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October 18, 2006

I Got Stiffed by Google

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 10/18/2006 12:48:00 PM
I have been running Adsense on my blog for 2 months and this month I hit the minimum $100 needed for a payout. In fact, I would have been paid today. Except, Google (Nasdaq GOOG) hit me with an email contending that there was invalid click activity on and my Adsense account is being disabled. I got stiffed by Google.

I have never clicked on my own Adsense ads, so I know that I am not responsible for the invalid clicks. I investigated further, becasue I wanted to understand why there were invalid clicks on my account, so I wrote to Google to ask them to tell me which clicks were invalid and how many invalid click there were. I got 2 form emails from Google. Clearly nobody at Google read my emails to them. You can see what they wrote:

Email #1


Upon receipt of your response, we have thoroughly reviewed your account
and have confirmed that it is related to an account previously disabled
for invalid click activity. We have certain policies in place to help
ensure the effectiveness of Google ads for our publishers as well as our
advertisers. For this reason, we are unable to reinstate you into the

Please note that due to the proprietary nature of our algorithm, we
cannot disclose any details about how our monitoring technology works or
what specifics we found on your account.


The Google AdSense Team
Email #2


Thank you for your email regarding the action taken on your account.

We understand that you wish to receive specific information regarding the invalid clicks we observed on your account. However, due to the proprietary nature of our algorithm, we cannot disclose any details about how our monitoring technology works or what specifics we found on your account.

As you know, Google treats instances of invalid click activity very seriously. By disabling your account according to our policy on this matter, we feel that we have taken the necessary measures to protect our advertisers and to ensure that invalid clicks will not continue to
occur on your site.

Publishers disabled for invalid click activity are not allowed further participation in Google AdSense. We appreciate your understanding.


The Google AdSense Team

You can see from the emails that Google refuses to tell webmasters and bloggers why their accounts have been disabled citing:
Please note that due to the proprietary nature of our algorithm, we cannot disclose any details about how our monitoring technology works or
what specifics we found on your account.
I find Google's explanation to be very unconvincing because if they could show which clicks were invalid, then they could have clearly removed those clicks. The fact that Google refused to tell me which clicks were invalid raised several suspicions in my mind. I am not happy that I got stiffed out of my money, so I searched for "Google Adsense Account Disabled" in Yahoo! (Nasdaq YHOO).

I learned that many webmasters have been stiffed by Google right when they were supposed to have been paid out. Instead of getting paid, they got their accounts disabled right when they would have qualified to get their checks made out to them. Here are some of the postings I found:

PeachJon - Yesterday (9/13/2006) my Adsense account was disabled due to invalid clicks. In reality it was due to the $100 in earnings accumulated since April of 2006.
Big companies do not get rich by writing checks! Just as well. Google Adsense was sending ads that degraded the content of my website and its subsequent pages anyway. Google just gave me the motivation to delete its code altogether.

Another PeachJon reader - I would suggest that folks avoid AdSense like the plague. I googled around about this issue, and it seems to happen to a lot of people, and always when it's getting close to payout time.

DonkeyOnTheEdge - After an year when you are bound to get a payment, they will disable your account without giving any reason whether you are guilty or not. They have no liability whatsoever and it is their right to cheat people. They never tell you what was the cause of diabling accoun or provide any data. It means that it is their choice when to stop payment to the publisher.

I would like to believe that Google is doing the right thing and controlling traffic quality, but the truth is after reading all these postings from former Adsense publishers, I am beginning to believe that Google stiffs publishers systemically right when it is payout time. Since most publishers never reach $100 of earnings, most never complain. However, when publishers do reach $100, then Google pulls the plug.

The way Google works with Adsense publishers reminds me of a China story that a friend told me about how Chinese developers work with migrant construction workers. According to my friend, many skyscrapers are being built in China today and construction companies often need lots of part-time labor, so they hire migrant workers from the countryside for two thirds of the year to work in the city. Because it is very expensive to live in the city, these companies promise to pay for food and board for their workers during the year and they also promise to pay them a salary when their job/tour of duty is complete. In return, the peasants work for the companies until Spring which is when the companies promise to pay them a lumpsum of money for their work.

In reality, few of the workers actually get paid. In fact, most of the migrants workers get stiffed by the developers. The developers walk away with the money. The workers return home with nothing. The developers use the peasants and workers to build their projects and when the projects are done, they cheat the peasants and migrant workers out of their wages.
You frequently hear about peasant protests and revolts in China, and that is why sometimes things get violent.

Imagine how you would feel, if you left your village to toil under 100 degree weather for two thirds of the year, hundreds or thousands of miles away from your home, only to discover after you had put your blood and sweat into your work, that you would not be paid?

It doesn't feel good to be stiffed whether you are a peasant, a migrant worker, or a blogger. I got stiffed by Google, and I feel like one of those migrant workers. It sounds so much like the China story: a promise that is undelivered. After running AdSense for 2 months, Google has generated money from my blog and put all that money into its pocket wihout giving me a share that it promised to me when I signed up. I have not received a single penny from Google after toiling for Google.

I am deeply disappointed in Google and the fact that they have to resort to these types of practices to make their earnings numbers. It is so unsavory and unethical, especially when Google sees itself as a young and hip company whose motto is Don't be Evil. Some things never change. But after hearing my friend's China story, maybe I should not be surprised that Google makes money the old fashion way.

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Anonymous Ben Uy said...

so umm, google likes to scam people?

9:52 PM  
Blogger Michael Belfiore said...

Thanks for this excellent post. Same thing happened to me. My tale of woe here: http://michaelbelfiore.com/blog/2007/08/bamboozled-by-google.html

9:44 AM  

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