Boldist - How To Spot a Bot

How To Spot a Bot

This morning I logged into Google Analytics after our organic traffic spiked and was triggered by the amount of spam referral traffic we were receiving from

Look – automation and optimization are our jam, and for the most part, we love working with our robot colleagues. Chatbots, especially, are useful tools that can be used concurrently as part of a conversational marketing strategy that sounds naturalistic, helps the end user, and builds leads while saving on the amount of time a human representative would have to clock in.

And when running diagnostics, testing, or optimizing anything web-related, bots are an indispensable tool. But every so often, we come across bots that are harmful and actively working against our clients’ interests and campaign goals.

So don’t just look out for suspicious bot traffic, like; actively protect yourself against it.

Bot Traffic in Google Analytics

Spam bots may appear as referral traffic in your Google Analytics data. If left unchecked, these bots will spam your analytics data with inaccurate information.

It might be exciting to see thousands of users appear on your site in one day from a new source of traffic, but bots are not real people, and they don’t behave like real people. They will skew your bounce rate and event data, ruining real metrics and any automated reporting you might have.

1. Identify Bot Traffic

This requires manually checking your source/medium reports to find suspect sources of traffic. Check for traffic with high bounce rates or a high volume of users. You should also set up an anomaly alert that will notify you if your web traffic is unusually high, using tools such as GA Insights.

2. Filter Bot Traffic

When you’ve identified where the bots are coming from, you can usually isolate the Source / Medium to use as the basis for your filter. First, make sure in your View settings that you have checked the box that says Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders. Next, set up specific View-level exclusion filters to catch the bots that have made it into your reports.

3. Verify Your Filters

When you have set up your filter, you can then run a filter verification. This will show you which traffic is affected by your filter, what the data looked like before your filter was applied, and what it looks like after you’ve applied it. This way, you can be sure you’re going to be excluding the right traffic.

Data is not changed retroactively. You will still see the old bot traffic in your report, which is why it’s crucial to catch bots early.

While this set up applies to Universal Analytics, Google is switching over to GA4 this year, so it’s important to work with an analytics team to make sure your site has transitioned over to the new Google Analytics program.

Protect Your Paid Traffic From Bots

There are bots out there that are bad actors and need to be stopped in their tracks. PPC is competitive and can be expensive, so it’s important to protect your ad spend from nefarious clicks.

There are services you can use, such as ClickCease, to recognize and block bots that are trying to siphon off paid traffic. This saves you and your clients’ money, and it also defunds the bad bots so they have fewer financial resources and less incentive to pull traffic.

If you’re concerned your PPC campaigns aren’t optimized to reach your authentic audience, partner with a PPC management agency that can ensure your campaign spend is being used efficiently and your data is being recorded accurately.