Let’s imagine you’ve been working with an SEO marketing agency for a little while and during your monthly check-in call, your SEO happily proclaims that she’s seen a significant uptick in organic traffic to your website. She even shares colorful graphs and lots of numbers to back up her assessment.
You are very pleased to see the progress being made with your website’s performance and you feel pretty satisfied about your decision to hire this particular SEO vendor. You can even imagine how well-received this marketing report will be at your next board of directors meeting. Phew! Problem solved!
Or is it?
Using Data to Inform the Campaign Narrative
As any responsible marketing professional knows, our job is to provide reliable data that supports the implementation of different marketing tactics we employ on behalf of our clients. For example, when our team is retained for SEO or Paid Media services we prioritize the collection of relevant data that we use to “tell the campaign narrative” and demonstrate positive outcomes stemming from the campaign.
Tracking organic and paid traffic to a website is a key element of any digital campaign’s narrative. For that reason, we need to understand what the data is telling us and be able to clearly articulate its meaning to our client. As part of our oversight responsibilities, we should always keep a close eye on data points that could indicate the presence of bots. For the purposes of this article, bot traffic is defined as “non-human visits to a website that may be generated by scripts known as bots.”
What Are Some Indicators of Bad Bot Traffic?
- An abrupt increase in website traffic may reflect an onslaught of bots. Today’s web is full of bot traffic, and we’ve seen it increase exponentially. Not all bot traffic is malicious, in fact, some bots perform essential roles that keep websites working smoothly. We want to stay vigilant about bot traffic and be ready to take steps to remediate it if it becomes an issue.
- Site speed may slow down due to bots. When malicious bots arrive on a website, they often preoccupy servers with high volumes of requests within short periods. This can overwhelm a website and make the experience slower and more difficult for legitimate human users.
- When bots click on certain pages, marketers may see higher click-thru-rates on search results and could mistakenly believe that those pages are performing well, when, in fact, the website may have fallen victim to malicious players.
Best Tools to Use to Identify Bot Traffic
So how do we identify bot traffic? What are some clues that a website may be seeing more bot visitors than human ones?
Sourcing from a variety of SEO articles and sharing our own experiential knowledge of this topic, we’ve put together an overview of how to track malicious bot traffic, how to keep it from taking over organic results and what to expect going forward for those pesky robots.
Utilize GA4 to Detect Unwanted Bot Traffic
Gaining access to our clients’ Google Analytics (GA4) is the first step to obtaining deeper insight into the different types of website visitors and observing their behavior on your site. Bots tend to navigate throughout a website more erratically than typical humans. They bounce from page to page quickly and then exit when they collect the data they are looking for. Certain metrics like the ones available in GA4 provide important flags telling us that there’s an overabundance of bot traffic on your website, including:
- upticks in page views
- increases in page sessions
- unusual bounce rates
- numbers of pages per session
- diversity of referral channels and IP addresses
How Can You Alleviate or Prevent Malicious Traffic?
By now you may be wondering, what can be done about your malicious bot problem? Don’t give up! We are here to help!
First, remember that not all bot traffic is bad. It’s the malicious traffic bots we need to worry about. Malicious bot traffic stems from deliberate and targeted cyber attacks run by cybercrime networks which are unfortunately endemic throughout today’s online community.
Website security is a topic that requires a specialized focus. We are by no means cybersecurity experts here, but we can offer a few suggestions to consider if you want to prevent your website from falling into the bot or other malicious visitor trap:
- Implement a reCAPTCHA (text-based, image-based, or audio) code on any and all web forms, contact forms or other page integrations.
- Have your web developer install a security tool like a WAF (Web Application Firewall) to keep the bad actors out.
Reach Out to a Digital Marketing Expert
With bots and other malicious website traffic, it all comes down to awareness, prevention and education. Start by working with a reputable SEO and Paid Media team who will take the time to explain how organic and paid traffic is finding and landing on your website. Partner with a skilled web developer who knows the ins and outs of the latest security plugins and code. And follow best practices in the form of privacy agreements and visitor terms. These are just a few of the ways to prevent or filter out undesirable traffic and keep your website safe.