Google is billing the move--which comes the same week that a judge in Arkansas is weighing whether to approve a $90 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit concerning click-fraud--as an attempt to give advertisers insight into click fraud.
Previously, Google told advertisers how many clicks they were being charged for; those advertisers then could figure out the number of invalid clicks by comparing their site logs to the number of clicks billed to their accounts. Now, however, the number of clicks Google deems invalid will be easily available to all advertisers, even those who do not employ analytics, said Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google's business product manager for trust and safety.
Ghosemajumder said the company was offering marketers the additional information to provide them with more insight and hard data about click fraud. "There's a lot of misinformation and confusing information that have been provided to advertisers," Ghosemajumder said. "We see a lot of greatly exaggerated reports," he said. The extent of click fraud remains unknown, but some researchers have pegged the problem as significant. Outsell recently reported that search marketers believe that around 15 percent of all clicks are invalid.
The reports on invalid clicks will be available on a yearly, quarterly, weekly, or daily basis, but will not be provided on a granular, per-click basis--information that some advertisers were hoping to receive.
A Google spokesman said that the decision to keep the clicks aggregated on a daily basis was made for security purposes. "This is obviously a concern and, while we wanted to be transparent, we also did not want to put our filtering systems and advertisers at risk, so we were very careful about it," the spokesman said. "We are confident that this info is useful to advertisers but not malicious actors."
Joshua Stylman, managing partner at search engine marketing firm Reprise Media, said that the move, while not necessarily a major one, was still heartening. "It may not be the ground-breaking click-fraud news, but it is a development, and I think it's a positive development for the industry," he said.
Stylman said that while sophisticated marketers could already glean the data that Google is now providing, this would give the data to any advertiser who was running a pay-per-click campaign through AdWords. "Believe it or not, there are advertisers who are not yet tracking," he said. "Anytime there's something that hits the market like this, it's not just for the big guys, it's for the common denominators."