It has to be tough policing a program like AdSense. It must be exceptionally difficult during the holiday season, when the payoff to running scams grows so much more. It is so tough, in fact, that this year as the holiday shopping season grows near, with Black Friday just a few short days away, that apparently Google has finally decided to say “fuck it”, make it easier on themselves, just remove the ability for anyone to report any violations of the program whatsoever, and allow the scammers to have a field day in the mean time.
While Google may want to give the impression to their stockholders and the public that they have both the search engine spam and advertising program cheaters fully under control, the truth is that they rely quite a bit on reports from the community and consumers for both spam and AdSense violations. For any spam that they find, Google asks people to submit a Google spam report. At this point they require that someone log in before actually filing the report itself. This makes sense, since it helps prevent people erroneously filing large amount of spam reports against their competitors. For the AdSense violations they supply a separate form that does not require a log in, titled simply Reporting a Violation – AdSense Help. Usually I don’t run into offending sites with AdSense on them that fill me with enough of a sense of civic duty where I feel compelled to actually fill out a report, but I happened to land on one such today that actually tricked me into clicking on an ad in such a way that it really did annoy me. The page I landed on was BigSiteofAmazingFacts How Much Does The Earth Weigh (yes, I was distracted by trivial shit again, don’t judge me), and in the right sidebar there was what appeared to be an embedded Youtube Video from Family Guy:
Still distracted (of course) I clicked Play on the video, only instead of playing it suddenly brought me to a site trying to sell me bras. So, thinking I must have missed the rather large video in the sidebar when I tried to click on it, I hit the back button… and noticed that suddenly the video was gone altogether, and where before I had seen 2 AdSense blocks and a video, now there were 3 AdSense blocks instead:
I hit refresh a few times but the video didn’t return. At that point I realized that it was actually a scam, so I cleared my cookies for that domain, hit refresh again, and viola, the “video” reappeared once again. At this point I was sufficiently irked that I actually decided I was going to report this asshole. It’s bad enough that a site with crap content like this is ranking #1 (the weight of the Earth is increasing each year from salt from the ocean spray? Seriously, wtf?), while people with content that is just fine are getting penalized supposedly from the Panda fallout. To add in that the guy who owns the site is ripping off advertisers as well just makes it so much worse. So, I headed on over to the AdSense Violation report to be a good citizen… and I was greeted by this:
An essentially blank page, with only a header, navigation, and a box asking me to tell AdSense how they can improve. Go figure.
From a financial perspective it does make sense for Google to make reporting AdSense violators more difficult, especially during the holidays. People who run scams like this actually generate Google money through the AdSense program, a program which currently has absolutely no oversight. It is exactly this lack of oversight that means that Google is the only one who knows how much, if any, of the advertising dollars are credited back to the advertisers once these scams are revealed. Hiding the violations report means that much fewer sites will be reported, more scams will be able to run for longer periods of time, and more money will wind up in Google’s pockets.
Is this profit motive really the reason that the report form is missing? If you ask Google I am sure they would say “of course not, we’re Google, you can trust us”. And since everything with Google is proprietary “behind closed doors” trade secrets with them, there is no way to know exactly how many violation reports suddenly went missing that apparently no one has noticed yet. My hunch though is that with something like this, as online shopping hits the holiday rush, the lack of reports that are coming in at the moment is actually too big for them not to have noticed by now, and them not fixing it for this long must be at least in some part intentional on their end.
Update: As Jen from JenSense.com pointed out in the comments, there is another newer page available where you can actually file the report located here. However, I am not sure that makes it any better, and may in fact make it worse. I wound up on the empty page by actually going to Google and searching for [report adsense violation]. The page that Jen provided is in the list, but it is down under the blank page that I found, another unhelpful blank page, and underneath a list of discussion of other people looking for the form. This begs the question… why did Google leave an otherwise empty page behind with just enough text (ie. header and title) and all of the old link juice there to outrank the “real” form? If they redesigned the site, then why not 301 redirect the old form(s) to the new one? It’s not like they don’t know how search engines work, ya know?