Oh yes, I was also running little blocks of adverts provided by Adsense and, yes, I told my subscribers that I got some money if they visited the websites of those advertisers – all of whom were interested in selling stuff to sailors.
In the end it was click-fraud-ish.
There's a huge fear for those dependent on google adsense that they will get terminated out of the blue like this. The problem is, there's no great alternative. But instructing your visitors in some way to click on your ads does cross the line.
If a sailor buys a sailing book by entering Amazon via my website, I get a 5 per cent referral fee. If some-one spends $200 on a Kindle or a camera, [they] get their next three month s subscription for free.
That's definitely abuse of Amazon's affiliate program and crosses the line from click-fraud-ish to full blown criminal fraud. Aside from being against the terms of their scheme, his clear intention is to induce site visitors to make planned purchases through his affiliate links, something that is obviously completely contrary to the spirit of his agreement with Amazon.
The author abused his relationship with Google. He treated his most important customer as a cash cow. He ignores the fact that many of the advertisers footing the bill will be just like him - sole traders and small businesses barely scraping by. By cutting him off, Google is losing revenue to protect the integrity of their advertising marketplace. They're doing the decent thing by their advertisers in taking a cheat out of the system. I wholeheartedly support Google in their actions.
The author abused his relationship with Google. He treated
his most important customer as a cash cow. He ignores the
fact that many of the advertisers footing the bill will be
just like him - sole traders and small businesses barely
It seems you can display Google's ads, but should never comment on them in any way, not even to say 'Gosh, I really like how they so accurately list companyA, companyB and companyC as relevant for my site.' The first rule of using AdSense is, you don't talk about AdSense?
What you cannot do, for obvious reasons, is to entice people to click on ads. It doesn't matter how subtle the encouragement is, how good are your intentions, how many kids you still have to support, how many kittens you saved from certain death. It is against the rules that are both obvious if you think about them and spelled clearly in AdSense agreement and violating that agreement gets you banned from AdSense.
I'm also making money from AdSense and the simple reality is that if Google doesn't take steps to limit the kind of click fraud that this guy openly, if very verbosely, admits to, it'll hurt everyone else who's not matching it and in the long term will hurt everyone, period, because there will be less money in the ecosystem if ad publishers feel ripped off.
It is against the rules that are both obvious if you think
about them and spelled clearly in AdSense agreement
In this case, it seems to be the regrettable situation where someone is being punished for moral behavior. Regrettable, but perhaps unavoidable. However, that's as far as you should be willing to go. Trying to justify Google's actions by accusing the one that was punished of immoral behavior is not necessary and not warranted.
Someone is being held accountable for a contract they willingly entered. The morality of the behavior is not at issue - moral or not they legally agreed not to do it. The rest, IMO, is hand waving.
The author of the article had a win-win situation in mind
I'm not saying that Google did an excellent job of handling this situation. It amazes me that they think it's appropriate to revoke thousands of dollars in earnings without (usually) providing someone to talk to. That said, asking people to click links on your site is bound to invite well-meaning individuals to click on ads they have no intent of following, which is practically the definition of click-fraud.
If however, say KFC is advertising on the TV, and instead of impression, they are taking a cut whenever someone who watched the TV goes to KFC, then the situation would be very different. Which is the case of Google, where each click has a cost.
My advice to him, instead of depending on Google, just get the advertisers directly and just charge by impression, or at least a fix charge for a period of time. Since there are value in the stuff he is doing, I would believe that there would be advertisers willing to pay anyway, just a matter how much.
The only downside going that way, now he has to do the marketing to potential advertisers as well, as opposed to Google doing it for him previously.
Amazon would benefit from that message being on every site on the internet. It's advertising for them and letting people know they can help their favorite sites adds an extra incentive to sway people to order stuff.
I don't see anything even slightly fraudulent about saying, "Amazon pays us commission on sales made with our affiliate code attached, please buy expensive things there", and I don't see how that's bad for anyone.
eCommerce vendors are even happy to partner with sites like Quidco that openly offer cashback rewards for people making purchases via their affiliate links.
However, as a practical issue, I fail to see any practical reason to disable the guy's revenue from YouTube videos, based on clicks from an unrelated site. Just stop counting the clicks on the site, Google!
Really? I have thought about it for about two minutes and came up with several.
1. Google might assume that someone who has committed click fraud in the past might do so again, and preemptively remove other facets of that person's ability to harm the system.
2. Google might want to discourage people from committing piecemeal fraud by ensuring them that there is no way to risk just part of your account with Google. By disabling all of this guy's ability to make money from Google, they are sending the signal, "Hey, don't think you can pull a fast one and still keep any part of your business with us, even if the site is unrelated."
3. Maybe there was some undisclosed badness going on with the Youtube account that we are not seeing in the account given in this article.
"14. You will not offer any person or entity any consideration or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit) for using Special Links (e.g., by implementing any “rewards” or loyalty program that incentivizes persons or entities to visit the Amazon Site via your Special Links). "
This guy really managed to find a lot of ways to shoot himself in the foot.
a) Amazon have not cut him off (and I hope someone will draw the risk you highlight to his attention before they do)
b) there's no incentive offered to use the links in the sense of just visiting Amazon. There's an incentive offered to people who make a purchase there, which is an entirely separate act. Now 'visiting' is only offered as an example and he probably is violating the agreement by giving subscription discounts on some purchases, but it's an easy misunderstanding to make, especially given that it's not the central plank of his business model or anything like it.
Ironically, his forthright explanation of how his business model supports a positive interpretation of his motives, because he doesn't even seem to understand the potential pitfalls of what he's doing. If he were the scammer than some are suggesting, it would not be in his interest to expose his methods.
Isn't that what affiliate links are for? Encouraging people to buy something through them.
Many review sites right glistening copy then add an affiliate link. is that against the spirit of the agreement too?
Disclaimer: I was banned from AdSense too and I still don't know what happened. Since my site had very low traffic, I suspect even one well meaning fan could clickfraud me into nonexistence.
I wonder how we could generate an economic incentive for Google to adopt it.
Want to incentivize Google? Convince Bing to implement it and see if Adsense customers convert as a result. If I felt Bing was treating their customers/vendors (ads is a really weird relationship :) better, I would consider using it (since as a search product it has approached Google pretty close).
But I can weigh in on the "make the action exponential" idea. Regarding the steps that the webspam team takes, we take stronger and stronger action as we see repeated violations or violations with more willful or damaging intent.
Hidden text might result in a 30 day removal, for instance (and the site can always remove the hidden text and do a reconsideration request before the 30 days is up, of course). But if we see the site repeatedly violating our guidelines or doing worse stuff, then the action is stronger.
Or do you remove them and not tell them at all, leaving them in the dark completley?
You can read the whole message that we send, but the relevant part would be "In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from somewifi.com are scheduled to be removed temporarily from our search results for at least 30 days.
We would prefer to keep your pages in Google's index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages (may not be limited to the examples provided) that are outside our quality guidelines. One potential remedy is to contact your web host technical support for assistance. For more information about security for webmasters, see http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/04/my-sites-.... When such changes have been made, please visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration?hl=e... to learn more and submit your site for reconsideration."
