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Over the past year, we’ve been working hard to share more information about how we protect you against click fraud. Last July, the invalid clicks report was released to provide you with the number of invalid clicks we detect (and don’t charge for) in each individual account. A few weeks ago, our Click Quality team provided a list of common concerns and tips related to their click fraud investigations and let you know how to request an investigation. Now, Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety, has an update:

As part of our effort to provide you with more information on invalid clicks, we wanted to give you some additional background on how our systems, processes, and teams work together to manage click fraud for our advertisers, while also sharing what the overall landscape of invalid click detection at Google looks like.

Let’s dive right in with an overview of how it works. At a high level, we have a three stage-system for invalid click detection: (1) our real-time filters, (2) offline analysis, and (3) reactive investigations. The diagram below gives a more detailed explanation of what each does:



As you can see, the invalid clicks detected in the first two stages are the result of proactive work by Google. In stage one, we automatically filter most of these clicks before they even reach your account to protect against malicious activity and optimize your return on investment (ROI). The much smaller amounts of invalid clicks found in stage two are reflected in Click Quality Adjustments listed on your billing summary page. In either case, you don’t need to take any action or write to us to receive this protection. The third stage only includes the relatively rare cases where advertisers are affected by undetected click fraud. In those cases, an advertiser writes to us, we conduct an investigation, and if we find signs of undetected click fraud, we mark those clicks as invalid and give a refund to the advertiser.

So, how many invalid clicks are detected proactively vs. reactively? Here’s the breakdown:



Impact vs. activity
Click fraud is similar to email spam in a lot of ways. The most significant similarity is that the seriousness of the problem is not measured by how much spam is sent, but rather how much gets into a user’s inbox. When looking at click fraud, the most important measure is not the “activity” metric – which measures the volume of invalid clicks that occur overall – but the “impact” metric. The activity metric could go up or down significantly and the impact on advertisers would not change if filters are catching the invalid clicks. So far, we have only publicly shared this activity metric, which we have disclosed as being less than 10% of all clicks, and explain in more detail next. After that explanation, we want to talk about the impact metric for the first time. This measures what percentage of all clicks are clicks reported by advertisers which, after investigation, turn out to be invalid and have not already been caught by Google. Explaining these topics is complicated, but we’re going to give it a try. Here goes.

Activity - invalid clicks fluctuate constantly but average less than 10% of all clicks
Our invalid clicks rate – the activity rate – has remained in the range of less than 10% of all clicks every quarter since we launched AdWords in 2002. At Google’s current revenue rate, every percentage point of invalid clicks we throw out represents over $100 million/year in potential revenue foregone.

Because it is difficult to definitively determine the “intent” of a click in many cases, the number of invalid clicks that we filter also include those filtered for reasons separate from fraudulent intent. Cases of provable click fraud attempts constitute a small minority of the clicks we mark as invalid. There are many greyer cases of possible click fraud attempts (but without clear scientific “proof”), for which we still choose not to charge advertisers. For example, we have an automated rule which filters out the second click of all double clicks as a matter of policy. We mark this kind of activity as invalid simply to optimize advertiser ROI. Those clicks are included in our “activity” metric and are also a good reason we use the term “invalid” clicks instead of fraud.

This combined approach is the essence of click fraud management: the goal is to cast the net of invalid clicks sufficiently wide in order to have a high degree of confidence that actual malicious behavior is effectively filtered out. By proactively filtering clicks worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars every year, we are able to provide very effective protection against attempted click fraud.

Impact - less than 0.02% of all clicks are reactively detected as invalid
Our Click Quality team investigates every inquiry we receive from advertisers who believe they may have been affected by undetected click fraud. Many of these cases are misunderstandings, but in most cases where malicious activity is found, the clicks have already been filtered out (and not charged for) by our real-time filters. Because of the broad operation of our proactive detection, the relatively rare cases we find of advertisers being affected by undetected click fraud constitute less than 0.02% of all clicks.

