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Blogger Suggests Combatting Splogs with Click Fraud

Posted By Darren Rowse 25th of October 2005 Adsense 0 Comments

I’m a bit surprised by Mitch Ratcliffe’s suggestion on how to get Google to fix the BlogSpot Splogs problem. He recommends click fraud:

‘The solution to the problem it to click gratuitously and never make purchases on the links at blogspot sites and to keep doing so to drive down conversion rates. This likely will be interpreted as click fraud by the system and, if it isn’t, the advertisers are going to be so angry about the costs of these clicks that turn into nothing that they’ll drop the program or exclude BlogSpot from their placements.’

While I understand his reasoning (create a pain and Google will have to make changes when it starts to hit their hip pocket – and those of their advertisers) I definitely don’t agree with the method.

For starters if you do this and you’re an Adsense publisher (as Mitch is) it’s likely to get you banned through Google tracking your IP address. Keep in mind that Google has sued people caught for click fraud over the past year.

I also have an ethical problem with clicking on ads for non genuine reasons. Perhaps I’m going to get accused of being a goodie two shoes again – but click fraud is theft. Not only that – it takes money from innocent advertisers, puts it in the hands of spammers themselves (I can’t think of any way to encourage them to start more splogs faster) and can only harm the prospects of other genuine publishers as advertisers leave the system and/or decrease the amount that they are willing to spend on advertising.

I do acknowledge splogs are a problem – but I’m not convinced that click fraud is the answer.

found via seo book

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • While an interesting suggestion, it’s not going to do anyone any good.

    Splogs will continue – whether hosted on Blogger or hosted on their own servers. Most people who use splogs have in fact moved to hosting their own splogs because using Blogger isn’t as effective as it used to be and doesn’t have as many options as WordPress for pinging and auto-posting.

    This then becomes a situation the ping servers are left to deal with.

    Clicking on ads just for the purpose of getting a site shut down, a splog deleted will just do harm to the advertisers, legit bloggers, ond, as you mentioned, quite possibly one’s own Adsense account. Users are better off just clicking on the “Ads by Goooogle” link and flagging the site – as I understand it, Google is quite receptive to these complaints.

  • Surely it is better to just start massive “Google Volunteer Army” in which private people roam the web and notify all spam sites that they can find. We’ve had these in the past, but they never work quite right, however, this would be a real attempt to put the money into right hands.

    As a sidenote, I had big expectations on Google’s blog search, but it mostly returns just trash, algorithms are obviously easy to dope.

  • Probably the dumbest suggestions I’ve read, ever.

    Many seem to forget that advertisers pay for each click “fraud” – and many of those advertisers are small businesses. Such a suggestion, as Darren says, will only drive advertisers away and cause the whole system to suffer.

    I’m no tech geek but surely there’s a technical way to monitor/block click fraud from Google’s end and put a stop to it. What will no doubt happen if it gets worser, advertisers will start suing Google en masse forcing the situation – because at the end of the day who benefits from click fraud … splog owners and Google – and if you can’t get at the splogs then sorry, it’s Google to take the brunt.

  • Fraud is fraud, and promoting it is a good way to destroy online advertising for everyone. All online business have greater challenges when it comes to establishing trust, and eroding it in the advertising realm will make all bloggers make less money. And yes, it is that simple.

    Wrong begets wrong.

  • They should consider other solution.

    If fraud clicks are not detected, pity on those advertisers while the splog owners celebrate.

  • Matt Cutt’s recent post [ following the furore of the “Jagger” Pare Rank ], highlights a recent call from Google to all publishers to report Splogs and Spammers.

    After writing to “Google Support” as Matt now suggests we regularly do, to report a huge chain of “one” page SPLOGS which had my domain name illegally “hard coded” in to the footer, claiming we were a “Sponsor”… came back the terse reply 3 days later “we cannot find evidence of your Domain at the bottom of the submitted URLs. Your claim is being investigated by our specialist team of investigators”

    This was all of 3 weeks ago, and the Spammer is merrily using our domain name illegally to this date.

