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Nonsense with Google's AdSense? 85

Posted by Cliff
from the searching-for-similar-experiences dept.
OmnipotentEntity asks: "I usually come down hard on the side of Google, as I feel that they have a good philosophy and they follow it. However, a forum I regularly visit had a run in with the bad side of Google's AdSense program, and our AdSense account was terminated because of 'invalid click activity.' Some research by a fellow member of the boards turned up other people facing the same problems we ran into. These problems seem localized to sites hosted in Europe. I'm an American, so I have no clue about the European side of AdSense. Have any of our European webmasters ran into the same problems, or are these simply isolated incidents? Is anyone in America experiencing similar difficulties?"
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Nonsense with Google's AdSense?

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  • Sczecin, Poland - Not having these issues with adsense.
    • ...or "touch wood" for you Aussies out there...
    • America, Not so land of the free - My Google Adsense was shut down, cause someone found out a way to get your account suspended... I even have the news post I made about Google Adsense on my Network. They told me I had "mass clicking of ads" or some such.. But my account was suspended, by soon to be proven some 16 year old kid who read somewhere on the internet that you can suspend anyones google adsense account by clicking on an ad for at least 5 hours (Non-Stop Clicking). This person had no life.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The DigitalPoint forum [digitalpoint.com] has a lot of AdSense discussion. It's quite often you hear about people getting banned for "invalid clicks". Rarely (or never) do you hear of people getting back in, or, unfortunately, ever getting any good explanation for it.
    • by hords (619030) on Friday May 05, 2006 @02:16AM (#15268556)
      I know someone who put adsense on their site and then clicked hundreds of ads to "Find competing websites" so they could block them. They were terminated, but they pleaded their case and swore they wouldn't do it again. After about a month Google let them back in. I was surprised.
  • My site and.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HTL2001 (836298) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:06PM (#15267708)
    Well a site I ran to host a guild forum got it canceled just as I was reaching my first $100 and the same happened to the guy who writes this funny blog I read (just as he was reaching his first $100 as well): http://bannable-offenses.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] (post about it: http://bannable-offenses.blogspot.com/2006/04/seri ous-note.html [blogspot.com])
    • Re:My site and.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by bluephone (200451) <grey@nOsPAm.burntelectrons.org> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:56PM (#15267931) Homepage Journal
      Ditto on my blog [burntelectrons.org]. Exact same timing with money too. This is a rampant problem from what I can see. And trying ot get ANY information out of them is impossible. I can't even get telephone calls returned. They NEVER will tell you what invaolid clicks there were, when, etc. So basically, they get free space on yoru site, and get out of paying, and never have to prove why.
      • Re:My site and.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bogtha (906264) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:37PM (#15268100)

        They NEVER will tell you what invaolid clicks there were, when, etc. So basically, they get free space on yoru site, and get out of paying, and never have to prove why.

        They don't give you details on the invalid clicks because it would make things a lot easier for people to reverse engineer the process they use to detect them.

        You might have lost $100, but I think it's pretty clear that the amount of money Google could cheat people out of isn't anywhere near as high as the amount of money they stand to lose should Adsense's legitimacy be seriously questioned. Remember, advertising is one of Google's main cash cows. They need Adsense to survive. They don't need to scam a few people out of $100 here and there to survive.

        The real question is - how can Google preserve the secrecy of their invalid click determination while still not screwing over people who haven't done anything wrong? Or, alternatively, how can they get the job done without having to keep it a secret?

        I can't see any easy answers to those questions, which is why I'm hesitant to start accusing Google of screwing up. Do you have any ideas as to what Google can do in their situation?

        • Re:My site and.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bluephone (200451) <grey@nOsPAm.burntelectrons.org> on Friday May 05, 2006 @12:18AM (#15268258) Homepage Journal
          If they can detect "invalid clicks" then they can filter them just as well. There's no need to execute someone for jaywalking. There's nothing stopping them from warning people either, "hey, we see some unusual activity here, you should look into XYZ for solutions". None of that would risk their proprietary info. Hell, even just saying "We see a lot of clicks from these few IPs" isn't proprietary. that's just simple logging.

          My point is, there are less drastic ways of handling things than cutting us off at the knees with zero recourse. We don't even get paid for the VALID clicks we generated, and they got weeks or months of space on our site.

