Google: Click Fraud Estimates ‘Invalid’

NEW YORK A Google report on click-auditing firms claims that even leading auditors suffer from basic engineering flaws and bad methodology that significantly increase their estimates of click fraud.

According to the report, click-auditing systems often record “fictitious clicks” due to page refreshes and sometimes count clicks to other search engines. Due to such “basic engineering and accounting issues,” Google said published estimates of click fraud by these firms are “invalid” due to “faulty data.”

The report focuses on three firms: ClickFacts, Click Forensics and AdWatcher. Click Forensics and ClickFacts have estimated fraud rates at 15 and 35 percent, respectively.

“We do believe there is a place for third-party click-auditing firms in the industry’s value chain, but only for those who can deliver real value to all stakeholders,” the Google report sates. “In fact, we would value having true vulnerabilities in our invalid click-detection systems pointed out to us. However, to date, we have not yet discovered a single legitimate vulnerability as a result of a third-party click fraud auditing report.”

A representative at ClickFacts acknowledged the company did have a problem with counting “fictitious clicks” in February, which it has since remedied. “We’ve been working to filter this issue out,” he said.

Tom Cuthbert, CEO at Click Forensics, said the firm is confident of its methodology, noting Google apparently analyzed data from just one of its 2,000 customers. “We think the right approach in the online space is there’s a process where findings can be submitted to search provider,” he said. “As it is today, they’re the final arbiter of what clicks are paid or not.”

As click fraud continues to emerge as a high-profile issue, Google has recently moved to quell concerns. Last month, it began providing reports to advertisers of the number of invalid clicks it filters from their bills.

While Google executives claim the problem is not pervasive and nearly entirely caught by its filters, the company this year paid $90 million to settled a class-action lawsuit arising from alleged click fraud.