    So will we be heard….. appears not! Does Google care to do anything positive about it, apparently not!

    Hope your eye is fully recovered and you “can see clearly now ;)

  • Fraudulent clicking, whatever the motive, won’t help. In the short term it just makes the sploggers more money (this is why they’re doing it, right?). It hurts AdWords advertisers (driving away those providing AdSense publishers income stream is not a smart move), and as Darren says is likely to land you in hot water.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but trying to break Google ToS in this way is not really much better than running splogs.

    As for the Google Volunteer Army, it’d be nice at one level, but as a publisher I’d rather spend more time creating my own content – I don’t have time to actively patrol the net looking for spam (not that it’s hard to find).

  • I think google must be working on some intelligent algorithms to detect such spam and clicks

  • I’m fairly certain that they already have algorithms to detect this sort of activity in place. If you sit and click furiously on a site or two…. I really don’t think you’re going to manage anything at all, except maybe building up your clicking callous.

  • Click fraud is a serious crime, and i believe google will eventually drop the idea of intergrating google adsense into blogspot or any other blogs in the future, perhaps except for those that have their own domain names, which is why i am planning to get one soon.

    have you guys heard of GWEI? and if you think click fraud cost the advertiser only a few cents / dollars then you must be wrong. check out this post in my blog

    its about a group of people that actually admit that they practise click fraud and claim that they are the robin hood of the internet highway.

  • Paul

    Hi I don’t understand what a slog is, is it a site that takes all of another site content and doesn’t write anything themselves like this one?

  • Evan

    This is rather timely as I was going to send you an article earlier today (except your server was down at the time) about click fraud with google’s adsense.

    Thought it would be interest to you.

  • Splog = spam blog. Generally scrapes content from other sites (steals content), sometimes changing words. Recognisable by nonsensical sentences, repeating keywords, proliferation of AdSense or other ads, high posting frequency of similar content, comments turned off, and so forth.

    Often to be found lurking at the top of RSS feeds and blog search engine results, unfortunately.

  • The Pingoat guy has a site with a list of splogs. It’s not perfect, but it’s updated in real time. Maybe Google could use it.

  • Dehumanizer
    Thanks for the link, I was able to get a few people I know off that list

    With adsense being new and all, and finally coming into it’s own- obviously there is going to be a shift, either in the way google reads splogs or the way advertisors can ‘narrow down’ where their ads are placed. I think most departments of all companies goes through growing pains- we just have to be patient to wait it out, but continue to fight clickfraud as best we can.

  • Why should advertisers care? The ads are still targetted to the user who finds it through a search engine.

    If I’m looking for a new DVD player and I type DVD player in google and I get to a site that links to DVD players and I find an ad on it linking me to the dvd store. The advertiser shouldn’t mind.. infact i’m sure they love that.

    Before something can be done there needs to be a clear cut definition of what a blog is and what a splog is. Does simply having an RSS feed convert a web page into a “blog”? does linking to latest gadgets while having an RSS feed make it a splog? had some real “blogs” in their list.

    Since we’re on the topic of categorizing blogs vs splogs.. can any one give me an example of a “splog”? Also.. no offense to anyway… but are sites like slashdot and darrens photolog site example of splogs? because neither has actual CONTENT just latest NEWS… and whats wrong with that?

  • Surely the best way to eliminate the need for splogs would be for Google to review every site that wishes to display adsense, and perhaps be a bit more picky. Right now you just need an account for one legitimate site then you can put adsense anywhere you like. If every site were reviewed I’m sure there would be a lot less dross accepted and Adsense on Splogs would theoretically reduce.

  • While I mostly agree with you, my thoughts differ on one point.

    Fraud is fraud NOT theft. Sure, it may be considered just as wrong as theft, but that does not make it the same thing. This is similar to the “copyright infringement is theft” argument. No, copyright infringement is copyright infringement; theft is theft. There’s a distinction between the three for a reason; it’s a disservice to confuse it.

