AdWords: How Fictitious Clicks Occur

I've just read a very interesting post on AdWords Blog which will be useful for both bloggers and other AdWords publishers: Troubling Findings on How Some Third Parties Detect Click Fraud.

Most useful information can  be found not in the post itself, but in the detailed analysis document posted by the Click Quality Team of Google: Report on Third Party Click Fraud Auditing (PDF).

These are the two key findings explained:

  • Fictitious ad clicks because of mischaracterizing events. This finding may be the most significant flaw responsible for exaggerated click fraud claims. The problem lies in the fact that many click fraud consultants don’t count actual ad clicks. Rather, to determine the number of ad clicks, they use a number of other signals, including counting visits to a particular webpage. As a result, the consultants count page reloads and subsequent visits on an advertiser’s site as multiple clicks on the advertiser’s Google ad. This generates fictitious ad clicks in the consultant’s reports. For example, if a user browses deeper into an advertiser’s site, then hits the back button, this causes a potential reload of the original landing page, which a consultant would record as an additional ad click – even though no Google ad click actually occurred.

  • Fictitious ad clicks due to conflation across advertisers and ad networks. Some consultants “cookie” users and track their activity across their network of client advertisers. One often-used consultant implements the cookie in such a way that clicks on Yahoo ads can be counted as clicks on Google ads, and vice versa.

Click fraud had been an increasing concern for many AdWords publishers lately, and I think it's very important to read such reports to understand that some click fraud audits are not accurate. There is clearly a problem with fraudulent clicks, but it's definitely not as big as some companies claim. 


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