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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Worth a Look: Google Uses Massive Amounts of Data to Combat Fraud

In case any of the naysayers are still listening, here's the scoop on how Google looks for patterns so it can do the best job of proactively filtering fraudulent clicks.

No, Google's post does not give away all the methods, of course, but if you engage him in conversation, you'll find that Googlers like Shuman Ghosemajumder are willing to go into a little more depth. For example, fraudsters know that clicking on a certain ad will create anomalies in the data that will trigger further investigation of their IP addresses, methods, or the targeting of a particular advertiser's ads. So they try to "even out" the anomalies by creating more impressions to balance out the clicks, and other attempts to make the fraud seem more "real." But all this does is dig them in deeper, creating other anomalies.

To sum up: we don't see much click fraud these days with our clients' accounts, due to meticulous campaign organization, careful attention to geotargeting, filtering methods on our campaigns, and a variety of other cautious settings, to say nothing of Google's proactive filtering.

To verify that an account is running without major fraud problems, I find a fourth-party audit service such as PPC Assurance helpful, as stated here before.

If you say that in a conference session on click fraud, the anomalously high number of bearishly inclined attendees who are anomalously more likely to fill out the comment form at the end, are unlikely to give the above analysis a high rating. They're unlikely to give Shuman a 5 out of 5 and say that his talk "kicked ass." It doesn't change the facts, though.

And that ties into a future post about the quality of speakers at conferences, and the weakness of evaluation stats. Highly polarizing speakers can be near the top of the list in terms of the quality of the information they provide, but the combination of 1's and 5's they receive can actually make them look "bland" at a 3.3 rating. Talk to you about this next week.

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