Put another way, for every ten thousand clicks on Google AdWords ads, fewer than two are reactively detected cases of possible click fraud. This proportion has stayed within this range every quarter since we launched AdWords, even as the issue of click fraud has received more widespread media attention. In the cases of reactively detected invalid clicks, a refund or credit is provided to the advertiser, and we utilize the discovery as a feedback mechanism to improve our proactive detection systems.

What do these numbers mean for me as an advertiser?
It is important to understand that the network-wide invalid clicks rate is separate from an individual advertiser’s invalid clicks rate. The invalid clicks rate is what we call an open loop number, which means that the more invalid activity we detect, the more protection we provide. A machine attempting a click fraud attack can send any number of clicks, even exceeding the maximum number of clicks that are allowed based on an advertiser's daily budget, but our systems will automatically filter these clicks so that the advertiser is not impacted. For example, an advertiser with a $10 daily budget could be attacked by someone attempting click fraud consisting of $1 million worth of clicks. When our filters protect against that attack, the advertiser’s invalid clicks rate would increase dramatically – meaning we were filtering out a very high proportion of their clicks – and their campaign would be unharmed. Similarly, that attack alone would increase the overall invalid clicks rate on our network, even though it was limited to a single advertiser. In this manner, a large attack focused on just a few advertisers can actually manipulate Google’s overall invalid clicks rate for that day, so this is an externally manipulable number.

Thus, the overall invalid clicks rate, as well as its day-to-day fluctuations, has almost no relation to the invalid clicks rate for an individual advertiser. In order to provide the real data to our advertisers, we launched the invalid clicks report in the AdWords Report Center last year. This feature provides the precise number of clicks we are filtering out on each of an advertiser’s campaigns.

We are disclosing these network-wide figures in order to provide greater transparency to Google advertisers and the marketplace as a whole. These figures illustrate the significant level of proactive protection we provide, and how this has resulted in minimizing the actual impact of click fraud on advertisers. As noted above, these network figures do not have any bearing on what individual advertisers may experience, and you should refer to your invalid clicks report for that data.

Moving forward
Click fraud protection is something we take very seriously, and it requires a great deal of research and development to do effectively. We believe we lead the industry in terms of our level of investment as well as the effectiveness of the protection we provide, but we also look forward to continuing to innovate and invest in this area of our advertising system just as we do in others. It is clearly in the long-term best interests of both Google and the industry as a whole to effectively protect advertisers against click fraud. This is why we are also working with dozens of other companies to establish industry standards for click fraud protection, as one of the founders of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Click Measurement Working Group.

Ultimately, the biggest benefit of the pay-per-click advertising model is that advertisers can measure the performance of their campaigns extremely accurately, and thus the most important metric that both our advertisers and Google are focused on is providing the best possible return on investment.

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Two weeks ago, Stephanie L. from the Optimization team outlined the four topics of optimization that she would cover in our "AdWords Optimization Tips" series: Assessment, Structure, Keywords, and Ad Text. In the first half of Assessment, she encouraged advertisers to assess their industry and audience before beginning an optimization. Today, she will discuss the second half of Assessment -- different ways you can evaluate your website and identify your goals as you begin to optimize your campaign.

Know your website

Whether you are the marketing manager or webmaster (or both) of your business, you know the products and services on your website better than anyone else. And that means you are in the best position to evaluate your website and assess how a visitor may interact with and respond to the content on your site. Imagining yourself as your prospective customer and fine-tuning your site as necessary can result in a better experience for that prospective customer, and thus better results for you.

