Details On The Google AdSense/Ad Buyer Exploit

Aug 14, 2017 • 8:36 am | comments (32) by | Filed Under Google AdSense

Google Adsense Hack

As many of you know, Google confirmed an AdSense exploit where ad buyers were able to manipulate the ad platform which resulted in many AdSense publishers noticing a huge decline in CPCs.

Google's statement to publishers complaining about dropping CPCs in the forums was:

Over the past 48 hours, a number of AdSense publishers alerted us to an issue with declining cost-per-click for ads on their sites. We were able to identify the cause of the issue quickly and resolve it quickly: Several ad buyers were using irresponsible campaign parameters, lowering query coverage for specific creative types in some countries. The ad buyers responsible have been blacklisted and impacted publishers should see that their coverage is back to normal in their AdSense account.

One of our sources were able to explain how this happened and since I now see this being posted a couple weeks ago on Twitter I figured I'd share what happened.

Craig Silverman from Buzzfeed complained a couple weeks ago about weird looking AdSense ads from Google.

Many folks were seeing it from outside the US and some within:

The ads were not clickable, hence the "irresponsible campaign parameters" in Google's statement:

Supposedly many folks have communicated this issue to Google back then but Google did not respond. At least they did not respond until I covered the drops in CPCs.

The purpose was to get a bunch of free ads on Google, the advertiser didn't care if the user clicked on them, they got the eye balls. In fact, they increased their CPCs a ton, knowing they would (1) never pay for a click and (2) it would thus outrank the other ads, giving them a ton of visibility on their ads. The destination URLs were nothing at all related to the ads themselves, they were just there to fill the space. If and when the AdSense publisher blocked the destination URL, the advertiser would just use a different destination URL. So the advertiser just posted tons of these ads with fake URLs to get exposure of the ads themselves. When people tried to click the ads, it didn't work and it drew even more attention to the ads.

The ad buyer was able to outbid anyone on any site and gain incredible free exposure on those ads.

Here are some of the ads one AdSense publisher blocked:

click for full size

Again, Google has confirmed blacklisting these advertisers, at least for now.

Forum discussion at Twitter and WebmasterWorld.

Update: Google said what is documented above is unrelated to the CPC drops and blacklistings they did the other week.

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