What Are AdSense Deductions and How To Avoid Them?

4 October 2020

Google recently updated the way it calculates AdSense deductions. In this article we’ll show you how you can avoid deductions by improving your ad placements, implementing best practices from Google and using header bidding.

We’ve received lots of questions from publishers that use AdSense recently:

  • Why are my AdSense earnings being deducted?
  • Has there been an increase in invalid traffic deductions taken by Google recently?
  • What is invalid activity?
  • Why is AdSense deducting money for invalid traffic?
  • What causes AdSense deductions?
  • Why are my final AdSense earnings different from my estimated earning?

What are AdSense deductions?

Have you checked your payment history recently?

You’ll probably find a difference between your estimated AdSense earnings and the final amount deposited into your bank account. The difference between these amounts is due to deductions that AdSense makes because of invalid traffic on your site.

AdSense sends the deduction amount back to advertisers to compensate them for potentially invalid impressions and clicks. Advertisers see credits in their AdWords accounts similar to the AdSense deductions (also known as AdSense clawbacks). Since AdWords advertisers almost exclusively pay per click it is important for Google to make sure clicks are intentional as explained below.

Here’s an example of how AdSense deductions affect actual earnings:

Many publishers have recently been disappointed to discover that their estimated AdSense earnings don’t match their actual earnings. At first it might look like website A is making more. However, once AdSense deductions have been applied website B is the clear winner. 

Another area of confusion is that the final eCPM that you see in your AdSense report is the eCPM before deductions. This means to find the real eCPM you need to divide your ending balance by the number of impressions for that period  *1000.

You can see deductions in your AdSense account by going to Payments > Transactions > Invoices.

An AdSense deduction for invalid traffic

Why is money getting deducted from my AdSense account?

Invalid traffic (IVT)

Google defines invalid traffic as fraudulent clicks, impressions or ad interactions that artificially inflate a publisher’s revenue. For example, if a clickbot accesses your site and clicks on an ad, Google will count this as invalid traffic. Google states, “clicks on Google ads must result from genuine user interest”

General Invalid Traffic (GIVT)

GIVT is traffic created by known crawlers (such as search engine crawlers) and bots. It’s easy to detect because the bots don’t behave like humans. For example, they click on every link on the site and switch between websites every 60 seconds for days. GIVT can be identified using routine filtering or standardized parameter checks.

Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT)

SIVT is created by scripts that intentionally mimic human behaviour. Therefore, this type of traffic is more difficult to detect and it’s not possible to always correctly identify it. Fraudsters are constantly improving their scripts so ad tech companies like Google need to keep updating their algorithms. AdSense creates deductions if it thinks SVIT has been detected.

Other invalid traffic

Other invalid traffic is created by humans. This includes publishers clicking on their own ads, suspicious users repeatedly clicking on ads, or accidental clicks on ads. It’s important to note that publishers can in no way incentivize users to click on their ads.

Why have AdSense deductions increased?

Google appears to have updated its algorithm to detect invalid traffic in March and August of 2020. Some publishers saw deductions rise up to 70% of estimated earnings. The problem is fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated so it’s becoming very hard to detect them. Google seems to have updated its algorithm to try and catch advanced forms of SIVT. As a result, more traffic is being flagged as invalid. In contrast, the average deduction for Snigel publishers in 2020 is 0.3% so far. This is because Snigel publishers use header bidding and ad layout optimization to avoid AdSense deductions.

When should I worry about my AdSense deductions?

AdSense deductions are normally less than 1%. Fluctuations between 1% and 5% are at the high end and indicate a growing problem. If your deductions are consistently above 5%, you have a serious problem. We’ve been surprised to see publishers receive deductions of 30%-70% in the past few months. These are not scammy MFA (Made for AdSense) sites but good quality websites which have been around for many years.

How can you prevent invalid traffic deductions from Adsense?

Report suspicious activity to Google

Use Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager to monitor your site for any suspicious behaviour. 

  • Pay attention to where your users come from – Geos and referral sources
  • Beware of traffic from an location unknown
  • Look at which pages your users are viewing
  • Use IVT measurement and detection services

If you notice a sudden rise in clicks or a strange increase in traffic, contact Google here.

Improving your ad layout and setup

Invalid or accidental clicks are often caused by a poor ad layout and setup. For example:

  • Menu items overlapping ad units
  • Ad units close to click points like download buttons
  • Ad units that make page elements jump during the loading process
  • Slow loading ad units
  • Floating ad units that are difficult to minimize
  • Ad units that are not properly labelled, leading users to mistake them for content

By correcting these errors you can dramatically decrease the amount of deductions applied to your AdSense account. Experienced advertising technology companies like Snigel support publishers by providing a full site report for reducing invalid traffic. They also have a team of advertising operations experts who will monitor the site for invalid traffic and run A/B to uncover opportunities to further decrease deductions.

Don’t rely on AdSense only - use header bidding

Header bidding allows you to access a wider range of advertising demand sources – not just Google. This decreases your reliance on AdSenseand helps you to diversify your ad revenue.

How does header bidding help prevent AdSense deductions?

  • Header bidding leads to an auction within Google AdManager where AdSense has to compete against other bidders. This causes Google to use a different logic in selecting the winning ad (presence of a floor/dynamic allocation) than if AdSense is filling 100% of the inventory in a particular ad unit. WIth this technique the likelihood of later deductions decreases.
  • Smart header bidding integrations provide an additional layer of protection like clickbot and IVT filters before allowing Google AdSense to compete. This helps to eliminate a large part of the problem. Snigel’s AdEngine includes the above mentioned protections.
  • Other demand sources like Amazon, OpenX and Rubicon use different measures to Google when it comes to flagging invalid traffic. As their advertisers are almost exclusively paying on CPM basis, accidental clicks are less of a problem.  By selling more inventory to these partners you can reduce your exposure to AdSense and pure CPC ads.

By switching to header bidding you can access other tools like Snigel Smart Refresh, which verify that the user is human before delivering an impression.

Header bidding fraud detection

Some advertising technology companies like Snigel use fraud detection systems to eliminate invalid traffic. Snigel has trained a neural network to detect fraudulent browsing activity. When this invalid traffic is detected we don’t call Google and other demand partners for ads. This results in much lower deductions.

Conclusion

At Snigel we’ve learned about AdSense deductions the hard way. Over the last few years we have seen deductions and click spam rise on our publishers´ websites. Even very clean websites that have been up for decades have been affected. This area is constantly evolving so we continue to invest manpower and development resources to keep AdSense deductions to a minimum. 

AdSense deductions have increased significantly starting in March and peaking in August 2020. However, it is possible to minimize deductions by using a better ad layout, ad setup and switching to header bidding. If you’d like to find out more about how Snigel can reduce your AdSense deductions and increase your revenue contact us here.

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