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What you need to know about AdSense Fraud

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Many small businesses and sites that don't have budgets for large and flashy advertising campaigns view Google Adsense as a life saver. All they have to do is sign up and Google will send content-relevant text, image and video ads their way. The potential advantages are enormous as the ads are an unobtrusive means to generate income and increase traffic.

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There is no such thing as a free lunch, however, so along with greater revenue and increased visibility, you also have to deal with the repercussions of potential Adsense Fraud. According to Adsense-tips.org, most Adsense fraud is committed by Adsense publishers, as the temptation of easy money is too great to ignore.

In an attempt to explain the phenomenon, Sofizar.com created four categories of fraudsters. The category titles are light-hearted, but Sofizar assures us that this in no way reflects any leniency felt towards the scoundrels.

  1. The Regressive Fraudster or ClickMonkey: this bottom-feeder fraudster lacks both the ambition and the brains to make a success of his or her endeavours. With the aid of clickbot software and a few registered domains, ClickMonkey goes about creating a straw empire. He or she interlinks sites to fabricate popularity and PageRank, and begins clicking happily away. There are so many clicks in fact, that the account is banned before the poor monkey sees any profits. ClickMonkey may retire, defeated and broken, or may experience renewed vigour and surge back in the guise of.
  2. Wanna-Be Fraudster or Bozo: Slightly more sophisticated than the ClickMonkey, Bozo makes the correct assumption that Adsense earnings are proportional to Google's profits. They target keywords that have high paying potential. Bozos create pages with content relevant to the profitable keywords. Then they go to town with clicking, often recruiting those near and dear to them to give them a hand. Bozos are foiled by failing to take Google's 45 day inspection period into account. Google analyses click-through rates and becomes curiously suspicious when they see that most clicks are generated from only a few addresses. Bozos don't pass inspection and either retire wiser, but none the worse for wear, or return as,
  3. The Almost There Fraudster or the SmartAlec: SmartAlecs adopt a similar strategy to Bozos by targeting certain keywords and creating sites with supporting content. The difference is that SmartAlecs make friends with IP addresses from around the world. His or her new-found friends do all the clicking and SmartAlec rests assured that Google will never catch on because of the vast numbers of diverse IP addresses used. Unfortunately for SmarAlecs, they fail to take click-through rates into account. As soon as they exceed the limit, Google sits up and takes notice. After that it's a short walk to the sin-bin where the account is banned. Having come this far, however, aspirant fraudsters are often reluctant to give up and make one final attempt as,
  4. Fraudster Maestro or Satan's Spawn: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so Satan's Spawn (SS) is criminally ingenious. SS knows all about keywords, click-through rates, inspection periods and which countries have the highest pay rate per click. SS is an immaculate schmoozer and can sweet talk anyone online into clicking his or her links. He or she uses tactics like asking people to check that the links work, offering free screensavers (who doesn't at least click for a look at free screensavers?) and outright deceit, for example, some SS might claim that clicking in a link will fill a bowl of food for starving children in Africa. This is grossly unfair to charitable sites that do actually feed the world's starving, but being a spawn of Satan, it's reasonable to assume that he or she doesn't care. The current Adsense market is worth over $5 billion per year, of which conservative estimates place fraud at 20%. This means that Adsense fraud costs legitimate companies over $1 billion per year. It's no wonder that aspirant fraudsters persevere until they get it right. It's not known as Filthy Lucre for nothing.

Considering the size of the market, it's unreasonable to expect Google to take sole responsibility for seeking the fraudsters out and ensuring that punitive measures are enforced. All advertisers and sites that make use of Adsense should actively combat the phenomenon. Tracking software is an effective weapon in the fraudster war, but sites need to make it known at the outset that they use tracking software. This not only serves as a warning against attempted fraud but also provides some measure of legal cover against lawsuits for violation of privacy.

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It's also advisable to invest some software that analyses all of the activity on your site. This allows you to keep track of all your visitors, how long they stayed on your site, what they did etc. This is obviously similar to tracking software, but can have additional benefits for your site by highlighting areas that need attention or that should be emphasised. If your budget is not as flexible as you would like it to be, analytics make more economic sense as they can perform dual tracking and analysis functions.

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