Goodbye Google - You're Being Evil

You know, I used to like Google.

by Osman Parvez

GoogleThe first time I heard of Google was 1998 and I was in grad school working on a class project. My partner on the project, David Officer (a Canadian with a sharp sense of humor) asked me if I had tried Google yet.

"Tried... what?" I asked

"Google, it's a wicked new way to search. Much better than Yahoo or Webcrawler."

So I tried it. And David was right, very right.

Since then, Google has been a regular part of my computer use. And as services have been added, I've enthusiastically tried them out. I love Google Desktop, Google Maps, Blogger, Gmail, and Picasa. I'm a little less enthusiastic about Google Spreadsheets, Froogle, Google Finance, and Google Calendar but I'm still a heavy Google user.

So, it was an easy decision to give Google Adsense a try when we launched and this blog. Afterall, Google "Boulder, CO" and you'll get 64 million results. Having a good web site alone wasn't going to drive traffic to our business.

Google's AdWords solution offered promise.

So I went to AdWords, set up a little budget, created a few ads, and let her loose on my credit card. Sure enough, we started to get more clicks. Although the price per click to be on the top line started ratching up (now $1.70 or so) at least it looked like I was getting real traffic. But now, several months after we launched the ad campaign and hundreds of clicks later (according to Google), I've noticed something odd.

First the conversion rate is horrible. With every hundred site visitors we might get one promising lead. Even more importantly, the hundreds of clicks Google said I was getting weren't showing up in the stats package on my site (AWStats). According to that statistical analysis, only a trickle of hits were coming from Google Ads.

So, am I the victim of click fraud? Why was Google claiming all these hits when I wasn't seeing them on my end. And with only a handful of actual leads coming from Google Ads, was it even worth it?

So the other day, I paused my ad campaign and sent Google a message asking to explain the discrepancy. The next day I got a form email back explaining in very vague terms how Google works hard to verify the validity of all clicks. And that the discrepancy I was seeing was probably just my website failing to register the traffic.

Let's see. Google sells clicks and Google decides which clicks are valid or not. Meanwhile Google won't show you how many valid or invalid clicks you've received. Since Google benefits massively from fraudulent clicks, what's the incentive to self police? Hmm...

Today I got a survey in my email asking about the quality of Google's response. You can probably guess how I responded. In any case, my Google AdWords account will remain paused until I can be sure that these clicks aren't fraudulent. At this point, there's nothing reassuring me other than Google's vague and completely disconnected form response.

Google, your slogan is "Don't be Evil." What happened to you?

Image: Google

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