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Google Click Fraud Warning from Harvard Prof

How search partner & spyware rings are taking advertiser $

12:20 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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An analogy on Ben Edelman's site:

Let's say a restaurant decides [it] wants someone to hand out fliers ... so they offer this guy $0.10 a flier to print some and distribute them.

The guy they hire just stands at the front door and hand the fliers to anyone already walking through the door.

Restaurant pays lots of money and gains zero customers.

Guy handing out the fliers tells the owner how many fliers were printed and compares that to how many people bring the fliers into his restaurant.

The owner thinks the fliers are very successful and now offers $0.20 for each one.

It's easy to see how the restaurant owner could be tricked. Such scams are especially easy in online advertising -- where distance, undisclosed partnerships, and general opacity make it far harder for advertisers to figure out where and how Google and its partners present advertisers' offers.

1:23 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Nice catch!

i'm seeing these guys in my logs.

1:58 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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i'm seeing these guys in my logs.

Are you referring to domains from Ben's redirect list?

On the topic:

Google certainly should have a team that goes after those "other" networks. Actually I can't say they already don;t have it, but people keep seeing various problems and therefore that makes me think Google should be more rigorous when about partners, being that search or content.

Long ago I disabled search partners in some of my campaigns when I discovered what was all that went under that attribute.

In some other campaigns, I check the conversion from time to time, and as long as I don't lose, I let it go.
I believe that irregularities that affect conversion on partners' side are greatly affected by the industry.
For example, if you're in software industry, especially security like anti virus, good luck with any kind of partners.

Content is even worse.

This is again a call for better transparency that we've been putting into places like this forum since long ago.

More transparency about search partners - show it like you show for content.

Even more transparency on the content side. I found domains that show no content, and yet they were able to squeeze over 10K from me in just one month.
I asked for investigation and the response was that all was OK. My comment about how I could not see any of the pages that were referred by Google's placement reports (I would get 404 for each) was commented back on by something like "many sites are running dynamic pages that change URLs over the time".
Total BS that made me kill that campaign by tremendously reducing my activity and going from 1-2K/day to $200/day with much better conversion.
Plus I'm very reluctant to go back and turn everything on (with big losers being excluded), and I say that it's Google's fault that I'm not confident enough.

3:28 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I love Ben's analogy! I'd like to widen it a tad.

The restaurant also makes a deal with a city tours company, they'll pay a % for everyone brought by the restaurant to grub. The bus pulls up and customers walking in are handed a flyer (by the sneaky flyer guy). The restaurant does NOT attribute those eaters with flyers to the tour bus company. Bean counters at both the tour bus company and the restaurant calculate the tour bus deal is a bad one, and they part ways. As the restaurant tries new things over and over, sneaky guy grows wealthy.

Attribution pollution, convolution.

5:34 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This extends beyond Google by the way. I'm seeing referrals from these domains (the ones listed in the blog post) on both Yahoo and Google. So far nothing from Bing. I think this speaks to how open these "search networks" have become. Quality doesn't seem to matter anymore, and the search network is really open to anyone.

2 things need to happen:

1) Google needs to allow us to block specific domains on the search network

2) Google/Yahoo needs to specifically ban these types of "networks" from their network. The publisher on the Google/Yahoo/MSN network should be the end publisher, not some middleman that farms AdWords links out other spam sites. There is no legitimate reason for this type of activity.