AdSense Confirmed Click

What is it?

According to Google, a confirmed click is aimed to address a genuine problem everyday people face as they use the internet and their mobile devices. The noble aim is to reduce the effects of ‘unintentional’, ‘accidental’, or even ‘fraudulent’ clicks. After reviewing a publisher site, Google may determine that some aspect of the publisher’s ad strategy is causing accidental clicks on ads and therefore ensure that advertisers do not have to pay for unintentional clicks.

What many Publishers big and small who use Google Adsense and AdExchange units have seen, is a change to their reporting due to the requirement for a confirmed click. Also known as a ‘two-click penalty’ or a ‘double click penalty’, ultimately, a confirmed click is where two clicks from a user are required to register an official click and therefore take the user to the advertiser’s destination URL. 

When the scenario of a users’ click is not being registered, the user will not, therefore, arrive at the advertiser’s destination URL, so revenue will not be earned by the publisher for that ad.

Google has stated that the addition of a confirmed click requirement isn’t strictly a penalty against the publisher. Instead, it functions as a means to ensure the validity of the user’s intent in a problematic environment.

How do I know if I’m affected by Confirmed Click?

A big identifier in trying to work out if you are affected by a confirmed click penalty is if you see a decline in CTR (your click-through rate) and Google AdSense and AdExchange earnings while your overall impression figures are at a normal level. Remember this is only affecting Google ad units, so if you can identify specific ad units where CTR has significantly dropped, you may be able to identify where this is happening. This will not be affecting other ad providers, so ad units where you are seeing this that are not Google, you’ll need to speak to those providers as soon as you can!

While the scenario of CTR dropping while all else stays the same implies a simple process, unfortunately, a confirmed click penalty is sometimes applied to all inventory and sometimes it affects combinations of ad unit and device types. It can be hard to 100% be sure this is the case unless you or your monetization partner have the privilege of access to a Google Account Manager. 

You will not receive a violation notice of a confirmed click penalty directly from Google nor within your Google account. The penalty is an automated change by Google based on sites getting a high percentage of accidental clicks. The good news is that a confirmed click penalty is temporary and is lifted within 2-4 weeks after Google does another round of automated site reviews. So revenue should return back to normal levels after the penalty is removed.

What are the effects of Confirmed Click?

If your site is affected, Google attempts to validate the user’s intention and show intent by adding a second step in the click process. This is in the form of a Visit Site button that appears after the user’s first click. Users are redirected to the advertiser’s final URL after explicitly clicking the Visit Site button.

A ‘two-click penalty’ or a ‘double click penalty’

Depending on how you look at numbers and the reports, confirmed clicks improve conversion rates, when comparing the overall desired user action against the initial click. Conversely, you may see a drop in CTR when comparing the number of impressions against the second confirmed click. 

It may sound obvious to the majority of our industry that any extra step in any process is more likely to result in an action not being completed. In this case, a user not following through on a second confirmed click results in a reduction in CTR and ultimately a fall in Google earnings. 

The effect of having to administer 2 clicks for a user could be a contributory factor in user fatigue and ultimately discourage a user from clicking ads in general as the process becomes so much more convoluted. The result of fewer people clicking and visiting advertiser sites could reduce CPCs and CPMs in the long run.  Overall lower confidence in online advertising is the last thing we all need.

Given the motivation and narrative from Google is to reduce accidental clicks and help confirm intent and interest from users as they click on adverts, the message can be seen in a positive light, the problem arises with the lack of clarity on its application.

What are the best practices to avoid/amend issues around Confirmed Click?

Once Google has completed an automated site review and the causes of accidental clicks have been removed, the Visit Site button will be automatically removed in due course. The length of time for this to happen seems to be dependent on Google’s confidence that the clicks are genuine. It appears Google is measuring this as a rolling average, so here are some areas for consideration:

  • General Policy Compliance; An obvious area of consideration is ensuring that your site is policy compliant. Ensuring you are knowledgeable and consider the policy rules and any industry changes before any site change or action is a fundamental way to maintain your revenues and ensure you are not penalized by Google.
  • Avoiding Accidental Clicks; Specifically, you must make every effort to avoid accidental clicks. Google states that ads should not be implemented in a way that they might be mistaken for other site content, such as a menu, navigation, or download links. 
  • Test Devices; Make sure to use as many test devices as possible when testing your site, you can go some way in reducing the types of common accidental clicks that occur.
  • Site Layout; Crowded site layout, navigational buttons, or areas near to ad units can cause users to accidentally click on an ad unit. Give more space than you normally would and maybe consider labeling ads, or ad areas, as ads on the site. 
  • Content jumping; Also known as layout shifting, occurs when the content suddenly jumps while it is loading, often when an ad unit is already rendered. Sudden layout shifts in layout can mean that users end up clicking on an ad when they really were trying to click on a navigational element of the site. This issue is particularly common on mobile. This is why device testing is so important.
  • CTR 1; run a report in your Google account to identify ad units with a high CTR. Check to see any ad units that have dropped off recently and either delete them or reduce sizes of the ad (specifically important for Mobile ad units). The results will not be instantaneous but will most likely fix the issue, so patience and clear monitoring are key.
  • CTR 2; In the same report, checking to see if any CTR reductions correlate with a specific device type can help you identify whether an accidental click is due to not properly building and testing for how your site displays on that device.

In Conclusion

It is important to pay attention to your Impression, CTR, and Google revenue metrics. How you build and test your site is vital to ensuring compliance. If you identify the clues that indicate you may be affected by confirmed click issues, take the necessary steps to reduce any instance of accidental click to regain Google’s confidence. Continue to monitor until you see your Google earnings and your CTR has returned to normal levels, which is a good sign the confirmed click penalty has been lifted.