As infractions get more serious and we believe that the SEO/site owner is more willful, we give less information to the people who do spammier things.
Hope that helps to answer your question.
I appreciate that a more responsive feedback loop can be exploited by bad guys as easily as it can support good guys, but the approach Google has taken creates a greater incentive for the guy to pull his old material and create a new online identity than it does for him to correct the minor flaw in his marketing. It's easy to say 'don't ever encourage users to click on ads,' but half the appeal of niche sites like this to members is being able to have conversational contact with an individual whose work is especially admirable, or through which the member can live vicariously.
What's happening here is that a legitimate honest business model (subscriber sales for niche content, with a minor secondary revenue stream from ads) is being punished because of Google's inability to differentiate it from a dishonest business model. The huge fear you describe is a reflection of both the asymmetry between Google and the small advertiser, and of the difficulty in understanding exactly what behavior is in or out. Not everyone finds those contracts easy to read or understand, and Google is actually raising barriers to entry if it enforces them too rigidly and giving greater incentive to the black hats than the white hats. I strongly suspect that this is a limiting factor on Google's own revenue, which is stuck on a local maximum because Google itself is has a much lower tolerance for information asymmetry than it demands of its content providers.
Google correctly identified his business as dishonest and terminated his account per agreement that the guy signed when he started using AdSense.
You try to make a case for Google trying to determine shades of gray, but it's a non-scalable, slippery slope.
The current rule is crystal clear and simple: don't encourage users to click on ads they otherwise wouldn't. By definition every such click is fraudulent because the user wouldn't otherwise perform it.
Google (or anyone else, for that matter) cannot implement more subtle rules (that weight factors like how many times someone did it, how often does he do it, how subtle the encouragement is, how many kids he has to support) in a scalable way.
Google couldn't even apply more subtle rules in a consistent way, giving fraudsters even more weapon in what is a PR game (take all the ample, emotional justification from the above post AND allow that fraudster to point to other people who are doing similar things but Google hasn't taken action against them because some fallible person applied a different subtle standard for what fraud is than some other fallible person).
As this thread demonstrates, there's plenty of people willing to sympathise with the fraudster despite clear, self-admitted evidence of wrongdoing based purely on his self-professed (hence extremely biased) version of how good of a person he is and how good intentions were and how badly he was treated by big, cold Google. Emotion can trump facts.
Heck, I'd bet an algorithm would've caught it (or at least flagged it, caused a review, and had it confirmed) a loooong time ago. Which would've cut off his income while it was smaller. A smooth-functioning, impersonal algorithm may have been preferable in this case.
Google could provide a kind of back-and-forth here, to restore the ability of a site author to provide a testimonial for a particular advertiser. An author would have to provide a (short and limited) list of sites and testimonial copy for each one.
A sailing site could then, for a particular sailcloth manufacturer's ad, provide a short testimonial noting the high quality of the product, etc...and Google could serve up that custom testimonial along with the ad.
You'd either have happy advertisers, or not.
There's a difference between "I support this product and you should check them out" and "click on these ads." Google's ads are targeted and beyond them being about sailing, he doesn't necessarily know what's being shown.
So it's pretty difficult for him to personally recommend particular ads or companies. I'd like to see the exact messaging he sent to his subscribers.
A warning would have been better. But by this point he had already essentially scammed advertisers for tens of thousands of dollars (he mentions $3000 in the last 6 week period).
What would you suggest a middle-man do, if person-X has scammed your clients for tens of thousands of dollars? A polite warning, or cut them off ASAP? And remember that in this case the middle-man is the largest middle-man out there, and deals with billions of interactions.
If you think that crosses the line, then you just gave anyone with access to a small botnet (or who knows how to cleverly use Tor) an easy, cheap way to cut off the income of people who rely on AdSense. And there are a LOT of those.
Outright, criminal fraud is one thing, but I would argue that it's unethical to hold up the funds he has already accrued. Sure, cut him off, but perhaps it's not the best idea to rely on the good intentions of people when you offer cash for clicks.
1) fraudulent clicks that could be generated by a botnet
2) instructions on the site itself that you have control over telling your visitors to click on ads to make you more money.
I don't want to come across as defending google on this. They could use a lot more hands on customer service. This sort of sudden termination is scary and sucks. I'm just pointing out, there is unjustified termination (which also happens) and termination based on willful fraud.
I know he's wrong and I know exactly what he did wrong: he enticed visitors to his website to click on ads so that he makes more money at the expense of advertisers. You cannot do it for reasons that are both obvious and clearly speelled in AdSense agreement.
He is unwilling to correct the problem. He's even unwilling to admit there is a problem - his whole argument to favor theory of cruel and unusual treatment from Google is based on his fundamental belief that he really did nothing wrong. Plus irrelevant personal details designed to trigger sympathy for him, as a person, and detract attention away from the facts of what he did.
No, he didn't. A "small botnet" or Tor is not particularly useful to force you to violate the Adsense ToS by telling your visitors to click on your ads.
If it is a mere algorithm, then it is not unforeseeable, that, due to no fault of your own whatever, but malice of competitors, you can get banned, though, in these cases, I think there would be a good legal argument, not least because the google contract you sign up to is not entirely recognised by some courts, but replaced in many instances by what is or seems reasonable, as, when you sign up to the contract you have no choice but to sign up, thus, there is no equal bargaining power.
I'm sure the fraud detection system is not perfect but in this case it actually worked as designed. Yay for Google, boo for people who try to take advantage of the system.
The sort of fraud ad brokers want to avoid is 'www.fraud-u-lent.com: Hey visitors! click on 10 of these ads and get FREE warez/porn/iPad/car for every 10 clix!!'
On the other hand, there's a legitimate conversation that goes along the lines of '[niche site] is great! how do you manage to provide us with so much great content for our [niche hobby]?' 'Oh thanks, I have been a [niche hobbyist] for 20 years, and accumulated a lot of [niche content/skill]. Also those ads at the side of the page help support the project so you can enjoy it for free.'
The second is technically violating any ad agreement that prohibits click invitations, but in a vastly different way from the first example. An overly mechanical or aggressive interpretation is throwing the baby out with the bath water, and if it becomes too common it will become (or perhaps already is) an opportunity for a competitor.
It's not the same as me buying an ad on your site and encouraing traffic.. it's not an affiliate sales program.. it's a very specific advertising setup that very clearly states you are not to encourage people to click on the ads.
Google doesn't prevent you from discussing how AdSense works in general.
What you cannot do is to specifically ask people to click on ads on your website.
The underlaying premise is not that people are ignorant but that they will do the things you ask them to do.
In that scenario, every additional click, even if of decreasing marginal utility, is a win for the advertiser and the publisher is making them a favor by sending as much traffic as they can.
For Google AdSense and other programs based on pay-per-click scheme, advertiser pays for each click so worthless clicks do cost them money and benefit the publisher. That's why it's fraud. There is a strong incentive for one side (publisher) to take advantage of the other side (advertiser) and if allowed to exist on scale, would harm the whole marketplace.
The phrasing you used suggest fixed scheme. If it is used in the context of pay-per-click scheme, then yes, it does violate the agreement and I doubt there's any pay-per-click scheme that doesn't ban such behavior.
