If you manage PPC ads, you might be aware of the problem of bot traffic. Often referred to as invalid traffic, fake traffic or click fraud; the issue of bot traffic has been growing in recent years.
Estimates put the volume of non-human traffic on the internet at around 50%. Some even put this figure as low as 36%, meaning that the majority of online traffic comes from bots and non-genuine sources.
So if you’re running PPC ads, how much bot traffic are you exposed to? Are you paying for these bot clicks, and how can you identify bot traffic?
Bot traffic statistics
As we mentioned above, the estimates around the volume of bot clicks varies hugely. However, it is widely thought that internet traffic is divided roughly 50/50 between humans and bots.
Of these bots, around half are genuine or ‘good bots’. These are the kind of bots that Google uses to rank websites, or search engine tools use to find your keywords. This can also include web scrapers and other information gathering tools.
However, the other half, or ‘bad bots’ make up anything between 25%-36% of all internet traffic. These bots are used for spamming, data breaches, spreading viruses and other malicious activity.
One of the most common uses for bot traffic is to inflate views on social media. This kind of bot traffic is relatively easy to find and very cheap, often originating from click farms based in China or Southern Asia.
Many influencers and even famous political figures have used click farms to spread their message. The rise of the alt-right in the USA and other disinformation based campaigns have been found to be spread by bots.
So how does this affect digital marketers?
Your ads vs bots
Running PPC ads on Google, Facebook or any other network can be very valuable for businesses. How else can you quickly and affordably spread your message on a user friendly platform?
The problem is that many of the clicks or impressions on these ads are generated by bot traffic. This is a problem known as click fraud. In fact, data from ClickCease found that 90% of ad campaigns are affected by click fraud, with the average marketer paying out around 15% of the ad budget to fraud.
So although Google and Facebook do have methods to block fake traffic, it seems they still miss a big chunk. And when some companies are paying thousands of dollars per week, this impact to the ad budget can be considerable.
So how can you identify this bot traffic?
Identifying bot traffic
If you’re running PPC ads you should have access to an analytics dashboard, for example Google Analytics.
You can easily see data statistics about your ad traffic here. If you’re trying to identify bot traffic in Google Analytics, there are several things to keep an eye out for:
- Extreme peaks in traffic, such as more than double the usual rate in a short period of time
- High bounce rates. Bot traffic tends to stay on the site for a short amount of time before exiting
- One page seeing high click volume. This is usually your home page but it can also be an obscure page that might not normally see lots of clicks
- Unusual timing for traffic. Often bot traffic is generated on a timer, so you might find that your clicks come late at night or early in the morning
Often you will see a mixture of these in Google Analytics, for example high traffic volume and a high bounce rate. This should set alarm bells ringing and you might need to make some changes to your ads.
Protecting your PPC ads
So you’ve identified bot traffic through your Google Analytics. Now what?
Some steps to take with manual protection in your Google Ads can include:
- Refine your keyword targeting and avoid broad or general keywords. Aim for keywords that show intent or are middle to bottom of funnel rather than high volume top of funnel terms
- Don’t run your ads 24/7 – schedule them for peak times and avoid running them overnight
- Optimise your geo-targeting. Run multiple campaigns to target different regions to isolate which are most susceptible to click fraud
Increasingly marketers are turning to click fraud protection software to help them block bot traffic and fake clicks. For an affordable monthly subscription many find that they quickly make their money back in increased conversions and lowered CPC.
Stop bad bot traffic and keep an eye on your Google Analytics dashboard.