If you’re using AdWords or AdSense you must have heard about an emerging practice in the underworld of computing called “click fraud”. But what exactly is click fraud and how is it accomplished? Well AdSense uses a payment mechanism that awards a certain amount of money to a publisher (someone who holds an AdSense banner on their page) every time a person clicks on the said banner. So click fraud is the attempt to have people clicking the ads just so that they can earn a greater income.
There are people setting up sites for the sole purpose of fraudulently generating revenue through Google’s AdSense program. These users achieve an incredible number of clicks through many methods, some complex and sophisticated and some rudimentary and simple. One of the most complex is through the use of so called “hitbots”. These are automated programs who emulate clicking the links in AdSense banners (there are some that actually click the banners as well). Google’s AdSense protection scheme is by no means perfect and nearly anyone can find the details of surmounting the protection mechanism, ironically just by doing a Google search.
Another method is to hire a lot of people in poorer countries to click the links on your site. So, they will sit in front of a computer each day and just click away to make you a lot of money. Because they come from very poor countries like India, they are willing to do the job for just $0.50 an hour. However, there is a problem with this method because once Google receives a large number of clicks from a single address, the address and the site that had the AdSense banner will be banned, and the illicit behavior might even get the fraudster sued. So, they use large number of proxy servers for the purpose of clicking in order to avoid being detected by Google. These are basically trojans, located on computers throughout the world (though mostly in the US). It is difficult to track these clicks because they will appear to originate from an actual computer so such scams are really hard to detect.
You will be wrong if you think that this only happens in isolated instances. There is a lot of illegal activity in this domain. In fact there’s so much that if search engine companies don’t increase their security with such programs as AdSense, such criminal behaviour could become more and be dangerous as well. Google has a very strict policy regarding click fraud, and it has sued those employing such techniques in the past. However, there are still a lot of things that can be improve to curb this problem.
It is estimated that more then 20% of the clicks that follow an AdSense link are just done in order to get money from the person paying for the ad. Some people believe the number of fraudulent clicks to be even twice as large. There are a great deal more schemes involving click fraud, such as groups of AdSense publishers clicking each other’s links (which is referred to as “clicking rings”, or spamming people so that they click such links.
Even though Google is still holding click fraud on a leash, this issue is certainly still raising concerns for the advertisers on AdWords, but despite this advertising with Google’s AdSense still remains more profitable for the advertiser, as opposed to traditional untargeted advertising schemes. Advertisers can always employ certain service to protect themselves from this. Many advertisers choose to avoid the content network all together for fear of click fraud.