Always remember, Google (by themselves) lives and dies based on original content. Google supplies very little OC (other than perhaps Google Maps). The millions and millions of sites that present themselves at the doorstep of AdSense are seeking a quick and painless way of funding themselves. These same site are providing the OC that supports AdSense (while others provide the advertising spends). Google is the switchboard between the OC and the advertisers. I see no particular impediment (other than Google's size) preventing another from entering the same type of market.
As far as the videos on YouTube though, I agree there is not much alternative because of the sheer size and reach of YouTube.
1) I see a sudden spike in my daily spend and think "Yay, I'm going to get more customers!"
2) I go to Analytics and see a wave of people who spent seconds on the website and did not convert to the trial.
3) Google bills my credit card for hundreds of dollars.
This has actually happened, although the specific incentive to click fraud was different. I was sixteen flavors of pissed.
Google keeping me unpissed is worth $10,000 a year. I'm a wee little customer. The whackamole sites are worth a few tens of dollars a year when behaving normally. What do you expect Google to do?
He got a real human to look into his account, incidentally, which I would have killed for a few times. They told him the breaks: you broke the rules, no, there is no second chance.
I don't mean this as a rhetorical question. I honestly want to know how someone with an ad-supported site can avoid such a situation.
Edit: elsewhere in the comments, I see that he was telling his viewers that clicking the ads gets him money. I agree, that's not fair to the advertisers.
As one who, like you, pays for that invalid activity I am glad to see Google do what they can to stem it.
But it gets very serious in my mind when they can also take the cash from the account. They should be required to show explicitly their justification. If that means that their business has to change because their algorithms are exposed, so be it. What they are doing does not seem to be a fair business practice to me, and I worry about the precedent they are being allowed to set.
If Google's algorithms are so great as to detect AdSense "cheaters," why don't they just throttle down the CPC for "cheaters" down to 1 cent (or less)?
I think we're basically discovering that Google is defending their immature AdSense algorithms by banning users rather than adapting to different behaviors.
I can understand that Google is strict about this, that's their core business, CPC and conversion rate are what makes them the best advertising platform in the world. They have to protect that fiercely, even if some unfortunate users are thrown under the bus along the way.
Is it possible in the AdSense scheme to set up multiple accounts? It seems if he'd had an account for the YouTube site, and another one for his sailing stuff, he'd at least have kept his money maker.
It wasn't working too well.
These are the algorithms that every man and his dog want the key to, the holy grail of net commerce.
I was going to write something more sarcastic but instead I'll ask: Who has better algorithms and how are they doing with them?
-Ex Google Spam
I don't particularly like Google's lack of transparency, but all this stuff is in the terms you're required to agree to before you start using an AdSense account. Yes, it's a big scary legal document, but you can't say they didn't warn you.
How many people believe otherwise? If you cater to any audience with a 3-digit IQ, they know you get paid when they click.
On my current arrangement I have payments on conversion (it's working well enough) but it requires a bit more work than AdSense did.
That's kind of the point, I think. Stating an obvious fact is often used to suggest some kind of action. And it sounds like that happened here.
I feel bad for the guy, surely. He made a small mistake and paid disproportionately. But once you get branded as a cheater, even if by accident, then advertisers will run away from you.
TV isn't a good analogy, because it's a different business model, so this kind of cheating is impossible.
And they continue to run ads next to his Youtube videos; they simply stopped giving him his share. That is even less fair.
Maybe the lesson is: have multiple accounts with Adsense so that if one has a problem then the others are unaffected.
I did get the odd subscriber sending me an email saying that he had clicked loads of adverts. This is called demon clicking. I would reply that I would prefer them to only click on adverts they were interested in.
I allow my subscribers to leave comments on the films. If one of them mentioned clicking on adverts to show their appreciation - well it’s a nice gesture, but I would edit their posting to remove the mention.
It sounds to me like he enjoyed his visitors padding his AdSense revenue, but took a look-the-other-way attitude to their getting click-happy. I'm sorry, but it sounds like he sacked himself. When you work for someone else you have little control over getting sacked. When you work for yourself you shoulder more responsibility and control of your fate (as many on HN know), which includes knowing the terms of partner agreements you enter into. It's not like Google buries their zero tolerance policy for fraudulent click behavior under hard to read fine print.
It doesn't say that you have to actively discourage people from clicking to ensure only those most determined to buy the product actually click.
As to him "looking the other way", he explicitly said he replied by telling them to only click on adverts that they were interested in.
I'd say he went above and beyond.
I film myself huddling around a tray of candles in the boat as the ice slides past the hull in the winter.
Then he tells them a way he makes money:
yes, I told my subscribers that I got some money if they visited the websites of those advertisers
You say that's not encouragement? Well, others thought it was enough to comment about extra ad clicking and even proudly email him about it. His response? That he "preferred" they only clicked ads they were interested in. That sounds almost like a wink-wink to me. Web visitors do not exhibit that type of behavior of their own accord if unsolicited. Ironically, they thought they were helping him out...
Yes, they do.
That sounds almost like a wink-wink to me.
I didn't read it as a wink-wink; I read it as a clear and honest explanation of his views: "If my users are going to click on ads because they want to help me instead of because they want to buy things, I hope they at least click on ads that interest them, so there's a CHANCE they'll buy."
You're telling me multiple site visitors, who feel no emotional connection to a site, will click "loads of ads" then comment and send emails about it of their own accord? I don't think so.
It's not up to him only to suggest how his visitors interact with the ads. There are two other parties with a financial interest in the AdSense actions, one actually paying the bills.
Sorry, serious question--aren't we talking about OP's visitors, who have a very distinct emotional connection to his site?
Dylan Winter apparently was not aware that his very high CPC rate was a problem. From that I assume he also didn't do a very good job communicating to his users to not click on the links. Telling your users that you make money from clicks seems like a very bad idea.
And why would you edit out comments that encourage users to click more? What you should do is edit it, and replace it with a statement saying to please not do this.
It's a story of coulda woulda shoulda, and honestly I think Google should have consulted with the "wronged" advertisers first and see what they say - maybe give them a simple option to flag or not flag the site.
For Mr. Winter it seems he could now try to get all these sites to rent ad space on his site bypassing Google. Since the site is very specialized in its audience, such a deal might work out better for everyone involved. After all you are cutting out the middle man.
I think you're reading way too much into his remarks.
Most small sailing boats have only small auxiliary engines or batteries providing DC power. Safety requires power conservation. But video cameras require light to record an image, and most pro video lighting consumers a lot of juice but doesn't run on DC power. If it's not windy, candles efficiently provide both heat and light, and solve other video problems as well (color aesthetics).
My dad sails, I've worked most of the last decade in independent film. Anyone who's into sailing or pro video understands that both are fairly high-maintenance activities with a significant cost of both time and equipment (and that discussions of this overhead is a regular conversation topic). I find it quite easy to believe he makes an overall loss on the sailing vids at present, although over a few years it has the potential to provide greater revenue (eg a documentary of the entire journey, gradual accumulation of subscribers etc.).