Some elements to consider as you evaluate your website are:
  • Site structure or sitemap: Are your products and services organized in a way that makes sense from your visitor's perspective? Specific landing pages can help these prospective customers find exactly what they are looking for. For example, if a prospective customer is searching for 'women's snowboarding pants,' the ideal landing page may feature women's snowboarding pants in all brands and styles. If she is searching for a specific brand of snowboarding pants, the ideal landing page may feature all types of snowboarding pants by that specific manufacturer.
  • Layout and design: Visitors to your site may respond more favorably to a site that is straightforward, clean, and simple to navigate than one that is flashy or slick. Those who do not find what they are looking for tend to leave the site within the first several seconds.
  • Ease of use: When visitors come to your site, they should be able to quickly understand how to navigate your site and find the information they're looking for. Navigation and search bars allow your prospective customers to look for more specific items or different styles. Clearly marked buttons that read 'Sign Up Now!' or 'Add to Cart' encourage further action from these prospective customers. On the other hand, broken links, inaccurate or unfinished landing pages and other obstacles make it more difficult for prospective customers to become actual customers.
Know your goals

Your goals, or desired results, are perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when setting up a new account or optimizing an existing account. Are you more interested in branding your business, garnering clicks, or maximizing your return on investment? It is important to clearly identify and prioritize what specific goals you want to achieve and design your campaigns around those goals.

Depending on what your primary goal is, you may want to consider the following tips:
  • Maximizing clicks: If your aim is to cast the widest net to draw as much relevant traffic to your site as possible, you may want to consider running on a broader range of keyword variations. Keep in mind, however, that running on very general, irrelevant keywords will negatively affect your clickthrough rate, Quality Score, minimum bids and positioning.
  • Optimizing for Ad Performance: One component of improving ad performance is maximizing your clickthrough rate. If this is your goal, the first step is to filter out irrelevant searches by refining your keyword list and incorporating negative keywords where appropriate. In addition, your ad text should ideally reflect a user's search as closely as possible. If you are running on a keyword such as 'San Francisco travel tours,' your ad text should also highlight travel tours in San Francisco.
  • Promoting brand awareness: If you want to promote your brand, you may decide to run a cost-per-impression campaign in addition to a cost-per-click campaign. You may want to supplement your text ads and incorporate image and video ads in your campaign. You could also employ site-targeting to show your ad to people who aren't actively searching for your business but may still be interested in what you sell.
  • Maximizing ROI: Maximizing your return on investment calls for a little more understanding about the sales cycle unique to your product or service, and how keyword searches can reflect which stage a user might be in that cycle. If you want to separate the serious buyers from the online equivalent of window shoppers, your structure, ad text and keyword lists can be designed to target specific kinds of users. For instance, users searching on variations such as 'reviews' or 'ratings' are probably still researching the product, and you can filter out such searches by including those words as negative keywords.
Last but not least, it is important to determine how you will measure the impact of your optimization so you can clearly evaluate your campaign's performance before and after the optimization. If you are feeling extra scientific, you may want to test altered campaigns against a control group to see what works best for you. Google offers some powerful tools that can help you better track campaign performance, including Analytics, conversion tracking, and the Reports Center tab in your account.

This post ends our discussion of Assessment, the first of four topics we will be covering in this series. We have touched upon a few high level tips today on how to achieve your goals for your advertising campaigns. Stay tuned for future posts of "AdWords Optimization Tips" when we will take a deeper dive on specific advice and tips on structure, keywords, and ad text. Until then, happy optimizing!

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AdWords Editor 3.0 is now available for Windows. With Version 3.0, you can:
  • Add or edit site-targeted campaigns
  • Add or edit negative sites for keyword- and site-targeted campaigns
  • Edit another account while posting or checking your changes
  • Pause or resume individual ads, keywords, and sites
  • See the number of rows you've selected in the data view
If you're already using AdWords Editor, your version will be updated automatically the next time you start the application. You can also get AdWords Editor directly from the download page. For more details, please check out the release notes section of the AdWords Editor website.

Please note that Version 3.0 is currently available for Windows 2000/XP/Vista only. If you're a Mac user, we won't keep you waiting long -- AdWords Editor 3.0 for Mac is scheduled for release in a few weeks.

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Last week, we released the Quality Score column and let you know that we would soon be making improvements to our Quality Score evaluation. Now, Avichal from the ads quality team is back with a quick update:

Today, we began rolling out improvements to the Quality Score algorithm, which will update the Quality Score for keywords in your account over the next 3 to 4 days. As I mentioned last week, the goal of this change is to improve the quality of ads that we serve to our users by making it easier for high quality ads to enter the auction while also discouraging low quality ads. In addition, this change improves our ability to set minimum bids for keywords where we have limited data. As a result, you may see the minimum bid for your keywords increase or decrease based on the updated algorithm.

