Click Fraud. That’s why. Look what this kid wrote on Reddit in IAmA 17-year-old Internet marketer that makes $20,000 a month:
“…when I was 14. …I was introduced to PPC (pay-per-click), which is websites that basically pay you for clicking on advertisements and watching them for certain amount of time.”
His idea of what “PPC” is all about is the exact opposite of yours, the advertiser, right?
A click-fraud operation sets up a website with AdSense, and content that attracts your ads. Then they pay people to click on the ads. But they know that some of you are studying your server logs looking for just that sort of thing: a bunch of quick clicks from a shady looking site. So, like the kid says, the click-monkeys loiter on your site. They fill out your forms, sign up for your mailing list, download your software, install it, run it, etc.
Their job is to create a plausible-looking stream of traffic in your logs.
If I were this kid’s dad, I would take a very close look at what he is doing now. He might be too small for the FBI, but the FBI does indeed to prosecute click-fraud cases. Here’s an example from November 2011.
Spotting click-fraud sites is still possible though – even when they use well-trained click-monkeys. For example if a site with a poor Alexa rating sends you as much traffic as a quality site with a strong Alexa rating, it’s probably a click-fraud site.
I find sites like this all the time using “click-fraud finder” software of my own invention. And I block them from my AdWords campaigns.
Problem solved, right?
Every time I block a bogus site, another one pops up.
You see, these click-fraud gangs know that I will block their sites, so they have plenty of spares ready to go.
So, I don’t let them hurt me too much. I bid low in Google’s “display network”. I study new sites very quickly. I try to get a feel for whether or not they are operated by honest people. And I track my conversions diligently. If I make a sale after spending less than $20 advertising on a site, it’s probably legit, etc.
Maybe you’re thinking that you can just take traffic from name-brand sites? Not so fast. I have a couple of stories about that, but I don’t need to be sued by any big companies and their legal teams. Suffice it to say: trust no one. Every site is suspect until your conversion tracking proves otherwise.
A few months ago, Google said that they were tightening the requirements for new sites that wanted to run AdSense. From my perspective, it hasn’t made any difference. If you have evidence to the contrary, please post a comment.