Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (19)
Google has banned “Choice of Games” from Google AdSense, which means that, for now, we can no longer display Google advertisements on our website.
There’s a lot to say here, so I’m going to publish a series of blog posts on the topic. In this first blog post, I’ll explain what Google did. In the second blog post, I’ll give our best guess as to why Google banned us. In the third post, I’ll discuss my personal opinion of what happened, and in the fourth blog post, I’ll talk about what it means for the future of Choice of Games and our business.
Google pays us when people click on ads on our website; typically anywhere from $0.05 to $0.25 on every click. As you can imagine, this provides an opportunity for nefarious people who want to get money from the advertisers that buy Google ads: we could just click on the ads on our own website and get the money for free. This is called “click fraud,” and Google bans website owners who do this or who hire outside services to do this.
It’s surprisingly easy for Google to automatically detect click fraud. How many times have you ever clicked on an ad in the last year? In your entire life? Most people click on ads less than once a year; many people click much less frequently than that. So if Google detects a user clicking on even one ad a month on the same website, that user is already ten times more likely to be committing click fraud than an ordinary user. It’s a little more complicated than that because some people legitimately click on more ads than other people, but with large amounts of data, it’s still pretty easy.
What Google can’t do is tell the difference between malicious click fraud and “supportive clicks.” Supportive clicks come from users like you, people who like our website and click on our advertisements a few times just out of the kindness of your own heart. From Google’s perspective, supportive clicks are no better than click fraud. A site with many supportive users forces Google to pay money without providing the advertiser any benefit.
Therefore, Google’s policy is to aggressively monitor for possible click fraud and to ban account holders who may have invalid AdSense activity.
No one at Choice of Games has ever committed click fraud. Google’s terms of service explicitly forbid inciting users to click on ads; we have never done so. But a lot of people really love our little website, so it wouldn’t be surprising if we had a few “helpful” users who thought they’d help us out by clicking on ads on our behalf.
We’ll never know for sure, because as soon as Google disables your AdSense account for invalid activity, they also deny you access to your AdSense dashboard, so you can no longer see any of the evidence that Google used to identify you as a fraudster.
Google has an appeal process: you can send Google one email, asking to be reinstated. But, without seeing the evidence against you, it’s impossible to say anything meaningful in an AdSense appeal.
In fact, that’s the first question in Google’s Disabled Account FAQ:
Why was my account disabled? Can you tell me more about the invalid click activity you detected?
Because we have a need to protect our proprietary detection system, we’re unable to provide our publishers with any information about their account activity, including any web pages, users, or third-party services that may have been involved.
That has to be everyone’s first question, right? “Can I see the evidence against me?” “No, you may not see the evidence against you.”
We sent in our appeals email last week; a week later, our appeal was denied.
There’s a lot more to say about this, but that’s plenty for now. In part 2, I’ll talk about why (we think) Google banned us from AdSense.