Regardless of the technical reasons for it, I believe the huddling around a tray of candles with ice sliding by is striking visual imagery. Heck, even I feel moved by that, and I'd feel ten times more connected to this guy if I were a regular sailor.
You are right that he was careless and didn't look after his own business interest by studying the contract carefully and thinking through the implications of such statements. If Google had mailed him saying 'look, [Content] at [page URL] is undermining our agreement' then I'd have no argument with it - and I don't think he would either. It's true that accommodating people this way eats into Google's overheads and can be abused by deliberate fraudsters, so there's an economic cost to doing so which seems to be less than the economic cost of strict mechanical enforcement (in terms of lost content and goodwill). Simply put, cash trumps content so Google is always more likely to side with the advertiser than the content creator who has deployed adsense incorrectly.
However, only lawyers have a keen interest in people's contractual interpretation abilities. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the guy made an honest mistake because he understands cameras a lot better than contracts, and like most people he just skimmed the contract and clicked OK. He's running a pretty minimal business here - it sounds like his total annual revenue from online video is about $45,000, so spending several hours studying contract terms (or paying someone else to do so) is not a very efficient use of his time. He generates quality content doing something he enjoys, and is able to make a minimal living doing so - as someone else said upthread, he was pursuing a win-win strategy for everyone, including his advertisers. So work with me for a moment in considering the possibility that he was not a fraudster.
He says he has about 700 subscribers now and has built up to adding ~120/month, 150 sailing videos in HD, and about 1 click per 200 video-minutes, for a median CTR of 6%. New members will of course spend a day or a whole weekend browsing his library (probably looking for footage of places they live/d or sail themselves), but we can figure that any spikes in ad traffic will come after posting of a new video. 6% of 700 subscribers clicking on an ad is...42 per ad. The 6% is certainly high, but given the extremely specialist nature of his sailing website you'd expect a somewhat greater yield. My personal ad responsiveness is heavily skewed towards sites offering specialist content that I'm interested rather than general-interest ones. Anyway, if there were 3 ads in the adsense box and they all got a 6% CTR, that's 126 clicks per video. As there is a time overhead to video production, that's happening at most a few times a week (for short videos), more typically a few times a month. He mentions getting about 30k hits/month from the sailing site, which is consistent with ~700 people watching 1 or 2 videos a day. At a median 6% CTR that's about 1800 clicks per month. Now we can't be sure how much this amounts to for him or for his advertisers; I'm sure it's yielding more than the YouTube content does (for obvious reasons), but his statement that the bulk of the adsense income comes from YouTube seems quite reasonable. I'm guessing that the most adsense revenue that could be coming from his sailing website is about 10% of the total, maybe $200/mo.
Some of that is legit traffic; maybe $100/month is the result of over-enthusiastic supporters who click on every ad as a matter of habit, out of a total adsense payout in the region of $2000/mo., the bulk of which comes from mass-appeal videos on YouTube over which the guy has zero influence. So in the worst case, Google sees a ~5% discrepancy in the revenue being earned by a content creator with two subject categories, each of which have 100+ video offerings. Suspecting a ~5% overpayment, they withhold all payments for the previous quarter - apparently extrapolating the margin of the overpayment to the lifetime traffic of the sailing site - and cut off the relationship completely. Although their contract allows them to do this without explaining why, and there are good reasons for them to have that option available, the result is a loss of about 40% of the guy's annual income. As described, that economic hit may well be greater than his overhead in operating the boat and producing the sailing videos, so even with steady growth in subscriptions and their ancillary revenue (amazon ads), it'll take a good 6 months - 1 year to rebuild that income stream.
That's a very big kick in the teeth to give someone because you think there's a 'risk' they're not using Adwords in the intended fashion, even though the benefit they may have derived (and conversely, the potential loss to your advertisers) is marginal at best. Unless he was putting a 'don't forget to click hint hint' statement on every new sailing video posting, his moral failure is surely limited to that fraction of his pages where he has made such an exhortation. And even if he made no such exhortation, some 'loyal fans' are going to click on every ad to support the site anyway, unbidden. I've done it - not on any significant scale, but in hopes that it brings in a little extra revenue for a site I like, maybe 10 clicks once a week. Users sometimes drive each other to do the same thing, eg by leaving comments visible to others, which may stay up for a day or even several days (quite likely in the case of a person living on a sailboat part-time).
The absurdity that would result if you took Google's contract terms to their logical conclusion would content creators pro-actively studying analytics to understand their user behavior and throttling their access or hiding ads if they seemed like they were supporting the site too consistently or encouraging other users to do so too explicitly (people on web forums sometimes respond to advertisers they dislike by encouraging others to click heavily and increase the advertiser's cost of doing business). Of course Google doesn't want people to do that, and hiding ads from some users might violate the adwords agreement in other ways. But over-rigid enforcement of the 'no encouragement' terms creates an incentive for such behavior.
I don't think anyone has to "study" Google's terms for an AdSense account to know they don't want fraudulent clicks. I'm pretty sure Google tries to make that very, very clear during the account set up process. As my earlier comment notes this guy seemed to know something was wrong with openly encouraging AdSense ad clicks.
[ ] I will not place ads on sites that include incentives to click on ads.
At the bottom of this same sign up page just above the "Submit Information" button to sign up there are three more check boxes, two of which read as follows:
[ ] I agree that I will not click on the Google ads I'm serving through AdSense.
[ ] I certify that I have read the AdSense Program Policies.
The "AdSense Program Policies" is an underlined link. Clicking that takes you to a clearly readable page, probably around 500 words total, titled "Google AdSense Program Policies" where the first sentence admonishes reading the program policies carefully. And the very first two bold labeled sections at the top of this page are entitled: "Invalid Clicks and Impressions" and "Encouraging Clicks".
Under Invalid Clicks it says: Publishers may not click their own ads or use any means to inflate impressions and/or clicks artificially, including manual methods. and has an underlined link to "learn more".
Under Encouraging Clicks it begins: Publishers may not ask others to click their ads or use deceptive implementation methods to obtain clicks and clicking the underlined link to "learn more" here brings a drop-down list of bullet points saying what publishers may NOT do. Here are the first two:
- Compensate users for viewing ads or performing searches, or promise compensation to a third party for such behavior.
- Encourage users to click the Google ads using phrases such as "click the ads", "support us", "visit these links" or other similar language.
I'm sorry, but I don't know how much clearer Google could be about unacceptable behavior.
When you say fraudulent, you're saying he deliberately tried to deceive Google, or at best, was totally indifferent to the risk that they would believe something (his acceptance of the adwords conditions) which was not actually true. Yet if you look at the sequence of events, he started putting up videos to showcase his work, later found himself making enough to subsidize his sailing project, and later again got the idea to monetize the HD video because he was receiving so many customer inquiries about the YouTube videos.
When he signed the adwords agreement, he didn't even have a sailing video sideline, much less an expectation of milking it for a little extra money. Where is the willful intent to deceive here?
It's fraudulent because he's deliberately trying to deceive advertisers who run through Google. There's this little nugget:
>Oh yes, I was also running little blocks of adverts provided by Adsense and, yes, I told my subscribers that I got some money if they visited the websites of those advertisers – all of whom were interested in selling stuff to sailors.