To better understand the quality of your keywords after this change, we suggest that you enable the Quality Score column. This will allow you to quickly view the quality of the keywords in each of your ad groups so that you can make improvements. For example, if you notice that the minimum bid increases for a number of your keywords, you may want to consider optimizing your ad group to make it more relevant or deleting the keywords that have high minimum bids.

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We're always working to develop tools that can aid advertisers in their particular industry. Recently, we launched a new resource to help merchants get the most from their advertising. Jennie C. from the AdWords Retail team is here to tell us more:

We know that you want to keep up to speed on trends in your industry to make the most out of your campaigns. Now, to help you find more of the information that you need, we've created a new resource for our retail advertisers: the Retail Knowledge Center. Here you'll find a wealth of material including information about setting up and optimizing your campaigns, as well as recommended Google products for your business. You can also join a discussion forum, read case studies from other retail advertisers, and peruse recent industry news items.

If you have comments, questions, or suggestions on the Retail Knowledge Center, please share them with us at retail-knowledge@google.com. We're working hard to add similar information for advertisers in other industries. Stay tuned to Inside AdWords for updates.

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Last Friday, during a routine infrastructure update, we experienced a technical issue that significantly increased the minimum bids for some keywords. Because the maximum CPC for these keywords was not changed, a number of impacted keywords became inactive for search, resulting in fewer leads for some advertisers. This technical issue was completely unrelated to the Quality Score updates that we have planned for later this week. We sincerely apologize for any disruption that it may have caused to your traffic. Below, we've answered a number of questions that we've heard since Friday:

When was this issue resolved?
This issue was resolved by our engineers on Saturday morning (PST) for the vast majority of impacted keywords. The minimum bids for these keywords have since returned to normal.

Will you be issuing credits?
Once we have completed our analysis of the impact, we'll automatically issue credits to advertisers who overpaid due to this issue. As soon as these credits have been applied, we'll email the affected advertisers to let them know.

I paused some of my ad groups because the minimum bids increased and they are still unusually high. What should I do?
If you paused any of your ad groups on Friday due to this issue, we recommend that you unpause them, but do not raise your maximum CPC. Unpausing your ad group should allow the minimum bid to return to normal without taking any other action.

Will this happen again?
Our engineers have been working tirelessly to understand why this issue occurred and to ensure that the proper measures are in place so that this is not repeated in the future.

Does this issue reflect the upcoming Quality Score improvements?
No, this issue is not related to our upcoming Quality Score improvements, which remain scheduled for later this week.

We greatly apologize for this issue. Please let us know if you have additional questions that you'd like us to answer on the blog.

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Have you ever needed to pause certain ads and keywords when your inventory was low? Or have you ever wished you could temporarily stop serving image ads on certain sites during the weekdays?

As of today, all AdWords advertisers can pause and resume keywords (for keyword-targeted campaigns), sites (for site-targeted campaigns), and ad creatives. As you can see from the picture below, this feature is functionally similar to the pause/resume feature on the Campaign Summary page - we've simply extended it to the keyword, sites and ad variations tabs.



This is yet another example of a new feature based on advertiser feedback. Thanks for your suggestions and keep the great ideas flowing!

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So with this photo, we'd like to send you our warmest Valentine's Day wishes!


With love, from the Inside AdWords crew

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At Google, one of our most important goals has always been to deliver high quality ads that provide value to our users. In August of 2005 we improved our quality evaluation with the introduction of the Quality Score, which sets minimum bids for your keywords. Since then, we've updated you on the inclusion of landing page quality into the Quality Score, and subsequent improvements to the landing page algorithm. Now, Avichal from the Ads Quality team, has an update on upcoming changes to the system.

