We recently reported that Google is taking millions of dollars in payments from publishers whose web sites break the company’s search advertising rules.
But a former Google employee, Fili Wiese, just told Business Insider why Google takes these actions. In doing so, Wiese debunks one of the conspiracy theories about Google’s AdSense payments: That the company takes the money in order to boost its own bottom line.
Wiese worked for Google from 2010 through 2012, where he was a senior support engineer in the company’s Dublin office. He was specifically tasked with preventing click fraud. He now runs Search Brothers, an SEO consultancy.
The back story: Google faces several lawsuits over this issue. Super-successful web sites can rack up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per month through AdSense, Google’s search ad placement product for web sites. But if Google decides that those web sites are breaking its rules — by forcing users to click on ads or if botnets are clicking on the ads — then Google will cancel the payments to the publishers. The problem is that many of these publishers don’t know whether their sites are in violation or not. They even ask Google sales staff for help and get told they’re within the rules — and then Google takes all the money, tanking their business.
Publishers face lifetime bans from Google if they fall afoul of Google’s rules. Google recently admitted it might have been a bit harsh in the past and was going to consider more factors before kicking publishers out of the system.
Wiese, in a comment under our report on Google AdSense/publisher conflicts, noted that Google actually has no incentive to reverse payments to publishers. Google is not keeping the money, he says:
So one thing that may not be clear here is that Google loses money too when a publisher gets banned. All money that is not paid out is in full returned to the advertiser, so Google also does not make any money.
It is also important to keep in mind that Google is the client and the publishers are the suppliers. The publishers are responsible for the quality of the traffic they are delivering to the advertisers of Google. Google AdSense is just the platform which makes this easy and possible.
If the publisher delivers traffic that can result in invalid clicks then the advertiser is paying for this. The trust of the advertisers is of utmost importance. Without this Google AdSense would not be possible at all. Ask yourself, would you want to keep paying for low quality products, such as invalid clicks?
PS I was part of the Google Ad Traffic Quality team (also known as the clickspam team or invalid clicks team) when I worked for Google. More information about the policies can be found at http://g.co/adtrafficquality.
Why is this interesting? Google itself is loathe to comment on the unpaid revenues, because it doesn’t talk about individual clients and it also doesn’t want to give bad guys clues on how Google keeps its system clean and detects cheating. So it’s nice to hear ex-Google insiders explain the issue in plain English.