We've got the pandemic that’s basically tearing the world apart. We've got Amazon and Walmart reducing their commissions on their affiliate platforms. We've got Google releasing algorithm updates and sometimes crushing businesses overnight.
And now, as if 2020 wasn't already an ugly enough year, we've got this Google AdSense thing that's going on, where people are losing money due to invalid clicks. I was one of those people, and it was very ugly.
Now, I talked about this in my July 2020 income report quite a bit, but I have really, really been hit hard by this AdSense invalid click issue; I've lost a lot of money over it.
That said, now that I've worked through a lot of the problems happening with AdSense, I'm creating this video to help anybody else who might be impacted by the same issue.
So, if you're using Google AdSense for any monetization on your website, make sure that you stay tuned because you may be impacted by this problem with invalid clicks and not even know it.
WATCH THIS BLOG POST IN VIDEO FORMAT
First, let me give you a little bit of background about the situation. So basically, I woke up one day expecting a $16,000 check from Google AdSense, but I checked my bank account and it was an $8,000 check, which is not good. As I was looking into it, I didn't know what was going on, and then I realized that Google had taken all this money from me because of an invalid click issue.
Spreadsheet on how much they’ve taken so far
This was weird because I've never had that issue before. If you look at this spreadsheet, you can see exactly how much they've taken from me this year. I have to be honest, the number is shocking.
As you can see, last year my invalid click rate for the same set of websites, same ad layout, same everything, was less than 1%. In other words, I got less than 1% of invalid traffic every month.
However, in January of this year, that number went to 1.17% and got all the way to 63% last month, which is obviously a very bad situation. If you click on this link, it's right there for you to view.
AdSense email support hasn’t been helpful
When I noticed this problem I reached out to Google support, which, unfortunately, is just an email. They just weren't very helpful; they were pretty vague in their answers.
So, if you're dealing with a similar situation, you're probably going through the same thing I did. I tried to find out if this was actually a widespread problem because originally I thought it was just me.
Other people are having the same problem
But it's not. There are actually a lot of people going through this. As you can see in the screenshot below and on this link, or this link, these are community posts about it. One person says in February, “47% of my earnings deducted as invalid traffic.” There are a lot of people complaining about this problem.
Now, the website where I make most of my AdSense revenue didn't change. I didn't do anything different, but it just seems that Google has changed an internal policy. They've made it so that certain times they've detected an invalid click ad.
Why Is This a Big Deal?
So, why is this a big deal? Well, first of all, you're losing money, which is no good.
Google can (and often does) suspend your AdSense account for this
Probably the scariest thing is that Google can, and will, suspend AdSense accounts that have really high invalid click activity. You don't want to get your account banned, so you have to fix it as soon as possible. However, you won't have much help from Google support from my experience.
From what I've seen, the numbers keep going up
And they're going to continue to go up for you. Maybe you'll get lucky, and the way that everything went down for me won't happen to you. But for me, that's what happened. They kept going up.
Google announced a crackdown on this previously
I do want to point out that Google announced they were going to do a crackdown on invalid clicks recently. As you can see below in the Search Engine Journal, they announced the crackdown on invalid clicks on August 22nd, 2019.
Basically what they're saying is, “We're enhancing our defenses even more by improving the systems and identifying potentially invalid traffic or high-risk activities before ads are served.” In theory, this was supposed to make it so that if anybody was trying to show an ad on their website and they had an invalid activity or invalid clicks, it would never even show the ad.
I don't think that that really happened the way they planned it, and maybe this is part of that. I really don’t know. But I did notice that this is the only article that talks about them changing some of their policies internally.
How to Fix AdSense Invalid Clicks
Now, you're probably thinking, “Okay, great. So how do I fix the AdSense issue?” That's what you're really here for. So, let me explain.
Join an ad network
The first thing that you can do to completely fix this very, very quickly, is to join an Ad network. When you do this, it's the Ad network versus Google. It's not Ron versus Google, or Tim or Bob or Sandra—whatever your name is.
If it's just you versus Google, you're losing that battle, I promise you. You can even try bringing a lawyer in, but you're done. However, when you join a network, it's a little bit different because that network has a lot more power with Google than you do. They have a lot of different advertisers, and they probably have a direct contact at Google as well.
So, who should you choose as the Ad network?
Now, I chose Ezoic, and you can click here to use my affiliate link. If you use that, I would be grateful. It helps support me in everything that I do and pays for my editor.
But, the reason why I went with Ezoic and why I like them, is that they allow you to segment your traffic so you can basically sync your website up with them. Then you can show 50% of your traffic through Ezoic and the other 50% through whoever else you previously had.
I think that's pretty cool because you can test them apples to apples to see which one pays more. Also, if you want to, you can join AdThrive, Mediavine, or Monumetric—there are a lot of different ones out there.
Next, you can use Mediavine. Mediavine is a little bit higher. They require 50,000 page views a month.
Finally, the top tier is AdThrive, and they require that you have 100,000 page views every single month.
