Monday, April 13, 2009

How Google AdSense Detects Fraudulent Clicks?

Every webmaster devoted to Google AdSense moneymaking should be curious, how the program detects the fraudulent (invalid) clicks. While some of the detection ways seems obvious, other might be quite hidden from the public eyes. I have found on the web overview of the methods and resources Google applies during routine investigation. Please read and understand, not to look for the way to bypass these schemes and find new opportunities to cheat Google, but to prevent from accidental pattern generation that might cause your dismissal from Google AdSense for fraudulent activities.

What is an invalid Click?

Ever noticed the 0-cent-clicks on your Google AdSense statistics page? In most cases, the clicks related reimbursement is zeroed by the company, since the clicks are considered invalid.
There are several ways the fraudulent clicks might be generated on your account:
  1. When the pay per click provider Google Adsense says that someone that is not interested in making business from the advertisers link, click it to generate income for you.
  2. Also when publisher clicks their own adds (Adsense ads) to generate money for themselves, it’s a invalid click.
  3. It’s a invalid click also when publisher asks others to click on their ads (Adsense ads) just to raise their income.
  4. Invalid clicks also happen when some uses robots to click on their ads (Adsense ads) or automated software.

Google invalid clicks definition is as follows:
  • Manual clicks intended to increase publisher’s income.
  • Clicks by robots, automated tools.
  • Clicks generated by Third-party services.
How people try to cheat Google Adsense?

These are some basic techniques, people use to cheat Google AdSense. Among them:
  • Basic Clicker Cheat: Publisher clicks on his own Adsense ads every time he has a chance.
  • Proxy Clicker Cheat: Publisher thinks that if he/she uses anonymous proxy for browsing his/her own site and click ads, Google Adsense will not be able to trace that.
  • Multiple Computer Clicker Cheat: He or She knows Google Adsense will detect if clicks are from same IP, so he/she asks friends, family members, neighbors and relatives to click on the AdSense ads.
  • Software Clicker Cheat: Using automated software or robots to click on Adsense ads.
  • Paid Clicker Cheat: Publisher will pay some amount of money per month basis to professional AdSense clickers to browse publisher’s site and click on several ads.
  • Click-rings Cheat (clicks exchange): Group of people get together and share their site that published Adsense ads and ask click their ads while they click others ads who are in this groups. These guys will use Yahoo groups, forums and IM to form groups and communicate among members.
How Google Adsense detects click fraud?

To preserve the value of the advertising ROI (Return on Investments) for the program business partners, company is executing all the time improving strategy against the cheaters. Therefore, as you know, currently there are lots of Google Adsense publishers who were banned from Google Adsense program for click fraud. Some of them manage to get their account back, but others failed. Usually, if you are small-range personal site or blog owner, Google will refuse spending time on your activities investigation. So, most likely, you are out… forever… Since better be safe than sorry, be extra cautious and apply common sense principle that Google will not suffer loosing your site in the system, mostly you are…
Google never openly reveal how they trace invalid clicks, or any other information on the related technology behind it.
So how does Google detect these clicks and how would they know which clicks are invalid? Google AdSense team uses three powerful tools to detect invalid clicks:
  • Detection and Filtering Tool: Each click on an AdSense ad is monitored by Google system. Google will record the IP of each click, the time of the click, duplicate clicks and various click patterns. Google will use these factors and filter out potential invalid clicks.
  • Advanced Monitoring Tool: Google uses its proprietary software to monitor clicks fraud activity. They are constantly working to improve their technology.
  • The Google Team: In addition, Google has a team that uses specialized tools and techniques to examine individual case of clicks fraud. When Google system detects potentially invalid clicks, a member of this team will examines the affected account.
Despite the effort that Google put in to improve their clicks fraud detection technology, there are few innocent publishers whose AdSense account has been suspended or banned temporarily for different reasons. For example, a sudden spike in your AdSense earnings would probably raise the red flag in their system and cause your AdSense account to be suspended. If your AdSense account is suspended for invalid clicks which you did not commit, Google provides you a way to make your appeal.

