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A cure for click fraud?

© February 2006 Anthony Lawrence

There was a discussion of a Google Adsense Terms of Service Violation at forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?t=58065&page=5 (link dead, sorry) Digital Point where someone said:

What is the purpose of putting in a "Please
support our advertisers" text? If it's to say go
to their site and buy their stuff, then that's
great but Google can't tell the difference
between that and "click on it and help us pay
the bills."

I think they could.

If they and the advertiser wanted to, they could cooperate on tracking clicks to goal pages and compute payments to Adsense (and eventually back to us) on the basis of true conversions our sites generated.

This would not be particularly hard to do, and both advertisers and honest site owners would probably like it. Advertisers would pay less for clickthroughs from sites with poor conversions (which Google could be looking at globally rather than specifically) and we honest sites would get better payouts for sending good traffic.

Click fraud is a problem that affects both advertisers (paying for bogus clicks) an honest ad providers (potential income is siphoned away from us by the crooks). Creating a reputation system based on conversions could help combat this.

So how would Google know about conversions? For a lot of advertisers, they already know. Google Analytics allows advertisers to specify goal pages and Adwords ads are automatically tied into those goals. The infrastructure for this idea is already in place.

Effectively, this would be a reputation system. Let's say an ad starts out on site X with a potential click value of 20 cents. If site X has a good reputation, the value stays at 20 cents, but if not, a participating advertiser might only pay 15 cents.

Not all advertisers would have to participate to make this useful. Of course the more that did, the easier it would be for Google to rate an ad publishing site as to the quality of its clickthroughs. Some advertisers don't have definite goals that can easily judge the value of a visit, but most do, so if a good percentage of those signed up on this idea, there would be more than enough useful data.

Because advertisers would ultimately pay less for less valuable sources, you might think they'd have an incentive to lie about their goals. As the reputation system would be global, a sleazy advertiser could piggy back on the honesty of other advertisers and get clicks from good sites while fibbing to Google about the value of the clicks to them. But that's not the point: it would be the globally calculated value that would determine what the advertiser pays. In other words, if people from this site are generally reaching advertisers goals, that's the value. If a specific advertiser isn't getting conversions, that doesn't matter: they would be paying based on the global reputation of the sending site.

I wouldn't fall off my chair if Google did something close to this sooner or later. It's technically not hard, especially with so many of us already running Google Analytics. Adwords is already tied into that, so with little effort Google could determine how good we are at sending valuable traffic.

Google: feel free to steal this idea.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> A cure for click fraud?


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Wed Nov 8 18:53:59 2006: 2593   TonyLawrence

While not quite what I suggested here, Google is doing something related: (link)

Sat Mar 31 16:38:31 2007: 2932   TonyLawrence

And now they are really getting closer:



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