Yesterday, Andy Beal posted a detailed story on Google and click fraud, in which I was quoted as saying that Google’s click fraud rate is less than 2%. Did I really say that? Not quite….Specifically, I never said that our click fraud rate is less than 2%
But more interesting is a comment the same Google employee made on that page (bold emphasis added):
Geoffrey you’re right, I did not provide a specific click fraud rate. We don’t have such a metric to disclose, because there’s no exact way to determine “intent” and we certainly do cast the net wide in terms of throwing out many clicks which we know have nothing to do with fraud. The total percentage of all of those clicks that we don’t charge advertisers for in this fashion is in the single digits.
“Casting a wide net” and “throwing out many clicks which we know have nothing to do with fraud” is troublesome. The click fraud engineer is concerned with advertisers, so he is throwing out clicks that he knows have “nothing to do with clickfraud”. But what about publishers? If those are valid clicks, and lead to valid sales, are the publishers who sent that quality traffic through Google’s system (which resulted in sales, and profits) getting paid for those clicks? I understand from Shuman Ghosemajumder’s comment that they are not, because the advertiser is not paying for them (they were “thrown out”).
What remains unclear is whether or not Google is still paying the AdSense publisher for those clicks. If not, it seems that there is no upper limit to how wide that net might be at any given time. By casting aside clicks Google loses nothing except potential profits, which in a risk analysis were not deemed profitable. But these would be hard losses for the AdSense publishers, because there are direct costs associated with those clicks on the publisher side.