          On the gripping hand, we agreed to the TOS... That was our fault...
          • Re:My site and.... (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            If they can detect "invalid clicks" then they can filter them just as well.

            This makes sense if they can detect them with near 100% accuracy.

            There's nothing stopping them from warning people either, "hey, we see some unusual activity here, you should look into XYZ for solutions".

            This makes sense if they have a relatively decent accuracy and a somewhat high false positive rate.

            Judging from their behavior, I'd say that they have a very low accuracy in detecting these invalid clicks. And they probably have a h
          • On the other side of things, we stopped using AdSense because so many "hits" were from link farms. Google didn't care. They took our money just the same.
            We would get a bunch of traffic from obvious junk sites, rreport it, and get a chipper automated email from Google Marketing telling us how awesome AdSense is and how we should definitely use it. It was only pennies at a time, but even then it was money wasted.
            Clearly, they need to get on top of this issue somehow.
          • If they can detect "invalid clicks" then they can filter them just as well.

            That assumes they can be detected in real time. It's possible that Google detects them later in random spot audits of server logs or something.
        • I didn't care so much about the money, but the implication that I was cheating somehow. I am an honest person, and I was really offended that Google just cut me off and told me that I had invalid clicks and was therefore cut off forever.

          It really made me feel a lot less warm and fuzzy about Google. I'm even moving away from Gmail as a result. If they don't want my business, that's fine, but don't expect my support, either, after basically calling me a cheat and a liar with no grounds.

          Chris
        • They don't give you details on the invalid clicks because it would make things a lot easier for people to reverse engineer the process they use to detect them.

          I love that I have now seen someone on /. defend "security through obscurity" in order to defent Google.
    • There is a logical reason for this;

      Adsense checks your site when you signup for TOS abuse, so if you pass that you're allowed to display Adsense ads. When they're about to pay you your first cheque they check you again for TOS abuse (and I also suspect they check the quality of the traffic - they can do some measures on how many sales are related to your traffic with adwords for instance).

      A guild site to me, sounds like a bunch of kids urging eachother to click the ads from a internal forum / and or to "pay
      • Nothing changed from the time I put the ads in to when the time was coming, except some members left and new ones joined meaning the member bio section was changed (just info on char class/level) I never let the adbot read anything other than the public section of the forum because I knew it would be pretty easy to spoof user-agent for others to get access.
    • I ran Adsense on a small community site. Because of our location, we all subscribed to the same ISP. This ISP utilized a private address space and used a half-dozen or so proxy servers to connect people to the internets.

      It came as no real surprise when Google ditched my account. To them, they only saw 6 people visiting the site over and over.

      I'm willing to bet that most sites getting screwed out of money fall into a similar category.
  • by adnonsense (826530) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:07PM (#15267712) Homepage Journal

    I can't comment on the site in question, but in general AdSense and web forums are not always a good match. Forums often get a fairly small number of highly active viewers, which give rise to one of two phenomena: a) they don't click on the ads much (low clickthru rate), and when they do it sticks out statistically like a sore thumb, leading to possible (mis)interpretation regarding click fraud; or b) the more enthusiastic users take it upon themselves to click regularly on ads to support their forum, which will also raise a few red flags.

    Forums can sometimes do well with AdSense if they have a high ratio of "read only" users and take steps such as not showing ads to logged in users.

    • by omeg (907329)
      I'm a regular visitor of that site. There were never any Google Ads on the forums, they only showed up on the main page which is very frequently visited by non-contributing guests from all over the world that just come over for the downloads. There's actually a very small number of people visiting (let along actively contributing) to the forums.
  • Omnipotent? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's funny to see someone named OmnipotentEntity asking for help... ;)
    • It's funny to see someone named OmnipotentEntity asking for help... ;)
      from the respect-your-godlings dept.
      OmnipotentEntity asks: "How dare you doubt my power!?!?"
  • by BertieBaggio (944287) * <bob.manics@eu> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:08PM (#15267717) Homepage

    The better you are treated. Seems obvious, but there are a quite a few small publishers that don't make enough for Google to go to any trouble over. Fraudulent click activity? If the advertisers are getting angry, its easier just to say "We have banned the site in question." than to actually find and deal with the source of the problem. They need to be seen to strike a balance - and it's much easier to be harsh to someone that is only bringing your company $100 / week than someone who brings in $100k / week.