Which is explicitly attempting to game the system. A second's thought of how it works will convince you: advertisers are charged by click, but they make money by purchases. Having extreme CTR with extreme bounce rates means the advertisers are being scammed. Actions caused by willful ignorance in this case look almost identical to willful intent...
And they very nearly are the same thing here. Say you noticed your bank rounded up for certain transactions. Would running thousands of those transactions with the intent to make money - the same as the article - count as willful intent to scam the bank? Would the bank be right in penalizing you for doing so?
I assume the underlying cause for this is that the AdWords program is as automated and algorithmic as possible. The less Google has to pay for human beings for time and effort to administer it, the better it works. The very nature of AdWords and why it has been such a successful product depends on the scaling properties of algorithms and server farms.
The old-fashioned traditional world based on human beings making decisions has a lot of give and take to it, with humans negotiating with each other about exactly what the rules mean and how to apply them. We are moving to a world where automated systems are responsible for monitoring and enforcing rules, and that involves a lot of tradeoffs. I understand the benefits to be gained - but its hard for fallible human beings to understand and follow complex rulesets enforced by merciless machines.
> the manner in which violations are handled, and the absence of a meaningful "feedback loop" where users of the system could be warned and have the opportunity to modify their behavior to follow the rules.
Would also allow the bad guys to modify their behavior as well.
Did you complain? Were you issued a refund? I'm trying to understand how Google justifies withholding past earnings from the site owner and continuing to profit from the YouTube content. If they incur real costs from refunding advertisers, it makes some sense. But if they keep everyone's money, they have an incentive to abuse the system.
I believe ads are only shown on youtube content with the permission of the copyright owner. There don't appear to be any ads on his videos at the moment.
Here's an example video of his: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ma_hZ00Nqk&feature=playe...
Second, this guy is being 'creative' by creating actual content which people want to watch. It's not like he's started with the idea of generating traffic spikes and then determined that the path to success is mini-documentaries about big trucks or coastal sailing. This guy is working just as hard as you, and just because he works with a camera instead of a computer you are taking a dump on him. Why are you talking about 'whackamole sites...worth a few tens of dollars a year,' when he was outlining a situation in which his Youtube content was worth at least $18,000 a year - I assume it is at least as profitable for Google as it was for him.
Third, have you ever bought billboard, magazine, or TV advertising, where people check out your business as a result but don't necessarily become customers? Have you ever had a brick and mortar business, where people walk in and look around but leave without buying anything? There's a reason for the phrase 'half the money you spend on advertising is wasted, but the problem is that nobody knows which half.' The problem with adwords and so forth is that because you [as a generic advertiser, not you personally) book, see traffic and get billed quickly, it's easy to see exactly whether a campaign is working or not, and then to assume that if it doesn't work it's always the result of fraud.
Some kinds of advertising campaign deliver large sales up front and a long tail, like movies and other consumer media. But those advertising campaigns cost a FORTUNE. If you hear that a film cost $100m to make and did $150m in business' what they usually mean is that it cost $10m to make, $40m was spent on some well-known movie stars whose 'brand' the audience trusts, and $50m was spent on the ad campaign. Spending 50% of the budget on marketing is the norm in the film business, and I imagine it's pretty similar in the music and book publishing fields. Other sorts of advertising are needed for brand building and reinforcement. You (generic you, again) don't have millions to spend so you have to accumulate like an oyster with a pearl. Inevitably, some of your ad buys get exploited by click fraudsters and you are understandably angry when this occurs, since it costs real money. Or it may be something wrong with the targeting or presentation of your message. To assume it must always be click fraud is ridiculous.
The #1 thing that makes me leave a website within seconds of landing (as a consumer) is where I'm on an attractive, well-designed site, see an interesting ad, but clicking on it brings me to an ugly, poorly-designed site. I associate visual ugliness with incompetence and/or fakery, so I'm more likely to think the target page is a work of fraud than the page where the advert appeared. I am no more likely to spend money there than I would in a dirty restaurant or a store without proper fixtures. Because it's easier to create an effective ad than an effective site, an ugly landing page is a red flag for the safety of my credit card. that is no more the fault of the ad host than actual click fraud is the fault of an advertiser.
How does the target audience (outdoor hobbyists vs software consumers) matter?
Next, Patrick did not say anything about the guy not being hard working. Nor did I find that he was taking a dump on him. (really, what kind of language is this?). He only wrote about his experience as an Adwords/AdSense advertiser.
And why are you comparing billboard and TV advertising with AdWords? As you mentioned, it is extremely hard to target and measure traditional advertising and that's one of the main reason why AdWords and AdSense have become popular and more and more business are spending money on them.
Also, I am pretty sure that no one advertisiting on AdWords/AdSense is expecting that each and every click through will convert to a customer. Let's say I advertise on Hacker News. After a month, I find that the click through rate is 7%, out of which I am able to convert 1% of those clicks. Let's say PG wants to buy Mercedes and tells HN visitors to click the ads. Suddenly click through rate jumps through the roof at 14%. As those clicks are not because someone is interested in my product, my conversion rate drop s to 0.50%. So my advertising spend doubles and I actually make less money. How is it fair to me? If I was a direct advertiser for this guy's website, I would definitely call him and ask him about this unusual behavior. I will try to figure out what's happening and if the publisher doesn't co-operate, I will stop advertising on his site. The only difference in this situation is that Google is the middle man. I think it's in interest of Google to monitor unusual spike in CTR and take some action.
All that aside, I completely disapprove of Google's current approach where there is no transparency and they are allowed to take money from the publisher without publisher having any recourse.
You are right that Patrick didn't say anything about him not being hard working, but using the word 'creative' to imply click-farming seemed inappropriate, considering the OP is someone working in the arts. As someone in the same field, I suppose I took it a bit personally - but how would you feel if this story involved a webapp and I said "here's how I feel about web 'programming' that just moves money from my bank account into someone else's..."? It kind of denigrates the primary skill of the business person.
You are right too that new advertising systems like adwords have and deserve their popularity because they provide much better feedback and value than traditional forms of advertising. But I bring up the contrast because those traditional forms remain highly necessary for larger businesses, and part of a business's success rides on being able to accept the changing risk/reward payoff as the business grows. The farther away that a publisher or retailer is from the median, the less reliable the quality of the CTR analytics, and the more hesitant Google ought to be in applying them rigidly. When you get down to a extremely specialist market and where the spikes are measured in a few hundreds, as in this case, statistics can be more misleading than usual.
'Buy from these ads.'
End of story.
(except that Adsense makes a huge percentage that he could be getting if he could contact the advertisers himself).
That is enticement to click-through the ads and in contravention of the Google policy. If this guy were to provide a great service and in response have a massive level of sales from ads because of such an enticement then he could be banned. Quite silly I'd say.
It seems that the advertisers should have the control - "use sites flagged as having an unnaturally high CTR? [ ]" "use sites having enticed users to click-through? [ ]" - then let the advertisers choose what gives them the best return.
If Google can't differentiate between the two cases, that's their loss in the long term as somebody with better algorithms could step in.
