Anyone who has ever run campaigns with paid traffic sources has come across Bot traffic in one shape or another. Even if the traffic source you use for your campaigns is generally regarded as high-quality and a trusted network, Bot traffic will slip into your campaigns.
Bot traffic comes from automated systems and software designed to carry out repetitive tasks. An example of this would be emulating a page-click on an ad or filling out a registration form. The Bots can perform tasks like these twenty-four hours a day, day in, day out.
It’s important to differentiate between malicious and beneficial bots here. One example of a beneficial Bot is the Google web crawler, Googlebot. The Googlebot collects, spiders, and indexes URLs from around the internet to build the search index for Google. Block Googlebot from spidering your webpages, and you’re effectively preventing your sites from appearing in Google’s search results. Not a good move!
For anyone using WordPress, that’s what the Search Engine Visibility button does in the Reading Settings. Click that, and you block Googlebot.
Bot traffic is rampant and has enormous volumes. Something close to fifty percent of all internet traffic comes from Bots, with close to thirty percent of all traffic originating from malicious Bots.
For paid traffic, Bot traffic is a severe problem. There is no way to monetize Bot traffic, and this automated traffic can wreak havoc on your campaign statistics. This isn’t just a statistical problem, though. If your campaign funnels are getting too much Bot traffic, the overall quality of the traffic and signups you send to your affiliate offer will suffer. There are plenty of cases where affiliates were blocked from promoting specific campaigns down to Bot traffic’s negative effect.
Malicious Bot traffic can also cause bandwidth issues and put an enormous strain on your hosting’s resource usage. Host a pre-lander on your own server, for example, and any excessive Bot traffic can slow your pre-lander to a crawl or even take it offline completely.
There’s no real way to weed out Bot traffic until it appears. Run any paid traffic campaign, and you’ll start to see malicious Bot traffic.
The best way to deal with this is through the tracker you use to track your campaigns. Almost all trackers will have Bot settings and filters that can block this traffic from appearing in your campaign reports. Your tracker will most probably have options to block Bot traffic and even redirect traffic seen as coming from Bots to destinations outside your funnel.
This tactic is particularly effective since it protects your relationship with your affiliate network and prevents any useless traffic from reaching your final offers.
Another option available on most trackers is to close the connection when suspected Bot traffic tries to access your campaigns or final URLs. In this event, Bot traffic will reach a blank page. No harm done to your campaign stats or results.
Auto registrations are the flip-side of the Bot traffic coin. It’s straightforward to train a Bot to fill in and submit a registration form or an offer signup form, for example. This can be particularly damaging for your relationship with your affiliate network since you are basically sending them useless signups. Imagine promoting an offer in the financial vertical where a sales representative will contact your leads over a telephone call. If you’re sending too many auto registrations, that will significantly impact not only your conversions but also your overall relationship with the network.
A straightforward way to deal with auto registrations is through the use of ghost fields in your forms. Ghost fields are extra fields in your registration forms that are only visible to Bot traffic. Your human visitors won’t see these so that they won’t be part of genuine registrations, but Bots will fill these in. The image below serves to illustrate this better:
In the example, the DATE field isn’t visible to human visitors. The Bots will see the field, though, and fill this before clicking the registration button. When the registrations come into your systems, you’ll know that anything with an entry for this field will result from Bot traffic and auto registrations.
Are you worried about Bot traffic and auto registrations in your affiliate offerings? Talk to one of the BAFF account managers and see what we can do to minimize the effect of Bot traffic on your results.