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June 1, 2006

More Fuel to the Click Fraud Fire

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You can add another name to the growing list of companies making noise regarding their Google click fraud troubles. The company is Radiator.com and the man speaking out is John Thys.

You may have even heard of Thys and his company before. Radiator.com was featured in a Google case study that focused on small-to-medium sized companies finding success in Google AdWords. Radiator.com started out spending $1,000 a month on PPC ads, but quickly increased that number to a hefty $20,000 when the ads appeared to be working.

It wasn’t until Thys conducted a review to evaluate the company’s marketing efforts that something seemed amiss. He brought in an outside contractor to analyze the data, who then received an offer from San Francisco-based company Click Tracks to look over the results further. They did and came back with some alarming results.

In one month, 35 percent of the company’s Google clicks and 17 percent of their Yahoo! clicks were labeled fraudulent. Thys immediately emailed Google (they have not yet contacted Yahoo!), the engine his company had been on such good terms with before, and explained the situation. Thys says he received an email back that said something to the effect of: “thanks for the data, and by the way, our algorithms are smarter than you…”

Nice. Worse yet, the email was signed “Ray”. No last name. No phone number. No email address. No way to get back in contact. Just Ray.

A few rounds of email tag later, Google admitted seven instances of click fraud, but said Thys was only charged for five. According to Google, the other instances that Thys found fell “within the parameters of normal click behavior”. Even the four clicks that came from the same address in two minutes.

Thys is angry, but not angry enough to file a suit against Google. He doesn’t want to involved lawyers, especially since he feels Google is ‘the only game in town’, but feels Google’s entire system is built on “maxing out advertisers’ ROI”.

“Their whole flag is, ‘We are the smartest computer engineers in the world, and we know things before you do.’ But they’re not open; we simply have to abide by what they tell us are ‘normal’ patterns. It’s their rules, and we’re all playing by them."

Are we all playing by Google’s rules? Are we blindly agreeing and complying with Google’s demand because we feel when it comes to search and online advertising they are the only game in town?

If we are, then maybe we should stop. Thys is just one of many advertisers to call Google’s $90 million settlement a joke. He has opted out, refusing to accept a settlement that he finds insulting. If you agree, we would ask you to do the same.

We like Google. We like their search. We like that they take care of their employees and give them free meals. We like the toys we get that are labeled tools. But if you, as their customer, are not happy with their performance or with the way you are treated, it is your obligation to step up and demand better.

And beyond that, Google needs to protect itself. By allowing click fraud to continue to penetrate its AdWords network the community, (and user’s faith in it) is being weakened. That idea that in one month’s time 35 percent of their AdWords clicks are fraudulent is dangerous. Google needs to get a better handle on this problem before the network is further comprised. If not for the sake of their users, for their own protection.

When news about Thys’ situation first broke, he was inundated with emails from other small and medium-sized companies with similar stories. They had all submitted data to Google that pointed to possible click fraud and Google had failed to give them any sort of satisfactory answer.

We’re not in the habit of encouraging litigation, but maybe John Thys should file a suit against Google. Maybe the more voices shouting the same cry will be loud enough to make Google take notice. Maybe settling click fraud lawsuits will become tiring. Especially when advertisers refuse to accept paltry settlements like the one in Arkansas.

Then again maybe it won’t. Maybe we do need Google more than Larry and Sergey need us. But idly sitting by accepting bogus settlements and ‘abiding’ by the Google way of life won’t help either. Like I said, we like Google. We just want to make sure we keep liking them.

(via SEW)

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One response to “More Fuel to the Click Fraud Fire”

  1. Macalua.com writes:

    Anti-Testimonial

    One can appreciate the truel scale of clickfraud when one of the people testifying to its success earlier does a 180 and cries clickfraud after a thorough investigation of its PPC operation.
    You may have even heard of Thys and his company before. Ra…



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