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Adwords Click Fraud Unacceptable




9:16 am on Jun 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I advertise for not necessarily a very competitive keyword, but the few competitors there are bid quite high because the return is equally high.

There is one main competitor who has, from the start, been a dirty sort of guy that really tries to use black hat and has independently been found to click on competitors ads religiously.

Anyways, so I ran my campaign as a test a few weeks ago because I had them disabled. In about ten days I had spent approximately $500. By the end of the week, it looked like this competitor had seen my ads and immediately copied my exact ad text and then suddenly my daily cost went from something like 30-40 dollars a day to over one hundred.

So I disable my ads and contact Google.

A week later they send me an email explaining how they found some "invalid clicks" that were not caught and credited me like $35.

Okay, so I'm rejuvinated and also think that maybe they've tweaked their invalid click thing for my account, since they have that sprayed all over their site (constantly tweaking, etc).

So I turn it on yesterday - $50. Not bad. No conversions, but not bad.

Today - between the hours of 3 AM and 4 AM my cost jumps up over $20. So I go in and look.

Someone clicked on my $4/click ads 6 times in the span of ten minutes, and Adwords charged me for every one of them. The IPs changed minorly with each one and all were suspect (static.reverse.softlayer.com, host.degaa.net, host2.degaa.net, reverse.ezzi.net etc).

Now, I'm aware that it's possible Google will subtract some of them as invalid clicks, but when we're talking about a 100% increase in ad costs because their system is so badly flawed that competitors can have a field day with your campaigns, it's time to move on.

There are a few reasons I am posting this, none of which have anything to do with hoping Google does anything about it:

1) To me, this is an extension of the beginning of the end for Google, as what they offer simply does not out-pace the BH competitors, and WH webmasters are the only ones that lose (for invalid clicks, the competitor gains and even Adwords gets paid).

2) I encourage Adwords advertisers to be aware that no matter how much Google tries to spin that their click fraud technology is good, my impression is it catches maybe, maybe 25% of the invalid clicks. If you still remain profitable, great. Pray you don't get a nasty competitor(s).

3) To illustrate that realistically, a white hat website that follows all the rules cannot truly succeed with Google in certain situations. Your quality score is affected by your normal status in the search engine, which directly affects your cost. That means you will always pay more per click than an established competitor, and if they choose to bleed you every time you try to compete, Google will not be able to protect you.

I think I had a really wrong impression of Adwords - they spin so much press about their click fraud technology that I really believed it was only a minor problem, but if your competitor can double your ad cost, it is a major problem.

I think since this is Google's main source of revenue, they are silently hiding the fact that this is a major problem, and hoping that advertisers at large do not catch wind of it, and spinning press to minimize the effect of reports such as this one.

Needless to say, I am completely disabling my Adwords ads as the stress of worrying about $150 ad days due to missclicks would surely drive a person mad, especially when they know exactly who is getting away with it.


9:40 am on Jun 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member piatkow is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Considering how often I see people come to my site using a search engine with the same arguement several times in as many minutes I would not dismiss all multiple ad clicks as fraud. However G should be able to compensate for dumb visitor behaviour and not charge you for it.

I am not currently running Adwords but when I did I would see the occasional refund come through.


9:50 am on Jun 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think you missed the IP bit, as well as the time bit. I did not mention, but assumed you would assume, that I know how many clicks I usually get between the hours of 3 am and 4 am. Needless to say, there is a 99% probability that these were not legitimate clicks and I was still charged. Please read entire post before commenting.


1:12 pm on Jun 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Here's an idea to test:

If you know where this person is physically located, try using geotargeting to exclude his area from seeing your ads.

That might tell you something useful.


2:12 pm on Jun 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

If you know where this person is physically located, try using geotargeting to exclude his area from seeing your ads.

Does G in that case allow one to block proxy forwarding ? ..if not? ..won't make any difference..if it is a competitor clicking the OP's ads.


2:36 pm on Jun 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I have been told tales of systematic AdWords and AdSense fraud that would make your hair curl. Whole intercontinental networks being set up for that specific purpose. (And no, I don't have specifics and I can't say one way or the other how much is true - but I suspect much of it is, because it's alarmingly easy - and lucrative - to do)

The thing is, the other networks have just as much - if not more - of the same things going on. AdWords really isn't any worse, say, than Yahoo was or Microsoft is.