As you may have heard us say before, we believe that ads provide valuable information when they are highly relevant and targeted to a user's query. In order to serve high quality ads to our users, we use the Quality Score to set minimum bids for keywords based on keyword clickthrough rate (CTR), ad text relevance, the historical performance of the keyword on Google, and the user experience on the ad's landing page. Keywords with a higher Quality Score are rewarded with a lower minimum bid, so it costs less for those ads to be eligible for display. Low quality keywords receive higher minimum bids, often making them inactive for search because their maximum CPC does not meet the minimum bid. In addition, since we also consider quality when we rank ads, higher quality ads benefit from higher placement on the page and a lower cost-per-click on average. So, high quality ads are not only more relevant for your potential customers, but can also help you improve your ROI by lowering your advertising costs.

We're constantly working on ways to improve our Quality Score evaluation and provide you with more information about the Quality Score for your keywords. Over the next week, we'll be releasing two changes focusing on transparency and quality, which I've outlined below:

Transparency - Later this week, we're releasing an optional Quality Score column that shows the minimum bid for all of the keywords within an ad group as well as a Great, OK, or Poor quality label for your keyword. You can select this column by clicking 'Customize Columns' in one of your ad groups (selecting this will also automatically populate the column for all other ad groups within that campaign). Use the quality label to get a quick overview of the quality of your keywords, or look at the minimum bid for a granular understanding of your Quality Score. Remember, the lower the minimum bid is for a keyword, the higher the Quality Score, and vice versa.

Quality - Next week, we're launching improvements to the Quality Score algorithm that sets minimum bids for keywords in order to improve the quality of ads that we serve to our users. These changes should make it easier for high quality ads to enter the auction while also discouraging low quality ads. First, we're improving the way that we set minimum bids for keywords where we have limited data. For example, if the system does not have any data on a keyword, we'll try to assign that keyword a lower initial minimum bid until we have enough data to make a more accurate assessment of the Quality Score for that keyword in your account. Second, we're improving the Quality Score algorithm to make it more accurate in predicting the quality of all ads. This will improve the overall quality of ads that we serve by lowering minimum bids for high quality ads and raising minimum bids for low quality ads. We expect that the higher minimum bids for low quality ads will reduce the number of low quality ads we show to our users.

So, what does this mean for you? As a result of this update, you may notice that the minimum bids increase for some of your keywords and decrease for others. To better understand the impact of this change, we suggest that you implement the Quality Score column. This will allow you to better monitor whether your minimum bids increase or decrease based on our changes. If you find that the minimum bids for any of your keywords increase, making your keyword inactive for search, please consider optimizing your campaign instead of raising your maximum CPC to the minimum bid. We recommend changes such as choosing a keyword that is more specific to the product or service that you offer or editing your ad text to make it more relevant to the keyword before you simply raise your minimum bid. By improving your quality we hope to provide the highest quality ads to our users while also providing you with the highest quality leads to maintain great ROI.

Stay tuned to the blog over the next few days as we'll post again to answer any questions that you may have.

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Emel M., from the content network team, has information about a new beta for advertisers interested in cost-per-click site-targeted campaigns:

Site targeting is a feature that allows advertisers to choose individual sites in the content network where they want their ads to appear. Currently, advertisers using site targeting place bids on a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis. In March, we plan to begin testing a new site targeting feature to increase the flexibility and control advertisers have with site-targeted campaigns: cost-per-click (CPC) bidding.

CPC bidding has often been requested by advertisers who would like to utilize site targeting, but are not comfortable bidding on a CPM basis. Here are two examples of how CPC bidding can enhance your site targeting experience:
  • Increased flexibility. Select the content network sites you want your ads to appear on and choose the bidding option that fits your needs. If clicks are your goal, try CPC bidding so you pay only when you get the result you want.
  • Full control. Create new CPC site-targeted campaigns, or switch your existing campaigns between CPC and CPM at any time. As always, you retain full control over your budgets and bids.
If you're an AdWords advertiser located in the US and are interested in participating in the CPC site targeting beta, please fill out this short web form: http://services.google.com/ads_inquiry/cpc_sitetargeting. Please note that we are only able to select a limited number of advertisers from all that apply. If you're selected as a beta participant, we will contact you within the next couple of weeks.

