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Google, judge, jury and executioner

Filed under: Information,security

Last month I decided to put Google AdSense on my SpOfferZ website.

SpOfferZ Logo

You may know SpOfferZ is a site where businesses can upload coupons and special offers. They get one free SpOffer every 30 days. After 30 days it’s deleted and then they can add another free offer for 30 days and so on. Visitors to the site can print and use the SpOfferZ for free. It’s a solid concept and something that will continue to grow.

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “If it’s free how will you ever make any money?”
That one question seems to scare off more businesses than anything else. The short answer is that we are selling advertising, along with offering premium packages where merchants can have more than one SpOffer or have it last longer than 30 days.

The site is built in a way that it can run itself, even on a pretty large scale with little or no cost to me. I believe that information, once it’s digitized becomes an infinite resource with almost no cost to store or distribute. So, my primary goal initially is to build traffic and boost the number of businesses offering SpOfferZ using those free, unlimited resources, not really selling anything until it’s more established.

Of course, it would be nice to make some money and one of the really nice thing about the Google Adsense program is that they let you place advertisements on your site, no matter what it’s size or traffic and will pay you every time a visitor clicks on one of those ads. I’ve used it before on this site and several customer’s sites with pretty good results. I placed these ads on the SpOfferZ site thinking it would be a good way to make a few bucks until the site does build some large scale traffic and momentum.

We were doing pretty well, had made a few bucks and things seemed fine until last week when we got an email from Google telling us that our account had been disabled for “invalid click activity”. I have never received an email like this, but I knew just what it meant. They suspected us of clicking on our own ads to get paid or perhaps hiring someone else to do it. I know we didn’t do that, but it’s impossible to find out from Google what the exact problem is, so it makes the issue very difficult to explain. I did tell them that we didn’t do anything wrong that we know of ourselves and are following their rules.

This got me thinking that if you know what you’re doing it may be just as easy to disable a competitors account as it would be to drain the funds of competitors buying ads. Since Google doesn’t tell anyone what they are doing to combat click fraud it may not be public knowledge, but I’m sure the methods are available. It’s also possible that they are more concerned about their advertisers being robbed than they are losing websites posting their ads. I would probably error on their side. From what I can tell Google does a pretty good job of policing all of this fraud, but if they aren’t how would anyone even know?

I filed an appeal and today they told us that they have it and will check into what’s wrong. Unfortunately no one but Google even knows what’s wrong, let alone how to fix it, so it could go either way. There are other advertising alternatives and we may have to switch, but I would rather not. I’ll let you know how this turns out.

I would love to hear if you or your business have had any experience with this kind of thing and any possible Adsense alternatives.

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