Until someone figures out how to really put a dent in click fraud, it's gonna be a cost of doing business. I just assume some of my clicks are fraudulent, and as long as the bottom line makes sense, I stick with PPC. In areas where it doesn't, I pull out. That's why I pulled all my clients out of Yahoo about two years before they turned into Binghoo.

Yea, something needs to be done, but it's a real tough nut to crack - like, drug cartel type tough - and I don't think it's gonna happen soon.

(There are a number of wrong statements and misunderstanding in the OP, but I don't have time at the moment to go through and refute them)


5:11 am on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Got a response from Google yesterday.

This was in response to me sending them a report of 10 clicks made in the span of 10 minutes from 3AM to 4AM, all 2 minutes apart, from webhost IPs (softlayer etc).

They said they weren't fraudulent.

I am absolutely convinced now that Google Adwords is basically a losing battle whereby it just cannot last. In every industry there is all you have to do is have one bad apple clicking the competitors, which probably already does happen, and people are paying through the nose.

The ONLY party that benefits, overall, is Google.

I hope advertisers catch on. This is clear proof that Google Adwords is a total sham. Again, read the descriptor above - 10 clicks, 2 minutes apart, in a time slot where I get maybe one click every 3 days, from DATACENTER IPs, and Google took 3 days to investigate and determined they were legitimate.

Already know the competitor's IP, banned it, does not matter. Such methods are easy to circumvent. It's not our job to do this anyways. We're paying through the nose for clicks, Google is selling them. It's their job to protect their product.

Nuff said. Assume as a Google Adwords advertiser you are paying at least a 30% premium, maybe more, maybe less, for every single click that converts, and that premium is silently lining Google's pockets at your and the customer's expense.

I mean, really, how easy is it to run through a competitor's bank if all you have to do is run proxies through new IPs, clear your cache and cookies, and go in and click over and over. This method of circumventing tracking has been around forever, and Google still wants to make money off it.

As far as I am concerned, this isolated incident which has been thoroughly investigated by Google Adwords is absolute proof that their system is completely broken, and they spin press in the opposite direction precisely for this reason.


9:30 am on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Adwords click fraud detection has always been pretty terrible. They try to obfuscate it, but ultimately it's just not that good - it's overly-reliant on dumb algorithms and disinterested manual review, and they don't give enough control to the advertiser. I'd still rank it above Yahoo and Bing, but it's a fundamental risk you run when you bid on extremely competitive keywords.

Have you considered fighting fire with fire?


9:43 am on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

i dont think you can 100% say those clicks were fraudulent based on what you're saying about the IPs. IPs change all the time, even for the same user. AOL was famous for switching IPs after every page request. I'm sure there are loads of other IP providers who do the same.

and those host names that you mentioned -- like host.degaa.net -- if you look up degaa on the web they offer website data and tracking stats. i dont know exactly how it works obviously, but if a wesbite is showing your ad and someone clicks on it, i would imagine that the user gets fed through degaa first, so they can log the outbound click. so if one user clicked your ad a few times on that site, its not impossible for him to have 4 slightly different IPs and appear to come from different versions of degaa.net

and ezzi.net, another one that you mentioned, is a webhost. so maybe this degaa user is hosted with them? that would probably explain why the same user can comes through both degaa and ezzi whilst actually coming from a single site.


12:30 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Eschatonic: That's sort of a battle I don't really want to get into, nor do I see a viable solution.

londrum: Read the data more carefully.


12:41 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

you say these are suspect -- static.reverse.softlayer.com, host.degaa.net, host2.degaa.net, reverse.ezzi.net

but what's suspect about them? as far as i can tell they are just webhosts and data tracking services. i would imagine that its perfectly normal for a click to originate from any of them.

as for someone clicking an ad 6 times in 10 minutes, sure, its weird, but its hardly out of the ordinary. all it means is that someone has clicked your ad and then backtracked to the original site a few times. there could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for that.

eg. if your landing page is selling "red widgets" and your advert appeared on a site that gives info about all the different kinds of widgets, then the user may simply be browsing for info... they read some info on the site, then click your ad. your landing page doesnt have the info they need so they return to the old site to get more info, then click your ad again...

or, even more likely... maybe your ad appeared at the top of the serps. the user is window shopping so he clicks your ad, then goes back to the serps and visits a site further down the serps. he wants to compare that widget's details to the ones on your site, so he clicks your ad again, then he goes back to the next site down the SERPS, and repeats what he did before.
that would seem like a perfectly normal bit of user behaviour.


2:16 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Read the data more carefully.


