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MSP Marketing: Are There Bots In Your Google Analytics?

Are There Bots In Your Google Analytics?

Are you seeing strange spikes in traffic? This could be an indication of bot traffic. Bot traffic can skew your data, making it more difficult to determine which content or services your real human customers are interested in. Here are some ways to recognize bot traffic and what to do about it.

The Internet Is Mostly Bots

There is a widespread belief that nearly half of all internet traffic comes from bots, good and bad. An example of a good bot would be Google crawling your site for changes, while a bad bot or group of bots might try to overwhelm a service’s host (this is called a botnet). So, while it is understandable to have a feeling of concern at the thoughts of bots crawling around your data, the reality is there’s more to bots than you know.

Should You Worry About Bots?

Many businesses think that traffic bots are generated by some hacker trying to gain control of your data. In the case of traffic bots, these bad actors aren’t interested in gaining control of your website; most of the time, they are simply a nuisance and should be considered and treated as another form of spam.

Traffic bots operate by automating ping hits to your Google Analytics account, which populates your reports with a URL to their website. Their goal is to fool you into visiting their websites, which ironically is designed to increase their traffic. As noted, these bots are not dangerous most of the time, but they can and do affect your traffic. Traffic bots can inflate your data, causing you to focus on the wrong area to invest in based on how much traffic it receives. 

Google Analytics provides a wealth of insights to your business, including seeing which pages are receiving the most traffic. When it comes to determining which services you should focus your marketing efforts on, monitoring which pages receive the most visitors is a good place to start. For example, if a service page is getting a large amount of traffic, investing resources to promote the service makes sense. However, if the data is artificially inflated due to a traffic bot, your conclusions could be wrong, and you focus on the wrong service.

Clues There Could Be A Bot In Your Data

The most common method of identifying that a bot is in your analytics is by looking for unexplained spikes in traffic. For example, if you’ve historically had 1000 visitors on average to your site and suddenly you have significantly more, chances are there’s a bot in your analytics. This is especially true if you haven’t been doing any marketing to justify the spike.

Other signs to look for include:

A high bounce rate with less than zero time on site.

Of course, it’s a big help if the source of the traffic says it's a bot. You can also check your data and look for anything that is suspicious. Here is one path to take: 

Acquisition/All traffic/Referrals. Once there you should look for who is referring to the traffic. Unfortunately, bot traffic can hide, so you may have to try different methods to filter out bot traffic. Some other points of entry to consider examining are:

  • Source
  • Hostname
  • Location

Steps You Can Take To Stop Bot Traffic

Many people aren’t aware that Google provides basic bot protection within Analytics. Unfortunately, it is also turned off by default. So the first thing you should check and verify is that it is on and, if not, turn on bot protection (filtering). To do this, go to Admin>View settings. Scroll down a bit, and you will find the option. Note: If you’re using Google’s new G4 version of Google Analytics, this option is fortunately turned on by default.

The next step you can take is to add filters to help block any bots that slip past Google’s protection. Here is an example of how to set up your filter to block any bots you are able to find.

The Exceptions to the Rule

Sometimes traffic changes can resemble bot activity, but it is human traffic patterns in reality. For example:

You earn a featured snippet. With a featured snippet on Google, your website and a specific page will see an increase in traffic. So if you’re monitoring traffic, you will see the jump from before the featured snippet and after.

A post trends on social media. Social media remains a powerful driver of traffic and engagement. Its power lies in its ability to be quickly shared and gain momentum. When a blog trends, it drives a lot of traffic to the website, as you can imagine.  

An interesting aside is that featured snippets and social media trending often transcend local locations. The side effect of this is that your website may receive a large amount of traffic, which is outside your local community and can be international. As such, it’s not hard for a business to see a spike in traffic, high bounce rates, and a large amount of foreign traffic resembling a traffic bot. 

This is one of the reasons we often say that SEO is more than data but requires an understanding of how people interact with your website. In fact, over the years, Google itself has been striving to give its algorithms human-like behavior, and successful SEO focuses on humans and not algorithms.

Are You Giving Your SEO The Attention It Needs?

It is common for many businesses to believe that SEO is something you set and forget. They create a website, add some keywords, and feel that they are done. Google treats your website as a living document; they expect it to be updated with new information. For your SEO to be effective, it needs content to drive traffic back to your website. 

If you’re having trouble creating the type of content that converts or feel your content isn’t attracting the kind of traffic which leads to qualified leads, now may be the time to consider speaking with us. We are one of the few marketing agencies specializing in managed service providers and understand what makes for a successful marketing campaign. Call 888-546-4384 today to schedule an appointment.

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