Following are some supposed technological ways Google Adsense may use to detect invalid clicks:
  • IP Address: It is the easiest and must be recognized by everyone. If those clicks on your ads are originated from the same IP Address as the one used for accessing your AdSense account, your account is flagged.
  • Click Through Rate (CTR): Normally, Click thru Rate should not excess 10%. Otherwise, Google will flag your account. For your information, normal CTR should ranges from 0.5% - 10%.
  • Physical Location: Google has good tracing software and technology. They can trace traffic origin down to the small town. So, using different computers with different IP address does not secure the fraud cover up. So, don’t try to click your ads in various Internet cafes. That will not make you a millionaire anyway.
  • Cookies: Most home users do not use static IP Address for Internet connection. In most cases just disconnect and reconnect will give you a new IP Address. But don’t forget, Google has set cookies on your computer. They can trace these cookies and see whether they originate from the same computer.
  • Click Pattern 1: It is also suspicious when people click on their clicks and then run away immediately (hit-and-run). But normally, people will surf for a while inside your pages and then click on the ads they want.
  • Click Pattern 2: Why this computer / IP address / person is so trigger-click-happy on this particular website but never click on the ads on other sites?
  • Click Pattern 3: And why is it that people accessing these sites direct (type-in URL or from bookmark) tend to be very active ad-clickers compared with those referred from search engine or other sites?
  • Other Google Services: Apart from Google Adsense, Google also provide a series of services to us. Don’t just think that it is safe if you do not log in your AdSense account and click on your ads. What other Google services do they provide to us? Here are some: Gmail (most people are using it), Google Earth, Google Calendar, Google Search, Google Toolbar, Google Talk, Google Sitemap, Google Desktop, Blogger, or even Youtube.
  • Search Engine Ranking: Your website is not indexed on any search engine, not linked by any prominent website, but get consistently high traffic? How come people can access your website and click your ads? That will make Google to smell a rat.
  • Webpage Design: How about the "Please click a link below" or "donate us by clicking the ads"? These kinds of encouragement are not in line with Google’s TOS. Google can use their winning search engine, or even human eyes to check your sites from time to time.
  • Advertisers’ conversion rate: Ad click is one thing. But does it bring value to the advertisers? If none of the clicks on your site translate to conversion to the advertiser, you are in trouble. First the Smart-Pricing hits, then your AdSense account disabled.
  • Hardware address: MAC address of the LAN card, modem, and router works almost like a fingerprint. There were several suggestions on the web, that Google can track MAC addresses. I am personally not sure if they are going this way, or not, but I have no doubt that they have all technical abilities for pursuing this way.
  • Combo: Each of these detection methods by itself might seem rather weak. But combine them together, and not many click-frauds will be able to pass through these filters. Even the smartest clickbots will have a hard time.
It’s better to read the Google Adsense Program Policies before you start with AdSense and be careful to not to make any click frauds.


Neha said...

The blog entry above is very interesting. They have very well elaborated the items. I really love the above blog entry.

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Thanks for feedback! I am glad you find the post useful.

chanakya's said...

Hi Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher),

Thanks for the details which you have posted. Actually my adsense account got deactivated by coming through your site i got a comlete idea of how the google detect click fraud. thanks for your valuable information.

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Hi Chanakya,
I am glad your account has been reactivated. I know it is not easy to achieve.
Happy Moneymaking!!!

Anonymous said...

hello..tnx for article. It forced me to ask such a thing :))

Well, that ring cheat - if they are clicking on each others adds then sooner or later it will appears that IPs etc are the same on same ads, adsense accounts, no matter if there are 1K or 100K people in such gropu?

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Technically, I do not think that is easy to detect this type of fraud. Especially for good networks, when new people are added on a daily basis. I big choice of online offerings show that that is difficult to enforce. But Google has a big group of developers working on enhancing the "police" functions, and we never know when the new algorithms are activated.

Anonymous said...

TNX for answer.

And about that nobody from them is ever buying something? You think it is not easy detect, as well?

Such a questions only because there were times I thought google is everywhere and can do anything :)) Well - you say it is not so?

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Linking buyers behavior to the fraudulent clicks detection is very complicated. I do not think, it can be used other than for statistical purposes. Google is not "everywhere", but they are efficient and proactive, so nobody knows, where they are tomorrow. I have no internal information on the algorithms. My son worked for Google Maps, but even insider information flow was very limited.

Again, I would not underestimate the Google detection abilities. This is the best in US company in terms of the new graduate perception, so they can choose the very best to build their teams.

darksoul said...

thank for your i more understand how get money by google adsense

payso said...

this is a very nice page

Michael Pekker (AKA Nesher) said...

Hi Payso,
Thanks for visiting and commenting! It is nice to see you coming on this blog! See you at Flixya, my friend!

martha said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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