Google combats click fraud crooks

Google Inc. hopes to help make click fraud more transparent with a new feature that offers advertisers reports of invalid clicks, the search giant said on Tuesday.

Advertisers that use the Google AdWords system can now run campaign and account performance reports that include data about invalid clicks. They can choose to see the number of invalid clicks as well as the percentage of invalid clicks out of total hits that occurred during a given time frame. The numbers show malicious activity that Google has caught and removed from the advertisers’ accounts.

Advertisers can run the feature in yearly, quarterly, weekly and daily reports. The data is only available from January 1, 2006 through to the present and is not available in hourly reports.

Click fraud happens when machines or people click on advertisements with the intent of driving up costs for the advertiser. Companies pay for their online advertisements based on how many times Internet users click them.

The feature will help address a nagging issue with click fraud, according to Google. “One of the controversial issues related to the topic of click fraud has been estimating how big the problem is,” Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for trust and safety at Google, wrote in a blog at: “This new tool will make estimating invalid click activity much easier.”

The tool could also help Google cut back on click fraud investigations. Sometimes, Google investigates reports filed by advertisers into invalid clicks only to show the advertiser that Google has already caught the clicks and removed them from the advertiser’s account, Ghosemajumder wrote in a separate blog posting. With the new reporting feature, advertisers will be able to see how many invalid clicks Google has caught and already removed from their accounts.

Google, Yahoo Inc. and AOL LLC have all been sued by advertisers that claim they’ve been charged for invalid clicks.

Recently, a judge preliminarily approved a settlement between Google and a company that says it has been wrongly charged for invalid clicks, but the agreement is being disputed by advertisers that say the settlement isn’t enough.

As part of that suit, Google commissioned an independent report, executed by a professor from New York University, into its fraud fighting efforts. The professor found that Google is making a reasonable effort to fight click fraud.

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