I do want to say, in my own experience, these ad networks typically make you more money than Google AdSense ever would anyway. So, don't think that once you join them, just because they have a fee, it's not worth it. It is definitely worth it most of the time, and it's definitely worth testing.
Things to look for
But if you're thinking, “Well, that's great Ron, but I'm really not sure I want to switch over just yet. I might want to handle this myself,” then here are some things you can look at.
First off, as you can see below, the definition of invalid traffic, which is what really leads to invalid clicks, is, “impressions generated by publishers clicking their own live ads.” If you're not doing that (and I never did that), then let's move to the next one.
Here it says they are, “repeated ad clicks or impressions generated by one or more users.” This could be something. If people are clicking on links or clicking on ads, and then going back to your website and then clicking again, they're now determining that that's an invalid click.
I don't know how long that's been in place, or if that's really the issue that I'm experiencing. I know that that happens. But that could make sense.
Are you encouraging accidental clicks?
Next, we have “Publisher's encouraging clicks on their ad.” So, this would happen when you say, “Make sure you click below to support me.”
That's a big no-no with AdSense. You can't do that.
Are you using automated clicks?
Lastly, it says, “Automated clicking tools or traffic sources, robots, or other deceptive software.” This is when you have something that clicks on all those ads for you, which is basically criminal. That's someone who is clicking and just making money from Google and Google is going to detect that. They have a lot of systems in place to stop that.
So, if you're doing one of those things, that's a big problem. Just stop doing it. But if you're looking at it and you're like, “Okay. Well, I'm not personally doing any of those things. I don't really know what's going on,” then let's move to the next step.
Here are some guidelines according to Google.
Let’s talk about the guidelines. How can you help prevent invalid traffic? Understand your ad traffic and your site visitors. Use analytics to understand who's actually coming there and where they're coming from.
Avoid partnering with untrusted or low-quality parties
These are basically some publishers that are just pushing traffic out as much as they can, and some of that is low-quality traffic. This can actually negatively impact your AdSense account, so don't click on your own ads. Even if you think it's okay to do so, just don't do it. That's just bad practice, and it’s not going to be worth it.
Double and triple check your implementation. A lot of times people put code in wrong or something, and that's why this occurs.
Try the AdSense help forum
Lastly, go to the AdSense help forum. I'm going to go ahead and say, I doubt that that's going to be all that helpful for you, but that's just what they're telling you to do here.
Now, let's talk about a real-world scenario here—the one that I went through and the things that I checked. First, I checked if I was encouraging accidental clicks. This would be when somebody scrolls down the screen and they mean to click a menu button, but all of a sudden the ad pops up and they accidentally click the ad.
Maybe you did it on purpose, or maybe you didn't. Most of the time I feel like people don't. I didn't do it on purpose, but I've had that happen before because I just didn't know programming. So, I had to have someone help me with that. But that was definitely not the cause this time.
Are you disclosing sponsored links?
Also, I was told by their support team via email to disclose that it is sponsored links above the ad in the content of the page. I thought that was really unfair because I looked at all my competitors and they weren't doing it. don't know if that's really the best advice, but that's one thing that they told me to do. Honestly, it didn't really fix the issue.
Check your traffic sources—anything fishy?
Next, check your traffic sources. This is a big one. Go to Google Analytics and look at how much traffic is coming in and find out where that traffic is coming from. If anything looks fishy, or really off, you might have your competitor or some random person sending bots over to your website and they're clicking the ads and Google's detecting that.
In that case, you're going to have to work with somebody to get that fixed. Luckily, I didn't have that problem. I looked in Google analytics and it wasn't what was happening to me.
Are you buying traffic and accidentally performing ad arbitrage?
Then, you have to make sure you’re not buying traffic and accidentally performing ad arbitrage.
That would mean that you're buying traffic from other sources for two, three, four cents a click. Then they're coming to you en masse and clicking your ads. If that is happening, that's ad arbitrage, which is actually against Google AdSense policy.
It's very clear that they do not like people doing that. That sounds crazy or whatever, because it's like, “Okay. I figured out a way to game the system.” But for whatever reason, they've decided that is not allowed.
If none of the above, what is the easiest way out?
For me, it was none of the above; I couldn't find an answer. I didn't know. All of a sudden the clicks skyrocketed, nobody could tell me what was going on. But the easiest way out you guys is to just join an Ad Network and let them fight the battles for you versus Google.
As I said, I’m with Ezoic and they have an invalid click fraud detection built into their system. They haven't been detecting anything, so I don't know really what happened here.
If you're in the same situation, then use my link for Ezoic. I'd appreciate it. If you don't want to join Ezoic, and you have the page views to join the other ones, then join the other ones—that's fine. Just make sure it’s not you versus Google because again, you're going to lose that battle.
Hopefully, this post helps you if you're dealing with the invalid clicks thing. If you are, God bless you. I know that situation. I know what it feels like to get that sinking feeling in your stomach when you're waking up looking for a check and it's not there. It's pretty brutal.
It's an awful time for this to happen, but it's just something that's happening in 2020 for whatever reason.