Who else would you work with (i.e., display advertising for) without having the ability to speak to someone by telephone when a difficult situation has occurred? None of our customers would tolerate this -- why do we continue to allow Google to get away with it?
I'm not saying this author is right or deserving of the revenue (I don't have all the details or facts), but what is clear is that he has:
1. Earned Google a good bit of revenue
2. Appears earnest
3. Deserves to interact with a real human in a real way (not by automated emails without the ability to reply)
Why aren't more people appalled by Google's actions and the way they treat their partners?!
As an analogy, if you're a one-person developer, your problem is usually that you don't have enough users. You can participate in forum discussions with users of your software, fix bugs within days, send a personalized thank you e-mail for every purchase, all to provide exceptional level of service to grow word of mouth and get more customers. When you get to the size of Microsoft, that won't work anymore. Your expensive devs have to separated from users by layer of product management, your support calls cost you serious money and one troublesome buyer can cost you much more than he paid for in software etc.
Google finds itself in the same boat with AdSense. I don't know the exact scale of AdSense but it must be in millions of publishers and thousands of advertisers. Even a small number of people insisting you give them special consideration or explain in detail what exactly did they do wrong will burn incredible amount of support time and money.
It's clear why he was banned from AdSense and yet he wrote an epic post detailing his experience and inventing multiple reasons for why it wasn't so bad. Do you think that if someone at Google sent him a personal note explaining why he was banned, he would just say "oh, I get it now, you were so totally justified in terminating my account". No, he would keep badgering Google until they finally gave up responding and he would end up writing the same epic post, this time quoting extensively his correspondence with heartless Google employee who was not swayed by his obviously correct arguments.
Someone arguing with Google to not suspend their account has all the incentive to keep badgering Google until Google says "this is a final decision".
Google can't win this battle and they do the best anyone can do at that scale.
I agree right up to this point.
The economics of online advertising are extremely harsh when you add up the attention span of online users, the ease of fraud, and the feedback available to advertisers. It's a sea change that people need to come to terms with one way or another.
However the level to which Google dehumanizes publishers is quite likely to bite them in the ass. Enough of these articles and their publisher base will eventually shrink and open the door the competition. Now obviously the competition will not be able to change the economics, but PR is not Google's forté, and it's possible to do a much better job handling these incidents without any change in the economics.
It's maddening though in a time when people -- one would hope -- would have access to better customer service, yet, it feels things are as bad as ever. It’s hard enough to reach someone on an e-commerce site, forget social networks (1-800-FACEBOOK ain’t happening anytime soon). Little different scenario in this case, but you get the gist.
The only time they seem to make it easy to reach out to a real person is when you need/want to buy something.
Google has for all purposes a monopoly on mass-market web advertising
Full disclosure: I am employed by blip.tv.
They have, but it's always much more work, often more than a hobby would warrant
The "correct" response would be to pull all his videos from YouTube, move them to a competing service, and write Google to let them know why. Of course, this would unfortunately mean traffic would drop close to zero... (what's the closest competitor to YouTube right now?)
As an aside, now that he has been 'sacked' by google, google's making 100% of the advertising revenue from his videos instead of some lower amount. That's very convenient for google.
Were I the author, I would certainly not want Google continuing to profit from my labors if they ceased paying me.
Being in the content game is the easy part of the equation; ad sales is the hard part. You can take the easy road and join a network, making pennies on the dollar and potentially getting "sacked" by an algorithm, or you can pound the pavement and sell some ads to people. They're more profitable, you diversify your income, but it's not easy.
For pricing, decide how you want to get paid. You have 3 basic choices: CPM (per 1000 ad/page views), CPC (per click) and CPA (per action, i.e. someone clicks your ad and then buys something from that site). The easiest for you will be CPM. So, set your prices low, like at $2 per 1000 ad views. Raise prices based on demand. My best piece of advice is that you will not get rich from one site. You need to have several websites making a few bucks a day to make a living.
Also, those advertisers are most likely advertising on other ad platforms as well. AdSense is king of CPC, but other sites specialize in CPM and CPA. Check out Commision Junction to get some ideas. There are many ad networks out there. And, if you want to run your own ad network, there is open source software to help you setup and manage that too.
Re: fair prices - Totally depends on your content, your market, and how targeted you are to the advertiser's audience. There are plenty of sub-$1 CPM display ads, and I've been a part of buying $170 CPM ads. But you should only worry about this only after you have sold out your ad inventory. Anything is better than nothing.
What we have here is,
Google says he is click frauding.
He says he is not click frauding.
The real problem is, maybe Google is right and this guy is a click frauder. We don't really know because Google shows no proof, holds no trial, allows no mediated appeal. As a company, not a government, they can get away with that. But as companies get larger and larger what is the difference between a company and a government?
Government has many special powers. Government can issue new laws. Government can put you in jail. Government can legally spy on you as long as they have a warrant.
The accountability should be proportional to acts.
If you want to execute someone, you better hold a fair trial and provide ample proof of wrongdoing.
If you create a straightforward agreement where only use of your non-essential service is at stake, you don't need accountability at all. It says right there that the agreement can be voided at any time by any party for any reason.
The size of Google has nothing to do with it. They are using the same legal framework as everyone else, big or small. If you were running a 2-person startup offering a service over internet you would be a fool to not include similar clause in your agreement with the exact same amount of accountability.
If you don't like that such agreements allow Google to act that way, that's fine, but accept that if you eliminate this possibility for Google, you eliminate it for every other business, small or big, internet-based or not and that would not be a good.
We don't want laws that treat big or small companies differently in cases like this (regardless of which one would be favored).
Bad PR for google.. too bad you hear stories like this all the time.
Random idea for a biz opportunity here: A service that insures content providers against AdSense account termination by routing all of the clicks through a filter to prevent "overeager" clicking by your fans, in exchange for a small fee. If your AdSense account is terminated, you'll be paid for it (just like if your car is totaled, your insurance company pays for it)
Also, given that clickfraud is a danger to Google's core business, Google likely spent enormous amount of money and engineering to have best detection possible. Beating Google at their own game will be difficult (i.e. insurer will lose money whenever fraudsters are better than insurer's detection, but Google catches them).
I too got fired by Google's algorithm and didn't do anything whatsoever wrong. They are heartless.
Worse of all, this article does not mention the monopoly they have. They own the online ad market. No one else exists that is anywhere as good.
It's straight-up monopoly, and if you get on their black list, you're out.
And this bit about returning the funds to advertisers? Any advertisers ever gotten money returned due to click fraud?
I love Google and pay for lots of their products (docs/storage, appengine, etc) but the adsense stuff seems very shady on Google's side as well. Maybe it is my misunderstanding but I know noone making good money on Google Adsense.
Granted this dude was violating the ToS but I know plenty of people kicked just before payment and with no reason for it. It seems like smaller sites or medium content sites they are glad to use for free ad space until it comes time to pay dues. I imagine there is lots of free advertising space and metrics gained from these situations.
so do these people:
Now, go to pof.com and try to find yourself an AdSense ad today. They have their own ad network now: https://ads.pof.com
Shoemoney still has AdSense ads, but has diversified his income stream quite a bit. I'd be willing to bet that he doesn't see anything near what he had been making from AdSense in 2005.
