end.

I can see how a bot might not generate any clicks. But after 100,000's of phantom pageviews I find it statistically very improbable that not one CPM ad was ever shown (which would have generated income just by being called).

Also, these phantom pageviews are detected by Adsense but not Google Analytics, Medianet.com, AWstats, Webalizer.

So what, some bot calls for a page from a version of my domain that doesn't exist (the non-www form).
When my server serves this pretend page it somehow strips out all 3rd party tracking stuff with the single exception of Adsense.
And when that page calls to Adsense for an ad, Adsense knows to just send a CPC ad not a CPM one?
Yeah, that's plausible.
4:35 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I am getting about 20 to 25 times the normal page view reported on AdSense. When I go to Analytics it shows what I believe is the correct number. I would say that this has been happening for roughly a month. I cannot figure it out and I guess I never will from the sounds of it.
4:39 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Well first they blamed it on mismatched time zones, the fact that I have so many websites and was probably aggregating the data in my mind, and that my Analytics code was not placed in the right spot, and there were always differences between AdSense and Analytics. They couldn't have been more condescending if they'd said I couldn't do the math because I'm a girl. That was front end support, and I hit back with the differences were far more than three hours time difference in the middle of the night would account for, the inflated pageviews were only on ONE of my sites and of a magnitude of 1000 times the normal pageviews, and I was serving Analytics code via Google Tag Manager in the exact spot that GTM Docs said to serve it, and that if AdSense-Analytics integration wasn't compatible with their own product, GTM, they better make an announcement to that effect. At that point they kicked it upstairs and I got this back:

Perfect, thanks for the additional date. I was able to see that invalid traffic/pageviews to example.com spiked on 01/21/2016 and 01/26/2016. These spikes are causing the difference in your metrics because Analytics reporting factors out invalid traffic, but AdSense performance reports do not. As a long-standing publisher, I'm sure you understand the sensitive nature of information around invalid activity, however, I checked with our Traffic Quality team, and they indicated that this is normal fluctuation and that there isn't anything you could or should have done differently.


So good news, folks, it's just normal fluctuation. Nothing to see here, move along.

I will be so glad when I move along past ads. Fluc em.
4:48 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm curious about the potential this problem has to affect earnings.

From a stand point of just daily income, holidays (July 4th, Christmas, New Years) are the worst days of the year for me.
Annually, Feb into March are the best months for me.
Yet here this February, I've had two days so far whose earnings were on par with holiday traffic.
Once again, a statistically unlikely event.

It's been ages since Adsense Smart Pricing was implemented and I don't really remember much about it.
Would a substantial lowering of Adsense CTR for your site (due to an inflated number of no-click pageviews) have an affect on Smart Pricing, and thus the level at which you are paid?
4:54 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Actually, this issue is discussed here on WW:
[webmasterworld.com...]
5:42 pm on Feb 24, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Smart pricing is always (still) implemented. AFAIK it mostly has to do with traffic quality, and not CTR. If my Michigan-targeted website gets 70% traffic from overseas, I'm probably gonna be smart priced, because my overseas traffic is likely not the droid the advertisers are looking for.
12:38 pm on Mar 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have this problem as well, and its getting worse. Massive pageview counts 1000's of times higher than normal. Not on all days, but now on most. AwStats, website logs, and Google Analytics, Search Console(GWT) all show normal traffic.
Using Adsense "Default Report", "Filter", "Sites", "Select All" and then deselect my root domain (domain.com versus www.domain.com); with all that the stats revert to normal. So certainly the data is against the root domain, not my canonical domain (www.domain.com). I don't 301 redirect the root domain to the canonical domain, I've found link rel=canonical -> www.domain.com takes care of this well.
But as with everyone else there is no evidence this is hits on my server.
Someone has copied web pages, then probably using apache, to fake and serve the copied page(s) as if it were domain.com and then they are crawling it. It could be by killing many website's Adsense stats they effectively boost their own income?
Yesterday 3/1/2016 I just set:
"Adsense settings"
"Site Management"
"Only my owned sites are authorized ..."
BUT even for today 3/2/2016 PageView stats are massively excessive. I used to leave this setting off thinking I'll take clicks from cached pages, etc. but it hasn't corrected the problem yet.
What's up with Adsense?
12:45 pm on Mar 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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A suggestion for technicians to diagnose this problem might be to do a reverse DNS lookup on all ad impressions and verify the IP matches the domain. Of course webmasters have no control over this.
7:29 pm on Mar 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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My initial inquiry into this problem via Adsense email support is still only replied to in the form of "thanks for your continued patience" on this matter.
As of tomorrow it will be one month since Adsense first acknowledged receiving my support request (I had reported it earlier but it had been overlooked).
Some weeks ago when describing how absolutely nothing at my end confirms what they report, I specifically asked for the IP address that their ad requests associated with my troublesome non-www domains. I got no reply on that.
8:20 pm on Mar 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Also still getting these fake impressions being reported in Adsense - IMHO it is a relatively simple thing to create them - just copy the target site (remove all other tracking code and ads) - set up a non-www version on a server somewhere and use hosts file to set up the domain resolution to your target machine. (Though why this would not show CPM ads I don't know - though may be Google engineers have already got a way of identifying the traffic as invalid and thus CPM revenue is nullified for them.)

It would be interesting to know if these page views are being reported under URL channels or not (my URL channels are set up for www only)
10:59 pm on Mar 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Still ongoing for me. Basically, it's not my problem. The problem is intermittent, occurs on several different servers, across 10-16 websites that aren't changing much. It comes, it goes, who knows...Oh, and my earnings are down. sigh.
5:35 am on Mar 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I hate those fake impressions, just 1 non-www site is affected but it's receiving 10x more impressions than all my sites together, and this is ruining my stats, ctr is like 0.05% for the whole account.
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