    Here’s a few online definitions for the two:
    theft: n. 1. The act or an instance of stealing; larceny.
    fraud: n. 1. A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain.

  • Ok Nicholas – I agree with your technical definitions. But what I was meaning in the spirit of the law is that clicking on ads is in effect taking money from another person in a deceptive way without them knowing it. In my mind this is stealing – theft.

    I know that’s not a legal definition – but it’s how I see it.

  • Who is Mitch Ratcliffe and why do we care what he says?


  • Dan

    Talk about timely.

    I’m finishing up moving what started out as a blog, onto its own domain (it will still be a blog, but it didn’t have a seperate domain, and now I can post more information). I’ve become very hesitant about posting my personal reviews, because last week somebody made me aware of a site that covers a larger area than mine (mine is a niche site).

    This site is taking reviews from many other sites, including some very large tech magazine sites, and posting them as their own. All the while they are running AdSense, etc. Thankfully, none of my reviews had been picked up (I took mine offline temporarily once I saw the site).

    They aren’t even changing the wording – you can take a sentence or two from every “review” they have posted and Google will turn up the proper owners. They’ve pulled off a PR of 5 as well. There is no credit given anywhere on their site (not that they would – I don’t know of any major site that would say “you can reprint our entire review”).

    I was actually going to email Darren and get his opinion on what to do, because it could affect a site that he runs as well. I’m hesitant to say anything to Google, because I’ve gotten the impression they are aren’t too concerned from what others have said. I’m tempted to contact the publishers of the original reviews, and may go down that path.

  • Google should make should give an option to exclude blogs hostedn on blogspot. I know that advertisers can already do this but an option just for blogspot would let advertisers know that Google is serious about nipping splogs in the bud.

  • Horrible idea.

    It’s against the TOS for adwords/adsense and it unethical.

    Why is it that the solution is scorched earth or nothing at all?

  • That is the most outrageous idea I’ve ever heard.

    There are plenty of people, including myself, who have legitimate and useful blogs on BlogSpot and who have AdSense added to try to make a little extra money.

  • Darren,

    Looking back at my comment, I can’t believe I wrote that. I have a constant change of minds when it comes to commenting. Anyway, my point (I think) was that in this case you’re not taking the money for yourself. In fact, you’re hoping the clicks will be detected as fraudulent. Sure, it’s a dumb idea, but it doesn’t equate to theft. I don’t think click fraud is even an illegal action. Come to think of it, I’m not sure it’s even morally wrong either. As a web surfer, shouldn’t users be able to click on anything they want.

    As a matter of fact, I don’t even think that click fraud is a problem for online advertising. Look at it this way, it’s the equivalent of people flipping the channel during television ads. The price of them is equated into the price of the medium.


  • I look at it like this:

    A magazine is paid by advertisers to show their advertisements in the magazine. A company sets aside money for their advertising budget with the hopes that they get enough purchases (and then some) to cover that cost alone. I haven’t paid to advertise my blog yet (all of it has been word of mouth, or being linked by more popular basketball blogs), but likely will – I have nothing to sell, but the hope is by paying and attracting more visitors, it’ll create a larger audience and create more advertising revenue – or hopefully cover the costs that I spent promoting the site.

    I have been to many sites and clicked on an ad to compare prices of various products. iPods, computers, cell phones, sports memorabillia, etc. Have I purchased anything yet? No, likely cause I’ve been in no real rush to get any of those things yet, but will be as Christmas draws near.

    A company takes a risk when they pay to run an ad through Google. If someone clicks but doesn’t purchase anything they need to expect that. I will expect that when I start up some of my other sites. Maybe they’ll come back later and purchase something. Or maybe, they’ll see that site is offering a better deal than another site and refer someone to it, and that will equal a sale.

    It’s just like watching TV or buying a magazine. A company may advertise on it, and many people may see it, but they’re taking the risk of nobody buying something and that’s all about setting money aside for an advertising budget. I understand I’ll be taking the exact same risk.