Note that Google started offering Direct Deposit in 2005. :)
If you get banned from web AdSense, you also get banned from Youtube and from selling apps in the Android Market.
That's an ugly monopoly.
(edit) source: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdSense/thread?tid=590...
Fuck tha G-ride I want the machines that are makin em
I also spent a lot of time on line finding out why people get thrown out of the Adsense scheme and discovered that Google has three sets of rules you can break:
1. The ones in the very long contract that I confess I did not read very carefully
2. The rules that they try to explain in their many pages of Questions and Answers and FAQs
3. The rules they do not tell you about because they are secret and deal with their algorithms
You claim it's easy to violate the rules honestly. You do not provide any evidence for that claim.
In this particular case the guy admits to violating the rules by encouraging his visitors to click on ads. I think he was treated very fairly: his account was suspended, just like accounts of other people who do click fraud.
We're a game website -- auto-banned, appeal denied. We've done nothing wrong that we know of. Never encouraged clicking, never clicked ourselves. Since we have no access to the data, we'll never know what might have happened.
One strike -- you're banned for life.
I'll be at Google IO this year; my top priority is to find someone to talk to about this.
I know people say it's impossible to get unbanned, but I can't believe that's true. I'm going to keep trying, for years if I have to.
From the blog post you mention, it sounds like your issue is with AdSense. I'm not on that side of the company, so I'm not sure how much assistance I can help with. I can drop an email to some folks in AdSense, but that doesn't guarantee anything of course, and I suspect they're on vacation this weekend. I'll still try to send an email though.
OP's last communication from Google (emphasis added):
However, after thoroughly re-reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we're unable to reinstate your AdSense account.
You have made a lot of emphatic assertions on this thread, and I think many of them are wrong. Here you complain about a lack of evidence but then immediately misstate the facts. Please reconsider your approach.
He should then offer them direct advertisements on his website. Sounds like the ads were actually effective.
An ad buyer would of course want to do pay per sale instead of pay per click given the site's history :)
-Excessively complex user agreements
-Ability to arbitrarily suspend accounts
-Ability to void credited funds
Are there any other aspects that you (or anyone else) feel should be included?
Such businesses take huge risks since they are dealing with money and their bad phenomenons (tax evasion, credit-card/identity abuse, money laundry) without having real face-to-face contact and customer identification. Therefore, in order to stay competitive and manage their risk, they have in their agreements termination clauses which enable them to disable suspicious accounts unilaterally without providing explanations.
For both AdSense and PayPal, sustainable competition at feature-parity failed to appear. There aren't any agencies that allow a guy with only a few thousand impressions per month to earn a buck with a pay-per-click model, or any banks that allow you to open an account with them just by providing an email address. Which leads me to believe that the account closures are just part of the business model assumption which allows PayPalism corporations to manage their risk and survive.
But maybe I'm wrong and something better will emerge. The trick is to improve interactions with legitimate accounts while keeping abuse detection algorithms secret. Which might be a very, very difficult problem to solve...
And people are learning to adapt on both sides: e.g. people who sweep out their PayPal account constantly. Or those who have learned that you can hose a competitor if you make the programs think they're a fraudulent business.
And then there is reference in the article to another commenter mentioning the same in the comments which he then edited to remove.
Sounds like there was at least a reason to suspect - sad if the users did that on their own and he had to suffer due to their actions but I find it hard to believe strangers will do this for making another stranger money.
To an extent, HN readers click on "rate my startup" links out of the goodness of their hearts. In any small, tight-knit community (like sailing, apparently), members of that community will try to help each other out, even if they don't actually know one another.
It's not clear to what extent he encouraged clicks, but asking visitors to click your ads is like asking for your account to be terminated.
Too bad Google shoots first and never asks any question.
It's really comfortable to live in a space without meaningful competition.
Ultimately the advertisers are paying for your AdSense income. It may not be your fault, but if you're providing less value to the advertiser, then it seems only fair that you don't participate, since your participation harms the whole market.
This is undeniably a problem with the current AdSense business model, but we all know this, choose to participate and accept the risk.
It seems a natural solution to the problem. Would you be able to pipe back conversion rates based on where the banner was shown?
Also wouldn't surprise me if one person having multiple AdSense accounts is a violation of their terms.
I probably wouldn't have bothered with it until reading this, but I always hear every investment should be done with a separate entity and this seems to be no different.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but other countries don't interpret contracts so strictly. I remember someone telling me that German business contracts are often written with intentions and principles, rather than rules.
That way, people are encouraged to do "good business" and not resort to the algorithm. Legalese is just a way to cover your ass in a bad scenario; it's not designed to build better businesses.
Full disclosure: I work for blip.tv. I am biased.
Call me a cynic but I think they don't send any information on purpose.
They're not required to send information and Legal probably doesn't want anything sent out in these cases that involves writing from a non-lawyer.
I wonder how the customer service is going to be now that they are entering e-commerce space.
Example of click fraud: I get paid when users click my ads. The more money this website makes the less time I have to spend working hourly at Starbucks. Less time at Starbucks means more time working on my website, writing content, and making videos.
Btw, he says he was doing this in his blog post.
a : deceit, trickery; specifically : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right
b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick
He is deceiving the advertisers. They are paying for people interested in the ad, thats not what they are getting.
> The fact is that there is no tractable way for Google to separate people who are interested in supporting an ad-driven business from those who really are creating false ad traffic for financial gain.
Correct, but we can look at the average CTRs of other sites/blogs that focus on the same subject. That should give us a good understand of foul play (yes, of course there will be some false positives).
Should google have seized the revenue from his YouTube videos? Was he able to talk to someone and explain that they were separate things and get it worked our? No, again, arbitrary power.
The truth of the situation is: you click, I get paid. There is no moral value attached to such an action in and of itself. If anything, it is Google's own fault for putting itself in a position for charging advertisers to place ads in a medium it does not and cannot control. It is the very definition of a moral hazard.
What makes it particularly troubling is that Google not only owns the ad network but also controls the content distribution in the form of Youtube.
Google prides itself as a data-driven company, and this "false positive" is likely due to a "statistical likelihood" of click-fraud, but that's small comfort to a small business owner who does not have the resources to contest or appeal such a heavy-handed measure.
The problem here is that when something is questionable google exercises arbitrary power with no explanation or human interaction.
I got kicked out of ad sense because google said that ads were showing up on porn (my site is pure user generated content). I couldn't find it for the longest time, when I finally found it i was unsure how to handle it. It was text content that was in a foreign language which I didn't speak.
There was no way for me to talk to someone at google and resolve it.
> Oh yes, I was also running little blocks of adverts provided by Adsense and, yes, I told my subscribers that I got some money if they visited the websites of those advertisers – all of whom were interested in selling stuff to sailors.
So basically, I am paying for his boat project. People are clicking the ads in order to see his project continue, not because they are interested in the product. Sure, the correlation between users clicking the ads and users interested in the product is going to be a lot closer to 1 than -1. However, that does not justify what is going on... at the end of the day users are clicking the ads so he gets more money, not because they are _absolutely_ interested in the product.