    A touch cynical? Perhaps, but consider that: they have recently made some Big Changes(TM) to they way they crawl (aka Big Daddy(TM)); they have admitted a storage problem; and their stock has slipped recently. What better message to send to publishers that "We are tough on fraudulent clicks" to restore confidence.

    I'm not bashing them. Seriously. Business is business. They run their advertising program, they determine the TOS and how they are applied. It's not like alternatives aren't avaliable (one recently launched at the Center of attention...). Anyway, it isn't all bad news. There is a publisher who netted over $1M from AdSense in three short months. Yes, you heard me, net. And this publisher isn't a corp, business or big team. Just one guy with a whole lotta pageviews. I bet he's treated very well by the folks at the 'plex...

    So while ther may indeed be a problem/conspiracy/whatever, do consider that 1) they may actually be engaging in click fraud (eg "drawing undue attention to advertisements") or 2) they may be more of a liability than they are worth.

    • Although I agree with your point - that Google would like to get rid of the small sites because the money they bring in is less than the trouble of having to deal with them - the problem is that if Google wanted to do this they should have put restrictions on joining.

      And if they want to get rid of the low traffic sites, then shouldn't they just tell people that's the reason, rather than implying click fraud?
      • They could just be blunt when booting the smallest publishers, but that would be bad PR; and completely flying in the face of "do no evil" (something Matt Cutts recently reaffirmed [mattcutts.com]).

        Saying "We cut small advertisers" = bad PR, "doing evil"

        Saying "We are tough on click fraud" = good PR (to advertisers, Wall St, et al); "Don't be evil"

        I should point out here that my point was interpretive, ie "Google is doing foo, hence you could say bar". The serious point is that under Google's TOS, clickfraud itself c

  • some hearsay... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Malor (3658) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @10:16PM (#15267754) Journal
    I saw some discussion about this over on Metafilter. One of the comments in this thread about Pinknews being dropped from AdSense [metafilter.com] says that it may be a side effect of Google's right hand not knowing what the left one is doing.

    The commenter mentioned that AdSense had been placing a lot of high-CPC ads on his site, and shortly thereafter, he was banned. He suspects that Google's marketing department decided to push some big-revenue ads out there, and then the Fraud department, running their usual heuristics, noted spikes in big-revenue clicks. So they disabled many perfectly legitimate webmasters for something that Google itself caused. You could argue that this is fraud on Google's part, since these webmasters are deprived of legitimately-earned revenue. Worse, since they're banned for life from the program, in many cases their small businesses will be destroyed. And there is no appeal and no recourse.

    In fact, there is absolutely no way to talk to Google about any of this, so problems like this only get worse. I suspect it may take lawsuits to get them to change their ways.

    Google's mantra needs to add: "Do as little accidental evil as possible, and fix it when we do." But I don't see that happening soon.
    • Google rocks, so its all good.

      Is anyone suprised that a company with no management hierarchy and a powerful peer-review based merit system (aka cliques) is acting in an arbritary manner? Or that a company with no discernable means to talk to a human being unless you are a VIP treats customers like shit?
    • Re:some hearsay... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by inkfox (580440)
      You could argue that this is fraud on Google's part, since these webmasters are deprived of legitimately-earned revenue. Worse, since they're banned for life from the program, in many cases their small businesses will be destroyed. And there is no appeal and no recourse.

      Relying on one other business for yours is bad business sense.

      • Relying on one other business for yours is bad business sense.

        Wal*Mart's suppliers would disagree with you.

        ~Rebecca
        • Actually, they probably would agree with the GP wholeheartedly. Walmart destroys its suppliers.
          • While that is a fair point from certain views, in this case speaking purely of "business sense" -- those destroyed companies are making more money than they ever were before, and thus are a complete success from that perspective.

            I will agree with you however, there are non-monetary costs involved which would make it not a good idea in general.

            ~Rebecca
            • Don't forget that they also have a nasty habit of carrying someone's product for a while, then coming up with their own "Sam's Choice" version of the product and putting it in a box that looks almost exactly like the one from the supplier. Usually right next to the original product. The supplier spends millions on advertising their product, then the consumer goes to walmart, finds the product, and sees a cheaper Wal-mart version sitting right next to it. I'm sure the suppliers love that.

