A List Blogger Openly Recommends Click Fraud...Who's Hat is Black?

Oct 25th

To be honest, I normally think rather highly of Mitch Ratcliffe, but this anti blogspot spam comment is off the mark:

The solution to the problem it to click gratuitously and never make purchases on the links at blogspot sites and to keep doing so to drive down conversion rates. This likely will be interpreted as click fraud by the system and, if it isn't, the advertisers are going to be so angry about the costs of these clicks that turn into nothing that they'll drop the program or exclude BlogSpot from their placements.

What is the best that would come out of that? Spam blogs would quickly and easily be built elsewhere and bloggers would screw themselves out of any blogspot earnings?

Mitch continues in his comments

The problem is Google is too smart to listen to ordinary people about Page Rank, so we have to create a front where the message is clear and painful to the source of the revenue. If every blogger who gets a spam trackback or posting clicked 10 ads on those blogs for each incident for two weeks, we'd break AdSense in a way that couldn't be addressed by futzing with the PR algorithm, so Google would actually have to pay attention to us.

Bloggers are well known for openly abusing the PageRank algorithm, so that suggestion in and of itself is nothing but humorous.

The problem isn't PageRank (as most of the garbage sites rank better in Yahoo! & MSN). The problem is the strength of Google's ad network and complete lack of enforcement of legitimate publishing quality standards. This is about my 30th post on the topic and the A listers still haven't figured out the real issue.

While people are bitching about the lack of AdSense site quality Google is making it openly clear that they are willing to accept just about any site in the AdSense network (accepting one page sites and delivering ads for as low as 25 cent CPM).

Can you believe bloggers are openly suggesting click fraud? Who will be the first blogger to recommend automated click bots?

Published: October 25, 2005

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Comments

October 25, 2005 - 2:16am

That disgusts me. I can't believe that would be a viable option in any true marketers plan. As you mention, it would cut bloggers earnings as well. Is that worth making a point to Google?

This recent outbreak of splogs will be taken care of just like most other attempts to defile search listings.

I know it stinks but it will get better. I guess some people just need a reason to release some pressure. ;)

Best,
Vernon

October 25, 2005 - 3:10am

Aaron,

Click fraud is not what I am suggesting and it's wrong to say that's my idea. I am suggesting breaking the system, a form of protest. Fraud would be clicking to generate benefits for oneself. Clicking to demonstrate the wasteful abuse of comment and trackback functionality is sending a message to a company that isn't listening to the problem.

You'll have to excuse me, but I think you're attempting to protect the goose laying a golden egg for some folks, but crapping prolifically over the whole blogosphere. This is information pollution and the mechanism that produces it is Google's AdSense and the Page Rank system that is used to improve referrals to a site.

So, sorry to disgust the fine folks out there, but I'm tired of getting hundreds of junk comments and trackbacks a day. If making a harsh suggestion gets people talking, then I'll take the heat.

Mitch

An Online Marke...
October 25, 2005 - 3:33am

Mitch
I'm sorry to tell you but the only thing that would accomplish would be putting some more money into the hands of those who would abuse the AdSense system at the cost of the advertisers who pay to advertise on it.

As an online marketing manager in the financial services industry, I've seen first hand the impact of click fraud. My company has a million plus spend with Google/Overture(now Yahoo) and have attempted to work with their teams for years to locate and detect click fraud. Its a constant issue that we face since we advertise on many high value keywords. We have seen and reported cases where a site will have 10-20 times the amount of clicks that came to Google for a focused financial term. We go to the page and load it up and its obvious that it is a page engineered for that keyword and not delivering real people. And we see it on the backend - none of those clicks ever converts to a customer. When you work with thousands of customers everyday, you get a good idea of what the rate should be for targeted keywords. And when not a single click converts, it tells you something.

While your intent is good, what would happen is that companies like the one I work at would have to go through the process of catching the extra clicks, compile it together, report it to our Google/Yahoo reps, attempt to get a credit, and all in all waste time and money which would better be spent helping our customers. The biggest hassle of my job has been dealing with occasional barrage's of junk traffic that I have to fight to get back the money we wasted whenever an ad network decides to slip in some crappy partners. So please, protest to google, but don't do it in clicks because you would just be adding to my daily workload and I'd like to be able to go home somedays when it still light outside :)

thanks
-an online marketing manager

October 25, 2005 - 3:46am

Aaron-

All of this is easily defeated with googles cpm targeting. My adsense has skyrocketed in the last 6 months because advertisers have chosen to target my domain specifically. Quality sites are being rewarded.

October 25, 2005 - 4:06am

>Click fraud is not what I am suggesting and it's wrong to say that's my idea. I am suggesting breaking the system, a form of protest. Fraud would be clicking to generate benefits for oneself.

