Click Fraud poses one of the greatest threats to the future of Google, a company whose 2011 unaudited accounts show advertising generating over 96% of their total revenue.
If Click Fraud were to spiral out of control, and advertisers were to realise that a significant percentage of their ad spend was fraudulent, it wouldn’t take long for a significant number of advertisers to either dramatically scale back or even close their accounts.
This poses a very real and credible threat to the future of Google.
Google have far more to lose from Click Fraud than their advertisers, and are therefore constantly devoting significant resources to hold it at bay.
When it comes to communicating this to their advertisers, Google have to be extremely careful.
As the recent self-perpetuating petrol/fuel crisis in the UK demonstrates, telling people not to panic has the complete opposite effect.
Google therefore have to tread a fine line between showing their advertisers that they’re aware and responding to the threat, without generating fear in the process.
Their techniques for doing so are questionable.
For instance you may have noticed entries labelled service adjustment or click quality adjustment in your billing:
Google are vague as to what this might be, and it’s impossible to say how much of this may be down to fraud.
And at the campaign level you can now add the column Invalid Clicks, suggesting that Google believe invalid to be more palatable than fraudulent:
The problem? It’s impossible to do anything remotely useful with this information.
The number of invalid clicks is only provided at the campaign level, so there’s no way of determining where they came from – no way of tracing this back to the keyword, placement or even geographic location.
If, for example, you were able to identify that the majority of invalid clicks came from a small number of countries, you could consider excluding them.
But as it stands, Google are providing you with useless information that is impossible to act on.
Google’s help on the matter – What can I do to help monitor or prevent invalid clicks? – includes the following advice:
“Your first line of defense against invalid activity is to optimize your account so that your ads receive only the most targeted clicks and impressions.“
Good advice, if it wasn’t for the minor point that there is no way of doing so.