2:38 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

i think that you have already made up your mind that they are suspect, and dont want to listen to anything else.

but i'll ask you one last thing: if you think that its impossible for normal users to be clicking from these webhost "data centers", as you put it, then how are your competitors doing it?

if you believe that your competitors are automating it somehow, then why have they just done 10 clicks? it doesnt make sense.


5:05 pm on Jun 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


You don't know how a proxy works? Do you know the difference between an ISP and a Data Center? I mean, if you don't know these things go research it a bit then come back.

And then...

Read the data more carefully.


11:00 am on Jun 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

**** [google.com...] **** | 23/Jun/11 4:37am
**** [google.com...] **** | host.degaa.net 23/Jun/11 4:04am
**** [google.com...] **** | 66-199-245-35.reverse.ezzi.net 23/Jun/11 3:57am
**** [google.com...] **** | 23/Jun/11 3:52am
**** [google.com...] **** | 216-169-108-193-cust-gw.reverse.ezzi.net 23/Jun/11 3:48am
**** [google.com...] **** | 66-199-245-34.reverse.ezzi.net 23/Jun/11 3:48am

5 of the above IPs found on open anonymous proxy lists. 1 of them listed as a spam IP.

0 Adwords visits from any of the aforementioned nameservers prior to jump in daily click cost.

After competitor copied ad text and costs doubled, aforementioned nameservers begin to appear.

0 visits from aforementioned nameservers on non-Adwords visits before, during, or after these periods.

Average number of visits per day in last 6 months between 3AM and 5 AM: 0.4

Total ~cost incurred on aforementioned clicks: $18

Total ~cost on that day from 12AM to 6AM: $24

Total ~cost on previous day from 12AM to 11:59PM: $50

Adwords automated invalid click rate: 20%

Average invalid click rate after manual investigations: 30%

Adwords actual invalid click rate including similar types of aforementioned clicks: 60%

Adwords response to report on the aforementioned clicks:

"Just heard back from our click specialists. They have conducted another investigation on the account and they have assured me that there was no invalid activity on the account."


If you look at the above information, and would yourself pay $3/click for those visits with the expectation that it may convert because they are legitimate visits, you need to re-examine your understanding of statistical probability.

Further, I have concluded one holistic understanding from this experience:

Google is very aware that there are many industries where the invalid click rate is much higher than others. This is what its methodology is -

1) Click fraud cannot be controlled, only marginally minimised (10-15%).
2) Tracking the source of the click fraud to a competitor is generally impossible (1-5%).
3) Even if this is done, and the competitor's adwords account is removed, it does not prevent the competitor from continuing the click fraud.

Since it is not a readily preventable problem:

4) We must minimise the awareness of both the fraudulent clickers and advertisers to the nature of our succeptibility to click fraud. We accomplish this by:

a) Overestimating the number of clicks we deem to be fraudulent. Therefore, include a small percentage of legitimate clicks (2-5%) as invalid clicks to both assert that we are catching click fraud to the advertiser, and also to offset some of the fraudulent clicks we do actually miss.

b) Provide credits to advertisers if they periodically request it with even mediocre proof. Such credits should not exceed 30% of the total number of clicks received regardless of the number of probable invalid clicks. Anything higher could threaten the viability of Adwords as a reliable advertising medium if publicized.

c) Maintain an invisible barrier between invalid clicks and valid ones by hiding specifics to prevent both advertisers and fraudulent clickers from determining the actual percentage of invalid or valid clicks.

d) Ensure that PR continuously presses the evolution of our click fraud catching technology.

By minimising the global awareness of Google Adwords succeptibility to click fraud, it encourages advertisers to advertise and discourages fraudulent clickers from clicking. Though the technology required to commit click fraud is evolving at a faster pace than our ability to catch it, by utilising the "gray area" methods above, we can maintain sufficient profitability and customer confidence until we find another source of income with which to buoy Google.

Since the click fraud industry will inevitably increase, our efforts are aimed at minimising its growth rather than catching it.


3:36 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

Decius, what would you do if you were google?
Would that mean you stop all PPC and do SEO instead?


3:48 pm on Jul 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Read the data more carefully.

You don't need to be a dick to people who are trying to help.

It could be coincidence, but yes, it's quite plausible that a competitor is attacking you. You can either continue to complain about it or take action. Either start blocking IP ranges to make it more difficult for them to click ads, or invest your advertising money elsewhere.

Complaining will get you nowhere though. As you should already know, Google's customer service is non-existent. Only when enough people abandon AdWords will Google take interest in their customers again, and only then.

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