I really don't know what else to say about this. Google makes it pretty clear that you cannot do this. Just because he didn't read the T&Cs and just because he is doing videos isn't going to give him a free pass.
I think google handled the situation poorly. They should pay him some amount, like the expected CTR for the ads that were displayed on his site. As far as Google never doing business with him, I think thats fine and correct... think of the big picture here.
Of interest is section 11's withholding clause, which states that the withholding is "pending Google's reasonable investigation". I don't know why it's there, if Google can terminate at its sole discretion at any time (which is can, according to Section 6). I think it's there to throw some legal chaff in the air and make it _seem_ like there's some protection, so the agreement isn't entirely one-sided. Section 11 (which provides a vague promise of investigation) does NOT survive termination of the agreement, according to section 6. So termination means the investigation is over, and means it never actually has to take place.
A fair agreement might require Google to return, to advertisers, confiscated funds. A fair agreement might also create a "suspended" state for an account, preventing termination until the results of a "reasonable investigation" are available.
Of course, IANAL. I am just reading what is there, which is what most of us have to do. Looks to me that Google can confiscate any funds it wishes, then terminate.
> Encourage users to click the Google ads using phrases such as "click the ads", "support us", "visit these links" or other similar language.
I agree with you though, not everything is entirely clear. There is no way Google can make a statement for every case that can possibly happen. They come up with these general rules followed by a 'we can do whatever we want' catch all.
I feel like I am defending Google way too much. I think the could have handled it a lot better, that said - I do think the end result was correct and I am not ready to scream google is evil like most people here seem to be doing.
So, if google wants to host other people's videos, they need to pay for them, unless people give the videos to google for free, as the video's are the creator's and thus copyrighted.
Sir, I believe you are on to something absolutely brilliant, and will undoubtedly become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.
What it boils down to is: if you rely on those earnings to sustain your business, guard against anything that tosses you into a suspicious category. And that is a moving target as well.
I do empathize with him, as I had to toil through AdSense appeal process, but that means diddly-squat.
There are unmentioned albeit publicly verified limits or thresholds that a publisher should abide by. It's in the publishers best interest to learn these, consult on what to do before ad-sense is enabled and what to do afterwards.
If he has that vertical market of subscribers he should deal with the boat insurance providers or other suitable advertisers himself.
Let the 1c become 500c or a lot more.
My experience was interesting and revealing. I had a bunch of domains (about 200) parked with GoDaddy in something called "cash parking". Not a money maker, but, what the heck. Once I realized that this was actually a service provided by Google I decided to look into cutting-out the middle man.
I looked into AdSense and found AdSense for Domains. Exactly the same service being offered by GoDaddy. I took all 200-some domains off GoDaddy, created an AdSense account and parked all of them with Google. They approved every single domain name and put ads on them. Great.
Two days later I get this email about fraudulent activity and the termination of my AdSense account. I appealed. No love. So, the termination was, effectively, forever.
Here's the irony of this story. The same 200 domains had been parked with GoDaddy for months without any issues. Serviced by Google. They even made a few bucks for all involved. The domains were not advertised in any way anywhere. I just parked them and went on with my business. This means that Google was responsible for sending traffic to these sites, every bit of it. About 50 of the domains were political in nature. Being that this was around election time my guess is that they got more traffic than usual, and, I guess, hits. I'll never know because the account was killed within two days of being formed with no data provided whatsoever.
So: Google sends traffic to the sites. The sites get clicks. They close my AdSense account. No appeal, no recourse, no human being to speak to. Bullshit!
Google needs to get sued in a major way to "reset" some of their behaviors. Why? Because they are a de-facto monopoly. Search is dominated by them. Video (YouTube) is dominated by them. Advertising (AdWords and AdSense) is dominated by them.
They do not provide for any intelligent way to deal with problems. They will tell you that you've done something wrong but will NOT provide proof, details nor an opportunity to rectify the problem. A likely scenario is that of someone just getting started who makes a few mistakes and needs to learn. Google does not provide for any of the above. They are judge, jury and executioner and a pretty mean one at that.
This fellow with the boat site probably deserved a slap on the hand for his site. He did no deserve to loose ALL OF HIS INCOME. They could have easily said something like:
"Your site-based per-click revenue is now 10% of normal during a probation period. These are the things you did wrong: link. Here's where you can see the activity and what happened: link. Here are the rules you need to pay attention to: link. The account will be monitored and your earnings percentage slowly increased as we see that these violations are rectified. We look forward to a continued relationship with <company name>".
...A far better approach.
If you are going to shut down someones entire revenue stream you need to have a humane and reasonable process to review the situation and seek resolution rather than hitting someone over the head with a sledge-hammer.
I don't know what will trigger this lawsuit. I do think that it is almost inevitable. They might even need to be broken into different verticals in order to make it all fair. I think they are playing a dangerous game. I think they are playing with fire.
The Google "do no evil" thing may have been a nice idea. However, as it pertains to AdWords/AdSense they are headed straight for evil-land if they keep on this path.
There's another topic: Google censorship. I think that, because they are a monopoly, they don't have the right to censor. They can't be in charge of what is and isn't appropriate on the web. Different issue.
GOOG: Dear $Client: our automated algorithm says you are engaged in click fraud. We are reversing payments made to you and confiscating what is in "your" account. Thanks.
$Client: Whaaa? (Furious form filling).
GOOG: Dear $Client: Based on the same information, our automated algorithm $still says you are engaged in click fraud. We are $still reversing payments made to you and confiscating what is in "your" account. All your comments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Thanks.
I haven't experienced anything with ad sense (never used it), but I have experienced the sorry excuse for customer service their automated systems produce.
A few years ago I did the web site for a small retail store, and set up the Google advertising for it. The average bill, per month, was around $500. After about a year, the credit card on the account expired, and a new one was needed. Something went wrong during the update process and the account stayed locked out, even though new credit card information had been entered. This was a situation that needed a human to look at it, for about 60 seconds, to fix the problem. Eventually that happened.
It took over six weeks, and dozens of pointless, automated message exchanges. That $500 a month we had been paying to Google wasn't worth even a _minute_ of a human being's time. For a small retail business that absolutely relies on Google advertising to bring in business (it's a highly researched, rare purchase), being cut off Google is a kiss of death. The phone will go from ringing 20 times a day, to ringing once a day.
For certain types of businesses, there's simply no alternative to Google. You're either there or you're dead. In terms of revenue/ad$, it was by far the best. The day the ads reactivated, the phones started ringing again. Looking back, I can't believe that I thought that the messages I was receiving from customer service actually meant they were looking at the problem. Knowing what I know now, I'd have a completely separate backup account ready to go at all times, with the same sets of keywords and bids, on the off chance that the main account was deactivated.
If this is how they treat people who are trying to _give_ them money, I can't begin to imagine how frustrating it must be to get money _out_ of them!
If I were participating in the AdSense program, Google could terminate me for writing this message, according to 5.(xi) of the US terms and conditions, which classifies as prohibited use "any action or practice that reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill".
Based on what you have written, you'd only be in AdSense by means of a shell corporation that didn't have your name on any public documents.
Once you have a monopoly on the market, the rules change as to what is acceptable behavior. Microsoft learned that lesson the hard way.