It can be an exciting time when you put in work and start seeing traffic spiking in your account. It’s time to celebrate, people are clicking and everything is going just as it should. That is until you take a closer look at your analytics data and see that a good deal of your traffic is run by every advertiser’s arch nemesis: a traffic bot.
Last year, traffic bots created more traffic than humans. It’s not the first time this happened but it makes you wonder: is some of the traffic that you’re seeing to your ads fake? Probably yes. In this post, we’re not going to spend time explaining how these pesky bots do it. Rather, we’ll discuss how you can kick them out of your analytics data to get a more accurate representation of your traffic.
Image credit: Internet Trends Report | Mary Meeker
Don’t Be Superficial
Most advertisers focus only on a few metrics when they log into their analytics. They take a quick look at the number of visits, check on the page views, glance over a couple of other things and that’s it. If the numbers check out, it’s all good. However, dig a little deeper and there’s a problem: bot traffic provides just about enough traffic to fool analytics data into thinking you’re doing well. Suddenly, you have corrupt analytics data on your hands.
This isn’t a particular concern on major websites where tens or hundreds of thousands of sessions are recorded per day. However, smaller businesses take a massive hit as bot traffic can account for over 50% of daily sessions, which causes all sorts of problems, from monthly reporting to optimization. Hence, it’s important to be thorough with your analytics and take a deeper look at them. Some signs are good indicators that your traffic is overrun with bots, and you don’t even have to look at analytics to figure them out.
For instance, traffic bots have the ability to slow down your website’s performance, making it all the more hard for genuine users to get what they need. Regarding analytical data specifically, high bounce rate and high new session rate are most definitely the results of bot traffic, as are the low pages per session and session duration rates.
With traffic bots, things are never what they seem to be on the surface so identifying that you have a fake report of your data is the first step to stopping traffic bots from making a ruckus of your analytics.
Use Filters for Everything
Some traffic bots are crafty enough to make fake visits seem like the real deal. The level of sophistication for this advertising equivalent of vermin has grown up to a point where it’s almost impossible to separate human behavior from software-generated one. Various filters help to eliminate access in the first place and thus keep you bot-free.
One of the biggest filters is the geographical one where you can filter out any bots from specific countries. In case you’re aiming for genuine traffic from India, China, Russia, Vietnam, and so on, proceed with caution here not to lose potential customers. If your offer is in English, but most of your traffic is coming from non-English speaking countries, it’s likely bot traffic.
Image credit: Spamhaus
Next, you also have domain, IP, or referrer filtering where you can block certain websites that deliver spam or redirect affiliate traffic elsewhere. That way, you can eliminate them at the very root and prevent them from spoiling your analytics data. If you are using a Wordpress-based website, there’s a plugin called Wp-Ban that easily blocks unwanted visitors by IP, IP range, hostname, and more. There are more plugins for different platforms, so you might want to google those. In addition, you can also tinker with the .htaccess file if you want to block access on a server level (only for Apache servers).
Be Proactive and Informed
In the online marketing industry, where new trends and practices develop rapidly, it pays off to be in the loop and know a few names and practices that traffic bots so effortlessly perform. Even if you have trouble implementing filters in your respective analytics account or feel uncomfortable doing so, you surely know how to spot bots and fake traffic by name.
For instance, semalt.com is known to be a long-time pain in the you-know-what for crawling the Internet without blocking analytics tracking and as such, delivering skewered, spam-filled results. Sites like buttons-for-website.com, see-your-website-here.com, 7makemoneyonline.com, and others are just some of many websites that engage in referrer spam, a fraudulent practice that makes it looks like their site is sending you lots of traffic, even though it isn't. The reality is some traffic sources just seem “off” and doing a bit of research will help you spot them immediately and just as quickly remove them.
Image credit: YouTube
Naturally, with such a big industry and huge amounts of money at stake, there are lots of online resources you can leverage to stay in the loop and educate yourself on the dangers and practices of traffic bots. From companies like Moz and Kissmetrics writing informative blogs through successful entrepreneurs like Neil Patel and Charles Ngo detailing their best practices to online communities like STM Forum sharing various experiences, you’re bound to find relevant information to equip yourself with more firepower for fighting bots.
In addition, your source of traffic plays a major role here. If you choose an ad network that’s inherently infested with this scamming software (or just doesn’t care enough about it), you can search deep and set filters all you like but that ain’t going to cut it. Your best bet is a traffic source with a proven track of delivering high-quality traffic while being strict and attentive to the fake stuff.
Traffic Bot or Not - It’s up to You
The key is to absorb and use industry knowledge and not to panic. So you have a bot problem - everybody does. Even Google, arguably the largest company in the world, has trouble dealing with this issue. Bots are everywhere and it’s hard to block them as they just keep coming back, but that’s no reason to despair. Once you take the necessary steps to stop traffic bots from infecting your analytics data, it will reflect your actual traffic more accurately and allow you to go by the numbers. You’ll be able to make better, more informed decisions that will help you grow your business and do what you do best.