cowboy me, 2.0: jose nazario beauty and the street


dumped by google adsense



google dumped me earlier today from their adsense program. the claim was click fraud.

a little back story. i've been running google adsense ads on my websites (infosec daily, and wormblog) for some time now. i figured i needed to pay for my hosting, so why not look at google adsense as a way of doing that. this was about 2 years ago.

up until a few months ago, i was making about $40 a month from google adsense. enough to pay for my six apart (wormblog) fees, and maybe enough to put towards my monkey account. this went on for about a year and a half. not great, but it's effort free money, or at least effort i'm already expending in website maintenance.

a couple of months ago i started getting some big checks from google, on the order of a hundred dollars a month. nice! the last check, for revenue for august, 2006, was for about $140 and came in the middle of september. great! clicks were way up, but page impressions weren't. and, google adsense's interface doesn't let you study what people are clicking on and where they're coming from. so, i had no way of understanding this increase in clicks.

with more money coming in, i started checking my adsense account a lot more frequently, often a few times a day. it would just go through the roof. since the first of october i had made nearly $150, and since my last payment (sept 1), over $300. great! wow! where is this coming from?

earlier this afternoon i got this message from google:
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2006 10:25:30 -0700
From: Google AdSense 
To: jose nazario ...
Subject: Google AdSense Account Disabled

Hello jose nazario,

It has come to our attention that invalid clicks and/or impressions have been generated on the Google ads on your site(s). We have therefore disabled your Google AdSense account. Please understand that this was a necessary step to protect the interest of the AdWords advertisers.

A publisher's site may not have invalid clicks or impressions on any ad(s), including but not limited to clicks and/or impressions generated by:

- a publisher on his own web pages - a publisher encouraging others to click on his ads - automated clicking programs or any other deceptive software - a publisher altering any portion of the ad code or changing the layout, behavior, targeting, or delivery of ads for any reason

These or any other such activities that violate Google AdSense Terms and Conditions and program polices may have led us to disable your account. The Terms and Conditions and program polices can be viewed at:

https://www.google.com/adsense/localized-terms?hl=en_US https://www.google.com/adsense/policies?hl=en_US

Publishers disabled for invalid click activity are not allowed further participation in AdSense and do not receive any further payment. The earnings on your account will be properly returned to the affected advertisers.

If you feel that this decision was made in error, and can maintain in good faith that the invalid activity was not due to the actions or negligence of you or those you are responsible for, such as employees and family members, you may appeal the closing of your account. To do so, please contact us only through this form:

http://www.google.com/support/adsense/bin/request.py?contact=invalid_clicks_ appeal&hl=en_US

If Google decides to evaluate your appeal, we will do our best to inform you quickly and will proceed with appropriate action as necessary. If we have reached a decision on your appeal, subsequent or duplicate appeals may not be considered.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team


wtf!? click fraud? me? you do realize i can't PAY for click fraud with the money i'm getting, right?

so, i file an appeal:

"Any relevant information that you believe would explain the invalid click activity we detected"

i have not participated in any activities to increase website traffic through spamming, link spamming, or anything similar. i have not participated in any schemes to for automated clicking, either on my own or through third parties. i do not click my own ad links (save for maybe a few times a year if the ad strikes my fancy).

i have no information that suggests that spammed URLs have increased traffic and/or clicks when i review my websites' logs. the sites in question receive thousands of visitors a week and have done so for some time (more than a year). all sites in operation have been up for more than two years, and have been running google adsense ads for almost two years (as i recall).

i have not altered the google adsense code placed on my website (which has been in place for some months).

in short, i have no evidence that any of the four violations google listed as possible reasons (self clicking, asking others to click, click bots, or altered ads) are occuring.

i have noticed an increase in the past few months of adsense revenue for my sites, and have not been able to understand where the increased clicks have come from. google adsense does not expose that information to me (which would be great to know, ie what topics my visitors are responding to).

i have recently made a series of high profile web posts that have gathered worldwide attention, and i have noticed increased website traffic due to those posts. i have seen a spike in traffic and requests (observable from google analytics and my own, local logs), but it does not go back far enough to explain the increased adsense activity. the click rates have grown faster than the traffic rates.

i have not engaged in link spamming or contracted others to do so, nor have i engaged in any automatic clicking tools. the revenue generated for my adsense account simply doesn't support paying for such activities, and i'm too busy with my job to link spam on my own.

i feel that this decision to terminate my adsense account has been made unfairly, or at the least i have not been made aware of anything that would suggest that any of the possible activities listed have been occuring. if any have occured, i have not participated in any of them.

i look forward to continuing this discussion and reactivating my google adsense account.

"Any data in your weblogs or reports that indicate suspicious IP addresses, referrers, or requests"

i have monitored my website logs for months to examine traffic and its sources. this is basic content optimization. i have not seen any unexplained sources of traffic, they are all organic, references made in news outlets (ie for wormblog), or search results. i have exmained all sources to determine how my sites are being represented, and all of them appear to be ligitimate (ie press or blog mentions).

in short, i have examined my logs and have no evidence of any suspicious sources.


a long shot. i think google's already made up their minds.

not surprisingly, they have.

Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2006 17:43:57 -0700
From: Google AdSense 
To: jose nazario
Subject: Re: [#78975219]

Hello,

Thank you for your efforts to clarify the issue.

After receiving your response, we re-reviewed your account data thoroughly. We have reconfirmed that invalid clicks were generated on the ads on your site in violation of our Terms and Conditions and program policies.

https://www.google.com/adsense/terms https://www.google.com/adsense/policies

We have these policies in place to help ensure the effectiveness of Google ads for our publishers as well as our advertisers. According to our policy on this matter, we are unable to reinstate you into the program.

Please bear in mind that subsequent or duplicate appeals may not be considered and you may not receive any further communication from us. We appreciate your understanding.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team


ok, so ... i say a few choice words for google at this point. in short, this seems arbitrary and wrong. i have no evidence that i'm doing anything wrong, they have no evidence i'm doing anything wrong, just ... increased clicks. great! show me the sources! i'll ban 'em myself!

whatever. i wont win, i think it's due to some poorly developed, aggressive, and false positive prone click fraud detection system. and you can't win against some guy on the phone to argue that case.

i would still love to see some proof of click fraud, but ... whatever.

alternatives to google adsense

internet-search-engines-faq.com has a great list of google adsense alternatives. i'm now enrolled in adbright for infosecdaily, and now i'm trying out for the yahoo ads beta (for wormblog).

in the meantime, we'll see how it goes.

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