Best solopreneurial strategies, and questions, related to monetizing high-traffic sites with low-maintenance revenue streams ("passive monetization") offered by Google and other ad networks. "Passive" is not our recommended way to monetize, but it's a decent "way-station" until you are ready to increase your $-per-visitor ratio. Got a question or a tip on that? You've come to the right place!

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#1371164 by Craig from Cedar Key
Mon May 15, 2017 9:59 pm
In April I got a note from Google Adsense saying: "We recently detected a significant level of invalid activity on your AdSense account. Any method that artificially generates clicks or impressions on Google ads is strictly prohibited by our program policies because this activity may inflate an advertiser's costs or a publisher's earnings."

I've had an Adsense account since 2004 and this has never happened. It was just a warning but I had to take down my Google ads until I can get to the bottom of this problem.

Here is where it gets really weird:

In Google Analytics when I click on:

Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals

Under Source, my own website is the #1 referrer!

Then, Under Explorer, when I click on Adsense it says that my own website is the #1 referrer of Adsense income. It is basically saying that someone is coming FROM [Domain Private] TO [Domain Private] and clicking on ads!

This is probably why Google sent me the warning.

Anyone else have a similar situation? I contacted Sitesell support but it doesn't appear that there is anything they can do from their end.

Help!
#1371170 by Will from Los Ojos
Mon May 15, 2017 10:58 pm
Hi Craig,

You said

In Google Analytics when I click on:

Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals

Under Source, my own website is the #1 referrer!


Can you tell what the landing pages are for all these visits? Click on the number 1 referrer, and then click Secondary Dimension > Behavior > Landing page. It should show you where these visits are going to.

Similarly, with AdSense, can you tell which pages are generating the peak clicks (which are presumably the invalid clicks)?

If these 2 are not the same, then they're probably not related.

Are your SBI Traffic stats also showing that your domain is the number 1 referrer?

I'd also considering loading Statcounter to get a third point of view.

Will
#1371174 by Craig from Cedar Key
Mon May 15, 2017 11:13 pm
Thanks Will,

I'm getting weird landing pages like this on both

/index.html?p=1471157957&subid=524&uid=1D657DE326368CD9

/index.html?p=1471157957&subid=524&uid=BE406E0555AD69A6

There are over 100 of them.

SBI stats is not showing my website as a referrer.

But, I did get an alert from addthis.com (social sharing buttons) that says:

"You have a spike in visits! You have a spike in referrals from [Domain Private] on [Domain Private]. There have been 169 visits from that referrer today, Yay!"

So I have 2 sources that are showing the same problem.
#1371177 by Will from Los Ojos
Tue May 16, 2017 12:27 am
It looks like the bot is landing on your Home page. If the increased Adsense clicks are on the Home page, the 2 might be related. If the increased clicks are not on the Home page, they're probably not related.

It's possible the originating browser is re-writing the referrer field when it makes the request to the SBI servers. Here, it looks like the referrer field may be re-written to be the same as the landing page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_referer

Some proxy software has the ability to give the top-level address of the target website as the referrer, which usually prevents these problems while still not divulging the user's last-visited website.


Can you drill down any deeper into your AdSense stats, to see which pages have the increased clicks?
#1371178 by Craig from Cedar Key
Tue May 16, 2017 1:01 am
I can't really tell about increased clicks but there are more impressions because of those weird index urls.
Attachments
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#1371179 by Craig from Cedar Key
Tue May 16, 2017 1:16 am
I take that back.

On over 100 of those weird index urls there is exactly 1 click. For example

/index.html?p=1471123649&subid=625&uid=B890429F2770EE7D - 1 click
/index.html?p=1471126115&subid=524&uid=9663A5B7F70C6798 - 1 click

etc, etc. On over 100 of them! That explains why I made so much money (they took away most of it) and why Google gave me the warning.

I just don't know how to stop it!
#1371256 by Will from Los Ojos
Tue May 16, 2017 11:08 pm
Craig from Cedar Key wrote:I just don't know how to stop it!


Hi Craig,

You could just take Adsense off that one page, if that's the only one getting the clicks. And then discuss it with Adsense. If you are making over $25 per month you can get email help from Adsense.