To learn more about site targeting, click here.

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Last June, Product Manager Eric Lange answered a number of our questions about Google Checkout. Today, we caught up with him again. Here's what we learned:

Can you give us a quick overview of Google Checkout?

We launched Checkout last year to improve the experience of online shoppers. Typically people start their shopping process with search, and Checkout improves that experience with the Google Checkout shopping cart badge -- an image next to ads that use Checkout that helps users identify fast, secure places to shop. Once they click through to the store, we also make it easier to buy with a single Google sign-in -- that way, shoppers don't have to re-enter their purchasing information every time they buy online.

You mentioned the shopping cart badge on AdWords ads - why are you using that?

When people begin shopping by searching online, they're looking for places to shop that are convenient and secure. The Google Checkout badge makes it easier to find these places by displaying a badge (or image) on the AdWords ads of participating Checkout stores. The badge is like a little sign on the AdWords ad that helps shoppers find stores that accept Google Checkout.

You've been testing different badges. Any updates to report?

Yes, we're constantly testing different badge images to see what provides the best experience for shoppers. Recently we updated the image of the badge from a shopping cart to a Checkout button because we find the new design helps people find convenient and secure places to shop more easily.

Where should advertisers go to learn more about Checkout?

Advertisers can take a closer look on the Google Checkout homepage.

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Last month, Ronnie C. shared his overall strategy on optimizing your AdWords account. To expand on his post and the existing optimization resources you can find in the AdWords Learning Center, we're introducing a series called "AdWords Optimization Tips." This densely-packed but informative series will highlight optimization strategies and best practices that can benefit every advertiser, whether you are just starting out with AdWords or have been advertising online for years. In Part 1, Stephanie L. from the Optimization team shares her favorite tips with us:

An optimization can be as small as adding a few negative keywords or as large-scale as reorganizing your entire account in several phases. As you prepare to optimize, it helps to first take a step back and assess what kind of results you'd like to see, and how you will achieve and measure these results. The 'AdWords Optimization Tips' series will cover four major areas for optimizing any account: assessment, structure, keywords and ad text. Today, we're covering the first half of assessment -- knowing your industry and audience. While you are probably already researching and analyzing your industry and audience, we wanted to provide a few questions that may help you think about your AdWords account in a new way. We'll also offer some tips on how to begin researching the answers to these questions.

Know your industry

Whether you are in retail or finance, an independent small business owner or a marketer for a large corporation, it helps to begin with a holistic perspective on the products and services you offer and how they fit into a broader industry landscape. For example, one factor to consider is the scope of your product range -- do you offer a wide variety of products or a very specific type of product? What makes your business different from others in your market? The strategy you take when entering a competitive market like high-end jewelry may be very different from the way you might advertise a niche product only a handful of specialists offer. You may also take into account elements like seasonality (holidays, fiscal years) or industry trends.

To keep up with the latest competitive dynamics and industry trends that affect your online business goals, you may want to:
  • Try searching for your product/service on Google and look at both the natural search listings and sponsored links. Pay attention to what types of strategies, ad text, and promotions other similar businesses may be using in their ads, and try to think of ways to differentiate yourself.
  • Join a trade association, subscribe to industry magazines, and possibly even attend trade shows to learn about the latest competitive dynamics in your industry and what trends may be impacting your sales at any given time.
  • Keep up with the latest news that affect your industry through the Internet by subscribing to specific RSS feeds, reading wikis, online forums and product reviews to keep up with the concerns of your customer base and other businesses like yours.
Staying up to date with industry trends can help you better organize your campaigns, allocate your advertising budget across different products, time your campaign launches, manage CPC bids, and make your ads stand out.

