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Suspicious Clicks from Microsoft's HQ

Received a large number of clicks from Microsoft's internal servers.

2:40 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I've noticed a relatively large number of clicks on my PPC keywords from Microsoft's Internal servers this past Sunday (9/9/2007) with no referring domain. Is it just a coincidence that Microsoft just launched an update to their UI this past Friday?

Anyone else notice similar results?

I will be sending the data to MSN for questioning and will post an update once I receive a response.

5:10 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I analyzed this a bit further and actually found out that this goes back to at least 8/1/07. At first it looked like a spider but my internal reporting clearly shows specific PPC (organic results ruled out) keywords that were actually clicked on.

Here are the IP addresses that I've been getting hit with:

5:51 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I can confirm that as well. Is it possible:

1. AdCenter Reps get % of what their customers spend on PPC campaigns and... they are just tempted in one way or another to simulated clicks on those accounts?
2. MS server security is compromised and a third party is using them (or their IPs) as proxies to generate artificial traffic on certain keywords?
3. Some strange combination between 1 and 2?

6:19 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I can almost guarantee that the MSN reps (or any search engine for that matter) get paid by spend. Even with that in mind, it's just really hard for me to believe that the reps would simulate such behavior and do it so carelessly.

I am leaning more towards these clicks being from spiders run by MSN automatically to ensure link validity. Google deals with such clicks with an immediate refund that is actually detailed in their reporting.

My main goal with bringing this up with my MSN reps is for them to provide me with proof that these clicks were not charged.

7:42 pm on Sep 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

My main goal with bringing this up with my MSN reps is for them to provide me with proof that these clicks were not charged.

Analyzing server log files and AdCenter reports, I'm 100% confident we were charged for some of those clicks.
12:21 am on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If you don't mind, can you share how you came to that conclusion?
I would like to pinpoint the problem as well and amass any data I can to prove that MSN is charging me for those clicks. Over time, it would be a pretty substantial credit.

PM me if you want...


1:12 pm on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Just got in, so haven't looked at this, but is it connected to this thread [webmasterworld.com]?
1:23 pm on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Sadly, no. I believe that this issue is entirely different. I've tracked the behavior back to at least the first of last month.
Also, my internal reporting does not return the actual referring domain - only the ip (which resolves to Redmond).

Again, it's probably just a spider checking validity but I just need to make sure that we're not being charged for those clicks.

5:33 pm on Sep 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If you don't mind, can you share how you came to that conclusion?

There are no special tools or methods I've used. Just studied our raw server logs and compared data there with AdCenter reports.

1. Make sure the time on your server logs is synchronized to AdCenter report.
2. Run AdCenter report that is detailed as much as possible concerning timing and keyword clicks. Say, run report "keyword performance"/report view by hour/date range yesterday. Run this report every day for a week and compare to your server logs.
3. To make my life easier I've setup a combination of my budget and keywords I've targeted, to produce about 80-100 clicks daily. This makes 4-5 clicks per hour I can easily identify if they exist on my server logs at all.
4. Check out every IP address to identify their IP location and blacklist status. This is the way I've discovered that clicks originating from IP locations that belong to MS are actually billable and we are charged for!

This is time consuming job and I've maintained detailed checks only for a week but that gave me the proportions.

Actually, on average:
- 25% of the clicks reported on AdCenter are missing on our server logs.
- 30% of clicks reported on our server logs are coming from blacklisted IP locations (spammers, bad bots, hacked servers used for proxies, etc.)
- 5% of clicks are from MS IP locations.

To sum up, about 50% of clicks reported on AdCenter are of a very low quality (or plain artificial). Last time I had dispute with AdCenter support about traffic quality it took me 3 months to be resolved. So, I'd avoid this exercise again. If conversion drops below certain limit I would just pause all my campaigns and would activate them after 2-3 weeks. That is what I do now. The lower is conversion rate the bigger is period before campaigns are reactivated. Don't waste your time with MS support folks.

1:44 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks so much for your analysis.
See, my problem is that the MS IP clicks make up more than 50% of daily clicks from the MSN PPC channel (we split our data up by originating source by picking up tags in incoming urls).

Speaking of the devil, my ppc click volume shot up by about 40% yesterday. All I did to affect traffic was to actually LOWER bids.

Something really fishy is going on. Unless I'm just paranoid.

5:22 pm on Sep 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Can you bring any light to this issue?

Would be much appreciated...


2:27 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Just as a clarification:

Microsoft is "clicking" its way through to my site through the use of keywords I am bidding on in AdCenter.

This is an entirely different case than the previous "spamming" that we saw from MS earlier.

This traffic looks to be originating entirely from PPC.

5:05 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for this feedback. We appreciate it and take it very seriously. Over the past few days we looked into some of these IPs and have not been able to identify a recurring issue without more information about your accounts. The first thing we need you to do in order to fully investigate the issues you are experiencing, is to call our support team for investigation.

However, I do want you to know that that there ARE some clicks coming from adCenter that we donít bill for, such as clicks on ads that originate from our editorial verification system. The editorial verification system routinely checks ads for page relevance and the validity of links and landing pages for ads submitted to the system.

In addition, you can see how we analyze the clicks that come through the system for click quality. Because all clicks might not carry the same value for advertisers, adCenter categorizes the clicks as either standard-quality clicks or low-quality clicks.

-- Low quality clicks are clicks which adCenter classifies as non-billable. Low quality clicks originate from a variety of sources including: clicks suggesting low commercial intent, clicks that have been identified as likely coming from automated bots, or clicks showing unusual and suspicious patterns of behavior.

-- Standard quality clicks on the other hand are of value to advertisers and are the clicks advertisers are billed for.

You can add low-quality clicks to your reports through the adCenter reporting tab in the user interface.

Again, thanks for raising this issue and please contact our support team (links are below) so we can begin to conduct an investigation.

Thank you!

U.S.: [support.adcenter.msn.com ]
U.K.: [support.adcenter.msn.com ]
Canada (English): [support.adcenter.msn.com ]
Canada (French): [support.adcenter.msn.com ]
France: [support.adcenter.msn.com ]
Singapore: [support.adcenter.msn.com ]

5:41 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


Thanks for your response, much appreciated!

I guess my question is this:
I knew that these clicks are almost definitely the act of a spider checking for relevancy. What I really wonder is what proof do I have that I'm not actually being billed for these clicks?

I understand that this is something I should go to my account reps about (I sent them an email on Monday) but any more insight that you can provide will be extremely helpful.


4:44 pm on Sep 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

Jolly good show Adcenter411 :)