    By the way, Darren – great site. Been coming here for about seven months, and your wealth of knowledge never ceases to amaze me.


  • That splogspot site is worse than worthless. I picked half a dozen at random and none of those I picked were splogs in any way shape or form. Not necessarily blogs I’d visit again, but not an RSS scraper or keyword spammer in the lot.

    And Darren, for what it’s worth, fraud can be theft, so you were perfectly correct to call it that.

    Sorry Nicholas. ;)

  • Jeremy – thanks for your comment. The difference between TV/magazine ads is that the advertiser pays when you click. So when someone who has no interest in the ad clicks the ad knowing that the advertiser will pay, knowing they have no interest or intention in the ad – then that is an unethical behavior.

    I have no problem with people doing what you do and using the ads to shop around because you have an interest in the products and if you saw the right deal I’m sure you’d buy one – but what Mitch is suggesting is that we go out and click random ads with the intention of causing pain. To me that just doesn’t sound like the solution to anything.

  • I’ve got an idea – get that Volunteer Army together and get Google to pay out all click-through funds generated by a splog to the first person that reported a confirmed splog.

    Heh…if it worked properly (knowing the way spammer’s minds work), you’d end up having spammers building bots to automate the hunting sploggers in order to steal clickthrough cash. Nice little thought, that. T’would keep them all twisting around each other in a spamaliscious double-helix of death.

  • As the author of the posting so many of you find outrageous, let me just say that it would be a good idea to go and read the whole thing rather than the excerpt here, as well as the follow-up posting here (

    At no point do I suggest click fraud, what I suggested is that when bloggers receive spam postings they go to the sources of those sites and click the ads there. It would not target legitimate Blogspot (or other hosts that facilitate splogs) publishers, just the abusers. It would not be “random.”

    This would create pain for advertisers—it won’t drive them away, because AdSense works—but it will make them demand Google explain why they are getting much lower conversion rates. They will petition Google for relief, which is what advertising customers do (and I speak from experience as a publisher). These kinds of campaigns could be conducted in narrow timeframes by groups of bloggers who are tired, as I am, of cleaning spam postings out of their comments and trackbacks.

    Finally, there is a general tone that this is wrong because it is bad business. I am suggesting a political statement, not a business decision. If Google bans me for clicking other people’s ads, they would have to prove I was commiting fraud, which is not the case if I am clicking on ads on other people’s sites. I’m justs surfing. But, frankly, if Google cut off AdSense on my site it would do nothing to my ability to earn money from the site. There are other ad programs that will pay me a few dollars a month, too.

    We shouldn’t be so timid about the information environment we live in. Google’s contributing to information pollution and we should act to stop them.

  • Kevin

    What a ‘tard. Whines about injustice, yet recommends it as a solution. You have to give him a break though,as folks like these aren’t usually the sharpest tools in the shed.

    “I’ve got an idea – get that Volunteer Army together and get Google to pay out all click-through funds generated by a splog to the first person that reported a confirmed splog.”

    Here’s a better idea – instead of donating your time to Google, how about donating it to a cause that could really use it.

    On a related note, you gotta love how Google so effortlessly was able to convince this “Volunteer Army” to do Google’s job – completely FREE OF CHARGE! Kool aid anyone?

  • Joe

    I must admit, I am open to testing this theory. I going to see how long it takes to get M.R. adsense account disabled. How? By following his own suggestion. I mean, it’s not like we don’t already have enough “political pollution” on the web these days.

  • Darren,

    You’re completely right. I just misinterpreted something else you had said incorrectly. I see now!


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  • Splogs hurt an advertisers brand for appearing on such sites.
    When advertisers brands get wounded – they stop advertising with that network.

    I’ve seen several large brands pull all contentual advertising from AdWords.

    This leads to less advertisers, less competition, and lower payouts for legitimate customers.

    Splogs will hurt legit publishers, it’s just a matter of how much.