A lengthy written account by an anonymous person claiming to be a former Google employee claims that the AdSense advertising system is rigged to take money from publishers by systematically banning them from the system because they “make too much money.”
Known as the Google AdSense Leak, the report has gained a lot of traction over the past week or so. Enough that people at Google have taken notice and publicly denounced it as being nonsense. Even Matt Cutts, the executive in charge of fighting spam and blackhat scams at Google, got in on the debate in a Hacker News thread.
In a nutshell, the theory the multiple-page paper asserts is that about five years ago (around 2009), Google management became concerned that their cost-revenue performance targets were not going to be met. They then began to carry out “extreme quality control” on AdSense publishers. Google thus pocketed the money that was to be sent to those publishers, boosting its revenue by cutting its cost (AdSense payments are held for about a month before payment is made). The target was small and single-person outlets making more than $5,000 per month.
The trouble here is that the original assertion and the follow-up rebuttal of criticism that the AdSense Leaker produced are just sophisticated enough that most outsiders will believe it. Those who are well-inside the Google ecosystem, however, are saying that the jargon and descriptions of systems do not match what actually happens inside Google’s walls.
So who to believe? It’s easy to point the finger at Google, a large, barely semi-transparent company which controls a large portion of so many online business in so many ways. It is also, however, keenly obvious to most who are business owners that the sort of thing Google is being accused of is not only something that (it seems) would have been noticed far earlier, but is conduct that is ultimately horrible for long-term revenue. Why bite the hands that feed? Would Google be dumb enough to do that? Seems unlikely.
Business Insider published a jaded, but good article outlining the reasons this AdSense Leak story is very likely false.