Referral Rewards Via AdSense

by Sid Steward

Here's an idea for rewarding web publishers and bloggers who link to your site. They include their AdSense google_ad_client ID in their link via GET. When a user clicks this link, you insert this ID into your own AdSense code block at serve time. If the user then clicks on one of your AdSense ads, the referring site gets credit.

You probably wouldn't use their ID every time a web user follows their link to your site; maybe 50% of the time.

On first blush, it seems like a natural idea. It would increase links to your site, and these linking publishers would get a tangible reward.

The Google AdSense Program Policies does protest: "Any AdSense ad code or search box code must be pasted directly into Web pages without modification." Yet I think this 'referral rewards' idea would benefit Google by encouraging folks who use AdSense to link with other AdSense users.

Maybe there are technical issues, too. The AdSense servers might get confused with rotating google_ad_client IDs popping up all over the web. Click fraud notices might start filling inboxes like spam.

Here's one way this idea might be abused; depends on how smart the AdSense click fraud monitors are. A malicious robot visits a site that rewards referrals as described above. The robot uses a URL packed with its own AdSense ID, so this ID appears in the site's AdSense block. The robot then 'clicks' an AdSense ad that credits its AdSense account. The robot does this repeatedly on several hundred sites. Would the AdSense fraud monitors fail to detect click fraud on account it is happening across so many sites? Would the sites themselves get blamed for the fraud?

It goes without saying that the best solution would be for Google to implement such a thing on their side. AdSense users could add a couple optional fields, such as:

google_ad_referrer = top.document.referrer;
google_ad_referrer_pct = 50;

and Google would give the referrer a 50% chance of getting credited for a click.

Maybe Google could pull the ID from the referrer URL, if it were packed via GET. Since the referrer probably had AdSense ads on it, Google might already have a handy cache that maps the referrer URL to its AdSense ID.

Think it would work?


2005-10-17 09:56:49
Referral Rewards -> web spam
One reader emailed me to point out that increasing the incentive to link could increase web spam. This makes sense. At least you could be sure that the number of links would increase. And the motive to link would become increasingly profit-oriented. So must the web be divided between common, zero-profit links and full-profit AdSense links?