Why protest if it does not benefit you? I mean where is the desire to protest and break the system if you don't benefit from it?

Click fraud can have a variety of purposes

  • click on your own ads or friends ads to earn money
  • clicking on a competitors content site to get them removed from the ad program
  • clicking on a competitors ads to deplete their ad budget
  • clicking on competitors ads to eat up their time
  • clicking on ads to undermine the perception of quality of the network to force it to change...this can even be done by some people who perhaps would love to short Google stock or a competing engine that does not like AdSense sites stuffing their network full of spam

>All of this is easily defeated with googles cpm targeting.

Are you saying that you don't have friends pulling down 6 or 7 figures with autogenerated AdSense sites? I think I do :)

The CPM may give a better benefit for some quality sites, but it still does not remove the incentive from making the automated sites.

Sploginator
October 25, 2005 - 4:42am

People should stop whining about Adsense site quality. Quality is subjective. Plus, when someone lands on one of these "low quality" sites, they're usually doing so from a targeted search. Low conversion can be due to a number of things: Adwords ad quality, sales page conversion rate, poor navigation, no sales follow-up, etc. From what I've seen, very few people know how to convert a sale on the web. And Adsense quality is just a scapegoat.

October 25, 2005 - 6:50am

Mitch, I notice you have Adsense on your site. So you are going to send a bunch of clicks to Adwords advertisers which will probably all be discounted anyways because they come from the same IP address (especially if these advertisers are running click fraud software.) Then you are going to log-in to your own Adsense account with that same IP address? Do you think that sends off any red flags?

October 25, 2005 - 2:48pm

The problem is NOT created by AdSense - if AdSense stops being a source of profit there will be (and there already are) alternatives for it. The problem is created by search engines who make it easier to produce automated bulk spam rather than maintain clean white hat sites

October 25, 2005 - 9:46pm

The post title "A List Blogger Openly Recommends Click Fraud. Who's Hat is Black?" implies that click fraud is in the realm of black hat SEO.

Click fraud is most certainly not part of Black Hat SEO as I define it. Black hat SEO is about gaming search engine algorithms and driving traffic – not larceny. Moreover, none of the search engine spammers that I know even hint towards engaging in that practice.

I’m sure Aaron knows quite a few self-professed SEO Black Hats, and I would be surprised if he has heard even whispers of click fraud being their modus operandi.

That’s not to say that no one engages in click fraud. But in my opinion, click fraud is performed by the same type of people who engage in identity theft, credit card processing schemes, and fishing scams – rather than by SEO Black Hats / Search Engine Spammers.

October 25, 2005 - 10:15pm

I had to smile at this because earlier in the day as I was looking at a page on one of my sites about AdSense spam sites an ad for SEOBook appeared in the AdSense box at the top of the page.

I've been reporting AdSense spam sites often of late. I'm annoyed to find them pointing to my sites when I'm checking my backlinks.

I've run across one breathtakingly huge network that has targeted all sorts of unlikely keywords. Each page is a graphic and AdSense. And a hundred links of inivisible text.

I'm waiting to see if any of them are removed from the AdSense program.

October 26, 2005 - 6:29am

Couple of things:

Irish, I don't think Google's going to shut down because of a protest. I think they are going to pay attention and fix the problem. Hell, they roll out so many features a week these days that they don't have any time for serving the community that populates their index. They need a good swift kick in the shins.

Andrew, I am not worried about red flags at Google, because if they shut me down: a.) it isn't costing me anything, and b.) it will be an excellent opportunity to mock the company for attacking its critics. There's an old saying about what someone can do if they can't take a joke, after all.

Aaron, even if I have friends pulling down a lot of cash with auto-generated sites, I do not have friends who run splogs. If we don't make some noise about this and create significant discussion about what constitutes legitimate contributions to the information economy, we're surrendering our role in defining the Net.

October 26, 2005 - 7:34pm

>The post title "A List Blogger Openly Recommends Click Fraud. Who's Hat is Black?" implies that click fraud is in the realm of black hat SEO.

it was intended to state that I think click fraud is far worse than aggressive search engine marketing campaigns.

>They need a good swift kick in the shins.

I totally agree, I just think there might be better ways to do it than clicking.

I don't think most AdWords advertisers track the content network well enough to see the false clicks from junk blogs, so the net effect would be that most quality publishing sites would probably get hurt a bit by budget depleting clicks.

>And Adsense quality is just a scapegoat.

Good post from a business / conversion perspective, but I think the people that are bitching about rubbish AdSense sites (well at least some of them) are concerned about the usefulness of the web more than the profitability of the business models.

October 26, 2005 - 7:37pm

also, for those who think Google can't afford to police their partner network, look at their stock price & note that they have enough resources to bug old publishers trying to get them to rejoin the network, as noted here: www.jensense.com/archives/2005/10/adsense_asking.html

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