Google Ads: Pros and Cons and Click Fraud

Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary recently switched from using Google Ads to serving up his own banner ads (Howard has posted the relevant portion of his post as a comment below. Click the title of this post to read it).

If you are using it or thinking about it here’s some links on it you might want to look at: “15 Common Mistakes by Google Adsense Publishers that Violate Terms of Service”; and “Click Fraud: What It Is, How to Fight It”.

Also, this week the Register reported that Google has been sued by plaintiff Click Defense for breach of contract, negligence and unfair business practices over its Adwords ad program.

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.


  1. Until my site’s blog archives are back online, here’s the relevant text, excerpted from the June 27th “Open Letter”.

    Google Adsense was working swimmingly until last Thursday morning, when Google emailed me and suspended my account for “invalid clicks.” It’s embarrassing, especially in light of my enthusiastic recommendations of the Adsense service to others in this and similar industries. It is additionally frustrating to learn nothing useful from the experience that I could pass on. Had I been clicking on ads, or encouraging others to do so, perhaps I could offer sage advice and say “don’t do that.” Google defends their proprietary algorithms with aplomb approaching temerity. It is possible that well-meaning fans simply outdid themselves and clicked too much. It is also possible that Darth Hackamous and his army of clickdroids deliberately targetted my account. Google’s Terms of Service allow them to say nothing further on the matter, and they’ve said lots of that. At this point the only people I have enough information to get angry at are nameless Google employees whose employer can sue me for defamation thanks to these same Terms of Service. Hey, I signed the agreement, and I accepted money for it. There’s no point in me being bitter, unless I want to taste really bad if I get eaten.

    (Note: there are also some very nice, non-nameless people who work for Google, and with whom I’ve corresponded pleasurably both prior to and subsequent to the events of last Thursday. I’m not in the least bit angry with them.)

    There you go, and you didn’t even have to link over to Schlock Mercenary to read it.

    I took a close look at the “15 common mistakes” article, and, as I expected, I wasn’t making any of those. I had a few meta-tag keywords in place through mid-May, but a) there were only about eight words there, and b) I pulled ’em a month ago, just to be on the safe side.


  2. To be honest the click-through ad model is nonsense in my opinion. People don’t pay for advertising on television or in magazines based on wether or not their research indicates people immediately went out upon seeing the ad and visited the retail location why the hell should that matter for the web.

    Advertising isn’t about making people visit your retail location right now it’s not even about making people buy your product right now. Advertising is about getting your product into the public consciousness so that 1) they will evaluate their need for such a product and 2) if they feel they need the product they will be more likely to consider your product over your competitors similar product.

    Advertising on the web should simply be sold either by time slot the way I do, or by number of adviews the way some other people do it. Click-through simply exploits content providers by having them give free advertising to someone’s product and raising it’s presence in the public consciousness. It’s a scam. Especially if someone visits my site 1000 times, sees the ad 1000 times, considers wether the product is of interest to them, then later visits someone else’s website sees the same ad they’ve seen 1000 times on my site and decides to click on it to investigate further. I’ve raised the product’s presence in the viewers consciousness but it’s the random schmuck who just happens to be there when he decides to click on it who profits from it all.

    No sir, I don’t like click-through payment schemes one bit. Perhaps as an added bonus but I think advertisers should have to pay for their advertising reguardless of clicks.

  3. Howard, the last time I checked, you actually had your meta filled with terms that your comic wasn’t about. Same goes for the folks at Blank Label Comics who still say their comics are for “fans of Halo, Dvd, blah blah blah— It’s not a good thing to do.— they will call that invalid clicks if you break any of the terms of service.

    I also know some people who have been kicked out for ONE SINGLE MISTAKE CLICK! And also, Google does track clicks, so if someone from an IP clicked your ads ever day the max number of times, and there were too many people doing that every day, they will take you out of the program. — I would have thunk they would have warned you first though, as they have with other publishers… but placing anything misleading in your meta to try to serve up higher paying ads is a big no-no.

