What to Do When the Content Network Goes Haywire

I like Google’s Content Network. We’re pretty good friends. Over the past few years our relationship has grown to one of mutual respect. I set reasonable parameters and CPCs, the Content Network returns the favor with semi-to-mostly relevant traffic. Last week, this relationship turned sour. The dark underbelly of the Content Network showed itself in the form of an AWFUL website from Korea. For the first time in my PPC career, I witnessed true, unadulterated click fraud. Doh! Because of this nightmarish event, I thought it would be a great idea to share my thoughts on what to do when the Content Network goes haywire.

It literally happened overnight. January 31st everything was fine. February 1st, content traffic went through the roof.

Unfortunately, a couple days elapsed before I realized what hit my account. Once I did, here’s what I did to get to the bottom of the situation:

  1. Scream. Albeit briefly, out of frustration and anger.
  2. Run a Placement Performance Report. I immediately found the source of the problem: a lone Korean website (which I won’t recognize by name or link) was pumping exorbitant amounts of traffic to my site and inflating my impression, click, spend and even conversion stats.
  3. Add the Site as a Negative Site. Since I knew the source of the problem, I added that domain (not messing around with URLs, I wanted the entire site banned) as a negative site – at which point I assumed the issue was done. This step happened near the end of 02/04.
  4. Review Content Stats. The next day, 02/05, I got into my account and to my horror realized that I was still being taken to the cleaners by the Content Network. I went back to step #2 and attempted to run a Placement Performance Report for the previous day – the day I purported to have killed this awful Content site. The report wouldn’t run. As luck would have it, my Googler called while I was panicking and repeatedly trying to run the Placement report. She calmly explained that Placement Performance Reports take up to 24 hours to propagate. Great…
  5. Pause All Content Network Ads. Because I had no visibility into why I was still getting killed on traffic and spend despite my actions in step #3, I ultimately decided to pause my entire Content campaign (yes, I’ve got Content and Search separated like a good boy). Take that awful Korean Content site!
  6. Review Lead Quality. Based on the conversation I had with my trusty Googler, I called my client and demanded that he review his leads for the past few days. Sure enough… crap, crap and more crap. Where does that lead us?
  7. Submit a Click Fraud Investigation Request. All you’ve got to do is go to this site, and submit your information to the Ad Traffic Quality Team. Done and done. Now I wait. I’m confident that this will be a closed case of click fraud, and that I’ll be receiving a refund in full. Results TBA.

I’m still waiting on official word from the Ad Traffic Quality Team, but I’m confident that they will side with me. I still like the Content Network, but this event has put a bit of a wedge in our friendship. My trust has been shaken, and it will take time to heal.

Anyone else had an experience with click fraud on Google’s Content Network? What did you do to correct the situation? Did everything turn out OK in the end?