There are a number of possibilities for the self referral.

1. You're producing this in your site yourself. Self referrals happen for a number of reasons. The most common is when a page is missing the Analytics tag. Say you have a page called cats.html. If someone goes from the SERPS to cats.html, no visit is recorded as landing on that page from the SERPS (because you've missed out the Analytics tag). When that visitor goes to another page on your site, because they are already on your site, the next page will shows the visit as a self referral. Google has a lot of information about self-referrals here.

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/6350128?hl=en

http://www.gachecker.com shows all the pages on your site have the Universal Analytics tag.

2. There is a real bot that is visiting your pages, but it has altered the referral field to show your domain name. In this case, I'd expect the visit to show up in your SBI traffic logs. This is because there is a real visit going to the SBI servers. However, SBI probably filter out internal referrals, as they only want your stats to show you external visits.

3. Someone has sent this data independently to the Google servers with your Analytics ID. Google thinks it's coming from your site, and adds it to your reports. This is how referral spam happens. There's a lot of this around, which doesn't instill confidence in the GA stats. Usually, the added data contains a link to a 3rd party site to which they want to drive traffic. These visits don't show up in SBI logs because they are "ghost" visits - they don't actually exist. No one goes to the server, it just looks like they do.



I can't read your screen shot, so I'm not sure if this is directly affecting your Adsense. The Adsense problem might or might not be not be related to the self referrals.

I also found someone who had the exact same problem here.
https://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/105535/what-is-adding-p-subid-and-uid-variables-to-the-query-string-of-a-site-url/105629#105629

However, there is no mention of how he resolved the problem.

Will
#1371261 by Craig from Cedar Key
Wed May 17, 2017 12:13 am
Thanks so much Will!

Since I get the same self referrer problem from both Google Analytics and from Addthis.com, then I know that it's not a GA code problem. And I really don't know of any other solution to fix the problem. And since nothing weird is showing up in SBI stats, SBI support really can't help me either.

Tomorrow I'm going to contact Adsense and see if they have a solution.

So disappointing. I worked for years on my website and now I just feel like it's been hijacked and there is nothing I can do about it.

Anyway, thanks for all your help taking the time to reply. I appreciate it very much!
#1371269 by Mary from Mico
Wed May 17, 2017 1:37 am
Hi Craig and Will,

Too bad this thread isn't together with this one:

https://forums.sitesell.com/viewtopic.php?f=102&t=221813&p=1369531&hilit=referrer#p1369531

I've seen the self referral in my SBI stats, too (February?) and I remember that there was some confusion with our .com home pages being .com/index.html; but I forget how or if that's been resolved.

Here is what Louis said that Support said:

Support was able to resolve again. There were two iterations of http for my website and now both have been closed off. Not fully sure what that entails but just glad Support is able to neutralize these kinds of things. Hats off to Support !


Have you seen that thread Will?

Mary
#1371272 by Craig from Cedar Key
Wed May 17, 2017 1:49 am
I saw that thread and I actually referenced it when I contacted SBI support but they said that it was a different problem. In that case their website was showing up as a referrer in SBI stats. Mine isn't.
#1371273 by Manish Rahul Varma from Port of Spain
Wed May 17, 2017 3:36 am
Dear Craig,

I am still new to Adsense so I can't talk anything on this topic. But your post made me visit your site.....let me tell you one thing... [Domain Private] is the perfect site to showcase the Action Guide techniques. Very nice with clean and simple design and with great content. Being a regular stock trader, I found your site with great informative content. Awesome....Take a bow :D .

All the best!
-Manish
#1371362 by Craig from Cedar Key
Wed May 17, 2017 8:20 pm
Manish Rahul Varma from Port of Spain wrote:Dear Craig,

I am still new to Adsense so I can't talk anything on this topic. But your post made me visit your site.....let me tell you one thing... [Domain Private] is the perfect site to showcase the Action Guide techniques. Very nice with clean and simple design and with great content. Being a regular stock trader, I found your site with great informative content. Awesome....Take a bow :D .

All the best!
-Manish


Thanks so much!
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