              I'm not saying t

            • They're making more cashflow, but often are driven into unprofitability and bankruptcy by their relationship with Walmart.... stories of this abound. It's an abusive relationship, wherein Walmart dictates what price will be paid. Trying to meet the impossible new pricepoints each year, company after company self-destructs.

              It may be good for consumers (somewhat debatable, as quality is the first thing to go), and if you're the low-cost leader in your segment, it can be a good relationship.... Walmart pay
        • ... which still doesn't make them correct from a business standpoint. Excessive reliance on one client is risky. Wal-Mart's suppliers would be smart to seek other sources of revenue. Sites using Adsense would be smart to seek other sources of revenue.
    • I suspect it may take lawsuits to get them to change their ways.

      Why not? Google's makes billions of dollars a year, and apparently mistreats small businesses/individuals by taking away small amounts of money from them. It might only be $100 per person, but if they do it a million times a year, that's pretty strong incentive for a lawyer to launch a class action suit. All it takes is one person who's been so mistreated to contact a good (as in ability, not in moral compass) class action attorney and start th
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know of two different sites, both of which I'm good friends with the webmasters, who had their accounts recently disabled for "invalid click activity". One of my friends had a random 140 clicks one day, and they disabled his account a few days later. No, they didn't pay him the $180 that they owed, him; no, they didn't give him a better reason upon emailing them. His site (a u.s. site) was rather small, ~200 unique per day. The other site (a Canadian one), which has over 160,000 unique per day was als
    • want to get rid of all of the accounts that didn't have the mandatory address/tax information submissions

      Woah. Hey. I had all sorts of sympathy until I read this line. Right, so they didn't fill out all the account information to a company you expect to pay you money, and then complain when they can the account?

      • Well I don't know of those cases, but in the AdSense application of my site (the one mentioned in this Ask Slashdot topic) I had submitted all the relevant information to the best of my knowledge and understanding.
    • My AdSense account was cancelled with no explaination other than "invalid clicks". I tried and tried to get them to give me details, but the wouldn't. And, they would not reinstate the account either. This was my site (a US site) at www(dot)robotic(dot)com. I had earned $100-200 per month for each of several months before the cancelled the account. Lame... and disappointing as I was planning to use that money for orbiting brain lasers and beowulf clusters (see http://mirror1.spikedhumor.com/1209/SwitchLinux [spikedhumor.com]

  • ..my server's in the UK, so does that mean it's european? Or just where they send money to (Canada, in my case)?
    I don't make any significant amounts of money though, so I don't think there's much fraud that could occur ;-)
  • No review? (Score:1, Troll)

    by BrookHarty (9119)
    So, there are all these sites wanting to show ad's and google wont let them. WHERE is the alternatives? Come on, if google wont spent 10 minutes and at least email the website author with more details than "you fucked up, bye bye" Maybe its time to drop google.

    If google is this fucked up, why keep using it. Sounds like some other company needs to step in and fill the void. I'm rather tired of googles "fuck you" attitude towards webmasters in these slashdot posts.
  • gmail.com (Score:4, Funny)

    by RedACE7500 (904963) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @11:14PM (#15268006)
    A friend at work mistyped gmail.com as gamil.com [gamil.com] which is an actual site... with google ads... which suggest typing lessons.
  • I used to run adsense in a hobby site i run. One day after doing a code modification i was checking out the site. One of the ads appeared in adsense was very absurdly worded and caught my attention. I clicked on to check what it was. It was some place selling ebooks etc or sorts i dont remember now.

    After some time, i logged on to check the adsense account. A little later that day, voila - invalid click activity, account disabled ! No responses except a pre scripted stupid, flat-face, cold text.

    It seem
  • My account with Google Adsense was cancelled for this exact same reason. Oddly, it was cacelled the exact day after I earned my first $100, so I never recieved a check. Honestly, though, I wasn't too bent up over it. The site looks better without advertisements anyways.
  • There was a really good article in Wired, that I couldn't find by searching Wired but popped right up in google, called something like Click fraud could swallow the internet. [wired.com]