  4. I personally think click-thru ads only work for larger traffic sites. The little guy showing the ads isn’t going to get anything if nobody’s clicking. I’ve had almost 5,000 adviews since I started using Adsense and not one single click-thru. That’s wasteful. Especially since I’d actually make something if I rented that space out at a decent rate, and other webcomics would benefit from the advertising instead of Default Dan’s ad not getting any clicks.

  5. 1) It wasn’t about meta tags. I got that much from them.

    2) I got re-instated today. Dunno how soon I’ll bother to put the ads back, because the stuff I’m running now pays better, but having the choice is nice.


  6. Web advertising is in its infancy. The impression model, the click-through model, a hybrid of the two… it’s all an attempt by businesses to leverage the high traffic on free-content sites, and to a greater or lesser extent, it all works.

    Click-through is GREAT for Google Adwords and search. People search not knowing what will come up, and positioning your ad to be clicked on is worth the money.

    Click-through stinks for comics with deep archives, where the LAST thing somebody wants to do is click on something other than the “next comic” button.

    Click-through isn’t going to go away, though. Google, advertisers, and publishers are all having too much success with it.


  7. If you could have an ad banner server system that was perfect for webcomics, what would it look like and how would it work?

    I do not ask this idly. I’d really like to know.


  8. It’s not a technology problem, Joey. It’s a market problem. Advertisers do not appear to have valued impression OR click-through sufficiently to support any but a very few content publishers.

    A perfect system for webcomics would PAY more, and Adam Smith’s invisible hand would put the smackdown on that in a hurry. Unless webcomics can show more value to advertisers, they won’t get paid as much as they need to for their ads.

    Solving THAT problem — showing value to advertisers — could be done with existing technology. But the process I’m imagining is one that our readers would not appreciate, since the value advertisers want is the ability to narrowly target not just demographics but INDIVIDUALS. Embedding that kind of tech in our sites would drive ad prices up (good for us!) while invading the privacy of our readers (bad for them, and hence bad for us.)

    The alternative: more readers. The nice thing about the business of webcomics is that it scales really, really well. The perfect advertising system for webcomics, advertisers, and readers is one which scales up to millions of pages per day, accomodates advertiser desires for saturation or “trickle,” and which (here’s the kicker) gets put on a comic that gets several hundred thousand unique IPs per week.


  9. I can follow that logic, but not all comics are going to have the same number of readers. Some strips have been up as long as PA and still only have about 6 fans. And inversely, you’re going to have the strip that’s been up for a week with a thousand daily readers. Not all strips are going to eventually have Sluggy-like numbers, anyway, but increasing readership is probably the best answer all around. More readers means more viewers of said ads, means more advertisers wanting to advertise, and having more readers in general is just a nice thing until you start talking bandwidth issues. I don’t think there’s any one system that works best for advertising on webcomics, at least not yet. There are too many factors involved. Webcomics in general are still in their infancy. (Compare to their newspaper counterparts and their 100+ year history.) Not to mention each site and each comic can be vastly different

  10. The comparison to print comics is especially apt. Consider that most syndicated cartoonists are not able to cartoon full-time.

    It’s true. Some are, and obviously the ones that we’ve all read are in that category, because their stuff is in all the papers. But MOST syndicated cartoonists are NOT in all the papers, and have to do other work on the side to make ends meet.

    The answer for them is the same as the answer for webtoonists: GET MORE READERS. The mechanics of advertising are irrelevant until the market is large enough.


  11. I find it very amusing that three of the Google ads showing up on this very page (at least at this particular moment when I’m looking at it) are all about “How to beat the AdSense system” and/or “List of top AdSense Keywords.” The fourth ad, the one at the top, is for AdSense itself.


  12. I have a question for any UK (or other Euro) webcomic authors who run AdSense. How long did you have to wait for the letter from the States with your PIN? I’ve been waiting for two and a half months, and for two months for the second request 🙁

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