Have you heard about Adsense “click fraud”? It’s one of the latest Internet scams. Click fraud has been in the news a lot lately, and with good reason. Click fraud accounts for 10-20% of all clicks on Internet ads such as Adsense, and by some estimate click fraud accounts for as much as 80% of all clicks on ads for certain words associated with certain businesses or ads.
Here’s how it works:
You know those ubiquitous (and they’re everywhere!) “Ads by Google” which you see on what seems like a vast majority of the websites out there today? (Indeed, even here on the Net Patrol!) Once reserved for personal sites, blogs, newsletter sites, etc., Google AdSense ads are now like Chickenman – they’re everywhere! They’re everywhere! Even on the most mainstream and staid of sites.
Here’s how they work: advertisers participate in the other half of the system – Google Adwords. Put very simply, advertisers pay to have their ads show up on approriate sites, or with the results of an appropriate search – they show up as the Adsense ads – “Ads by Google”. The owners of the sites displaying the AdSense ads get paid a small token amount for each ad clicked by a visitor. The advertiser featured in the clicked-on ad pays some amount above the small token amount, and Google keeps the difference.
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It’s been a very successful system.
But here’s where the scam comes in.
Unscrupulous business-owners will click on the ads of their competitors. This has two immediate and nasty effects. First, of course, the competitor has to pay for each of those clicks. More – in fact perhaps even worse – because AdWords advertisers set a limit as to how much they are willing to spend each day, and once they hit the limit their ads stop being displayed, the click fraud has the effect of bumping the scammed competitor up to their daily limit, causing their ads to stop being displayed for the rest of the day.
Other forms of click fraud feature the owners of sites which display AdSense clicking on the ads to generate the per click income, or people clicking on the ads on their friend’s sites to “help” their friends along.
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In fact, it’s such a problem that a few months ago Google sued Texas outfit Auction Experts International for their part in a click fraud scam.
So, the lessons are that if you are a Google AdWords advertiser, keep a close eye on your visitors and clicks. And if you are a Google AdSense displayer, tempting though it may be, don’t click on your own or your friend’s links.
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