    It's an interesting article, but the main reason I bring it up is because sometimes, as they say in the article, competitors are actually the ones going to sites and committing click fraud just to get the site kicked off AdSense.
    • Shouldn't be that hard to set up something that produces a few "illegal" clicks if there is danger that the customer is about to earn real money (i.e. >$100). Alternatively, it shouldn't be that hard to redefine the term "illegal click" to match your site or reinterpret clicks to be seen as "illegal" ("oh, someone clicked" --> illegal) if the offense is never verifiable. Either option sounds like shady business.
  • I live in Germany, my server is in Germany and my site is German aswell. Running AdSense since Dec '04, no problems so far. I even accidentially clicked on my own ads, I sent them [Google] an E-Mail, stating the time and site where I clicked them, and they just reverted the money I got from that click (and strongly advised me to never do this again ;) ). That's it. It's still running.
  • Some friends and I run a small but popular community portal for a specific model of vehicle. We host mailing lists, archives that go back to the late 90's, FAQ's, galleries, forums, etc. Lots of model specific info. The site has always been funded by paypal donations; typically by the same 50 or so members who donate $5-200 each once a year. We got tired of begging our users and the fact that out of several thousand, only the same 50 ever donate; and signed up with AdSense. One of our lesser intelligen
    • Quote:

      One of our lesser intelligent users setup a click script thinking he was going to do us a favor (unbeknownst to us). Within a couple of hours, Google cancelled our AdSense account. We tried to appeal to them but there are no humans available to speak to. So we gave up and tried to pursue other online advertisers and lo-behold, discovered that no one would speak to us because we were apparently on some sort of blacklist hosted by Google.

      Combinded with the other comments so far, here is what we can

      • That's great in the ideal universe in which you clearly live. In the reality in which the rest of us live, it is a stupid situation. I can very easily find all the sites that use Google AdSense and run click-scripts against them thus, in the perfect universe, eventually putting google out of business...

        That seems hardly a sustainable 'business plan' from Google's perspective.

      • your case was indeed one of deliberate fraud and Google was smart enough to figure it out. In this sense, Google is acting responsibly.

        I don't think so. The poster you responded to didn't do anything fraudulent. He/she ran ads on a site. Someone tried to cheat. Where in the terms of service does it say "I will install mind control rays in my users' heads to keep them from doing that"? It's not there because it's impossible. The most Google can do and yet be fair is to just not pay the site for the script-ge
  • They are there to exploit their monopolistic position. When I signed up, I could advertise ad $0.05 per click; their claim is that the price depends on the ad quality and on clickthrough rate, meaning that if your ad contains the keywords you selected, then it should cost less. Then, they claim that a higher click-through reduces the cost.

    I could not once change the cost per click by targeting ads to keywords. What's worse, after people started clicking on my ads, costs increased, in one instance from 0.05
  • We had some ads running on www.mvgc.net [mvgc.net] (still do now, under a different account) and as soon as our account got over $50 they closed it for fradulent clicks. I appealed to no effect. I have no idea how they detect what's fradulent and what's not, but clearly my explanation that we often had 15-20 members on a LAN with NAT IPs meant nothing to them.

    This time we've instructed ALL members not to click on Google Ads on our site, ever, no matter if they were interested in the link or not.

    They never paid us f

  • by Zorix (968629)
    I have had the same problem as well. Some random person hit my site up with 40 clicks after I got a few links from other sites. My account was terminated a few days later. Google gives the opportunity to appeal, but I chose not to do so. This also means that if someone were to have something against a site that runs AdSense, they could effectively shut down the source of income by mass clicking over a day or two. I was considering running a story about this on a few sites, but in the end Google can do
  • Another point is that if you refer someone to Google Adsense, you get $100 when that person's account reaches $100, so clearly there are collusion possibilities: I could get my friends to sign up and we could click on each other's ads.

    So I would expect Google to check more carefully just before the first $100, when you're about to cost them money.

    Having said that, I expect before long there will be moves to legislate the internet ad industry, and that advertisers and Web publishers will oppose this.

    It takes
  • Well this is all I have to say about the matter, I am close to getting the first 100 bucks from my sites http://arcadejunkie.com/ [arcadejunkie.com] http://snappyjack.com/ [snappyjack.com] http://u1i.com/ [u1i.com] http://infoxsports.com/ [infoxsports.com] http://goodworm.com/ [goodworm.com] and you know, I dont think they will screw me, but if they do, I already signed up with yahoo ads... From the money point of view, it does not make sense for google to do that, but big companies have done worst and more stupid things in the past so we will see...

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