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0% bot traffic = Higher engagement 🤖 Fixel’s analysis of traffic from Zest

March 17, 2020

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0% bot traffic = Higher engagement 🤖 Fixel’s analysis of traffic from Zest

Are you getting what you pay for when you use PPC to drive traffic to your website? Not 8% of the time, unless bot traffic is what you intended to purchase. That’s what I found after I decided to analyze Fixel’s traffic using an automated reCAPTCHA v3 verification method I discovered on Simo Ahava’s blog.

I first decided to investigate exactly what kind of traffic was making its way to Fixel’s website after PPC pro, Kirk Williams, mentioned in a Twitter #ppcchat post that fraud was a sizable problem for our industry. His comment prompted me to dig deeper. What I discovered is that bots are an issue but not all traffic and traffic sources are equal when it comes to bots.

How big of a problem is bot traffic?

2 out of every 5 visits to your website may be from a bot and half of those bots are bad.

According to the 2019 Bad Bot Report, 62.1% of all internet traffic in 2018 was human. The remaining traffic consisted of 17.5% good bots and 20.4% bad. Low conversion rates or spikes in traffic from certain sources are a sign that those sources may be delivering bots.

Data source: Imperva.com Bad Bot Report 2019

The same report found $5.8 billion in annual costs attributable solely to sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT). The report adds that the bots could have wreaked more havoc, but they were caught in the act.  “DSPs and SSPs filtering fraudulent bid requests, by clawbacks, or other preventative measures” enabled businesses to avoid $8.2 million in ad fraud costs.

Good or bad, bots don’t convert and they can waste your brand’s ad dollars.

What I discovered when I started to monitor bot traffic on Fixel’s website

After I learned how to track bot traffic and shared the details on the Fixel blog, I decided to put my knowledge into practice and install the detection script on the Fixel website.

The results indicated that, on average, 8% of our traffic was fake. Our engagement analytics, using Fixel’s algorithm, confirmed a 0% engagement level from this traffic. The good news is that overall, 80% of our traffic was identified as human and, based on engagement levels, the remaining 12% was likely to be human as well.

Traffic identification and engagement chart titled: Human vs. Bot vs. Unknow; Human 80% traffic, 55% engagement; bot 8% traffic 0% engagement; unknown 12% traffic, 35% engagement

So 8% of our traffic was non-human and therefore a non-lead. But that’s not the full story. As I mentioned earlier, not all traffic sources are equal–especially when it comes to bots. My analysis revealed that Facebook was a leading source of bot traffic. Bots made up almost half of our organic Facebook traffic and nearly one-third of our paid. Twenty-percent of our Twitter organic traffic was fake.

Google Ads performed okay but still have room for improvement with 2.7% bot traffic.

Table representing traffic source percentage of bots and engagement rate (with humans)

On the other side of the equation, my analysis revealed that several of our other top traffic sources including Zest, LinkedIn and Capterra were bot free.

One of the top performers was Zest.is. We used Zest’s Content Boost feature to share my article, “How to track bot traffic in your Google Ads campaigns for free,” on the Zest Content Stream. Not only did Zest deliver 100% real people to our blog but their engagement rate was the highest from among our top 5 traffic sources.

The takeaways: My advice based on what I’ve learned about Fixel’s traffic sources

Smaller sites and those that require a login to access (with the exception of Facebook and Twitter) performed best on my bot test. I suspect that this is because criminal bot activity is a high-volume business. Targeting the largest traffic referral sources (Google, Facebook and Twitter) enables these enterprises to maximize their profits. Meanwhile, sites that limit access through logins or represent a lower volume of traffic impose extra costs on bot operators.

What this means is that for marketers, these low-volume sites present an opportunity similar to that of long-tail keywords. You can spend significantly less to gain higher quality, more engaged traffic for your website.

So, if you are looking for a way to avoid the bots and gain more qualified leads here’s my advice:

  • Diversify your channels. Tap into several smaller unpolluted streams of traffic instead of investing all your resources in one large one.
  • Focus on people-driven platforms. Channels such as LinkedIn, Quora and Zest will deliver real, engaged visitors to your site.
  • Ramp up your organic efforts. While it is difficult to scale, organic traffic is often our most engaged traffic.
  • Minimize your bot exposure. To reach actual humans on platforms known to generate bot traffic (e.g. Google’s Display Network), use remarketing campaigns instead of top of funnel efforts.

Get the most out of every click by focusing your resources on reaching the best audiences for your brand.

About Fixel:

Fixel is a sophisticated, easy to use, AI-based audience segmentation solution that dramatically improves campaigns. Our AI-based platform learns how visitors interact with your site, and by applying advanced machine learning algorithms, we highlight the visitors that matter most for your business.

About the author:

A marketing geek with a fetish for analytics and a passion for marketing technologies, Elad serves as the Head of Growth at Fixel, a startup that’s changing the way advertisers measure user engagement.

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