Know your audience

Understanding your customer base and learning more about the audience you would like to reach in your advertising can often influence the way you structure an account, the keywords you choose to include, and especially the ad text variations you test. Targeting an upscale clientele focused on luxury items is very different from attracting bargain hunters. Try to think beyond age and gender, though these may still factor into your strategy. Is your product or service something everyone uses on a daily basis or something only a small subset of people, such as chemical engineers, can understand or describe? You may want to sell the same product to both Internet-savvy teens and their more technology-shy parents, but may need to have different advertising strategies to reach the two different audiences. Also, users in different regions (cities, states or countries) may respond differently to your products and services.

To really think like your customer, you may want to:
  • Use the Keyword Tool to help understand how potential customers could be searching for your product or service. A florist in Vancouver might look up 'Vancouver flowers' or 'flower delivery' to see what synonyms and keyword variations exist for these terms. You may discover that the term you use to describe your product/service may differ from the way your customers would describe it.
  • Use Google Analytics to gain a wealth of information and knowledge about your audience, from their geographic location to their referring links.
  • Familiarize yourself with the unique buying cycle of your industry by thinking about user searches, so you can adjust your keywords, ad text, or budget accordingly. For example, someone searching for 'hybrid cars' may not be as close to buying an automobile as someone searching for the specific make, model, and year of a vehicle.
  • Be open to the idea that your true audience may not be exactly who you think they are. Some video games, for instance, have a surprising number of female fans, often mothers who originally bought the games for their children!
Keeping an accurate profile of your target audience(s) in mind will help you choose the right keywords and ad text to reach that audience, and also help you filter out users who are unlikely to click through or convert for you.

We hope that you have found these tips helpful and have picked up one or two new advertising strategies to try out. Stay tuned for the second half of assessment, and look for posts on strategies for structure, keywords and ad text as well.

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The AdWords Operations team (that's the team that supports AdWords advertisers) just keeps growing, and they will soon be moving house to accommodate their larger size. As part of the move, they're asking for advertiser photos to decorate their new building. Kerry C. from the AdWords Operations team is here to tell us more:

The AdWords Operations team will soon be moving, and we want to decorate our new building with photos of our advertisers as a way of recognizing that we owe our success to you. We'll be showing the photos in the new building because seeing your faces inspires us and reminds us that we're here to help make our advertisers more successful.

If you want to share your photo, visit this page for all the details. Along with your photo, we ask that you include your name, your customer ID number (so we can match you up with your account), your business name, and a description of the photo. High resolution images, greater than 5 megapixels, are best. We'd also love it if you could include a paragraph describing your business and how you are using AdWords. If we use your photo we'll also send you a small thank you gift. Thanks for helping to make our offices a happier, smilier place.

We're also hoping to share some of these stories and photos on the Inside AdWords blog. If you're interested in this possibility, include a note when you send your photo in. We're really looking forward to seeing your photos. Thanks for sharing!

Update: 2-9-2007 10:00am PST - Thanks to those readers who let us know that they weren't able to submit photos. We've now fixed this issue, so please submit away!

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Here's a quick heads up from our tech team:

On Saturday, February 10th, the AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST due to system maintenance. While you won't be able to log into your accounts during this time, your campaigns will continue to run as usual. We apologize for any inconvenience.

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Over the past year, we’ve written about invalid clicks to let you know about the new invalid clicks report and provide answers to some of the most frequently asked invalid click questions. Now, we want to introduce you to the Click Quality team, who investigates your invalid click concerns. This team has been around for over three years and they provide protection in addition to our automated filters, which proactively identify invalid clicks and discard them before they make it into your account. Today, Julian from the Click Quality team joins us to let you know how you can request an invalid clicks investigation and shares some of the common suspicious click concerns that his team sees and how you can monitor them:

Working on the Click Quality team, I’m one of a number of people who investigate suspicious traffic to determine if invalid click activity has occurred. These thorough investigations analyze a number of factors, including IP address, duplicate clicks, and various other clicking patterns. It is rare that invalid clicks are not detected by our automatic filters, but when we find them we immediately credit the advertiser's account. If you'd like us to investigate suspicious activity in your account, please fill out this form. If and when you do, providing detailed information, such as your web logs, will greatly assist with our investigation, so we ask that you include any reports indicating suspicious IP addresses, referrers, or requests. Our team will respond to you as soon as we complete our investigation of your account. And, please be patient, as a thorough investigation can take 3-5 business days.

Our job is to look into advertiser concerns and complaints and we’re happy to answer any questions you have. However, before submitting an investigation request, you may want to do a little checking on your own because, over the years, we've found that in many cases the activity that the advertiser has pointed out isn't actually due to click fraud. I've provided a list of some of the more common concerns below, along with tips and tools to help you better understand and monitor suspicious activity in your account.

Concern: I’ve seen huge fluctuations in my spend, traffic, or ROI.
  • Review your account to see if you’ve made recent changes to your daily budget, maximum CPCs, or ad distribution preferences. Making changes to any of these can increase your reach and change your conversion rate as new visitors may have different buying patterns.
  • Traffic on the Google content network can also fluctuate from day to day as your ads match new sites. To better control your spend on the content network, make sure that you implement content bids or set up a separate campaign that is targeted just to the content network.
  • If you're not currently tracking your conversions, we recommend that you use a conversion tracking tool, such as Google conversion tracking or Google Analytics, in order to monitor your ROI.
Concern: There are discrepancies in my web logs.
  • You may have noticed that the clicks in your web logs are different than the number of clicks that are reported in your account. If you find that there are fewer clicks reported in your web logs than in your account, we suggest that you run an invalid clicks report because many of your clicks may have been automatically filtered.
  • If you've seen more clicks in your account than in your web logs, make sure that your tracking software is counting clicks from the Google Network. You can can make sure your tracking URLs are set up correctly here. Or, you can use auto-tagging to more easily identify AdWords clicks in your web logs.
Concern: I have multiple clicks coming from the same IP address.
  • There are several legitimate reasons that you may see multiple clicks from a single IP address in your web logs. For example, if a user refreshes their browser after clicking on your ad, this may appear as multiple ad clicks in your logs, however, you are only charged for one click. Also, some service providers, such as AOL, assign the same IP address to a large number of users, so multiple users visiting your page may appear as a single IP (or a few very similar IPs).
  • In order to determine if clicks from the same IP address are unique, you can use auto-tagging. Auto-tagging will show you if multiple clicks were the result of a user refreshing their browser or if they represent a new click on your ad.
Concern: My competitors are clicking on my ads.
  • Our filters are able to recognize the vast majority of invalid clicks that come from a competitor who is repeatedly clicking on your ads. These clicks should be filtered out before they reach your account so you will not be charged.
  • To determine the number of clicks that we've automatically filtered from your account, you can run an invalid clicks report.
I hope this list will help you better determine if suspicious clicks in your account are legitimate, or invalid. As I mentioned earlier, if, at any point, you'd like us to investigate suspicious activity in your account or have any questions, please get in touch with us.

Posted:
Earlier this morning, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog didn't see his shadow and determined that winter would soon be ending. While we are fans of tradition here at Inside AdWords, we're happy that forecasting your AdWords performance doesn't require assistance from any furry pals or an early morning wake-up call. Instead you can look to various resources located right in the AdWords interface to help you determine how to better manage your account. Here are a couple of tools to check out:

The custom date range filter in the Report Center allows you to compare performance from any period of your choice. For example, if you run an online flower shop and you're interested in seeing how your Valentine's Days ads perform year-over-year, you could benchmark against last year by running a report for February 2006. Or, perhaps you own a bed and breakfast and would like to see how traffic to your site fluctuates with the seasons; to do that, you could create a report for all of 2006.

Google Analytics is another great tool to help you view past performance and compare different time periods. The handy date range comparison feature allows you to specify two different date ranges. Once selected, your reports will update, showing differences between the two date ranges. The % change column shows the change in values between your two selected date ranges.

While there may not be one single best way to "predict" how your AdWords ads will perform, one thing is certain: using the tracking and reporting resources within your AdWords account will give you more information and insight to guide your future decisions. It's also a lot easier to access and a tad more scientific than consulting your favorite groundhog. That said, we look forward to the end of winter and spring just around the corner -- thanks, Phil!