It’s always exciting to see that your website’s traffic is increasing – new eyes on your brand’s content can only be a good thing, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Sometimes a sudden and unexplained uptick in web traffic can actually be a negative thing, as it can mean that “bot” traffic is driving the increase. Bot traffic is often employed to deceive businesses about the human traffic they’re actually attracting, glean email addresses and contact information from your website, spam comments on blogs and other web pages, and in some very serious cases, to implement a denial-of-service attack on your website or scan for vulnerabilities that may allow bad actors to gain access to sensitive data.

The good news is that all websites have some form of bot traffic, and they aren’t always bad – sometimes they’re used for search engine indexing, searching for copyrighted content, and monitoring to ensure that your website is in good working order. Good bots typically don’t account for large increases in traffic to your website, though. If you’ve recently noticed a large uptick in traffic but are unable to explain why or how it’s happening, your website might be experiencing bot traffic that could be artificially increasing your website’s traffic numbers. Before you get too excited, it’s important to be able to identify when bots are inflating your numbers and what it might mean for your website.

How to identify bot traffic on your website

So you’ve noticed an uptick in your website traffic and suspect that it might be bots at work. Bot traffic can lead to incorrect data in Google Analytics, meaning your marketing data is less accurate. It can also mean more spam, longer load times on your website, and as a result, higher costs. If the increase is unexplainable and you haven’t been running any sort of successful marketing campaign, it’s most likely bot traffic at work.

To be sure, you’ll want to check in on your Google Analytics account. Identifying bots at work can be tricky, but when you know what to look for, it’s easier than you think – reviewing key metrics will give you a good idea of what’s going on. If a majority of the “users” on your website are spending extremely short periods of time on your content, the culprit is more than likely bots crawling that page before moving onto the next target. 

They’ll have only viewed one page per session, will have an extremely high bounce rate, and the vast majority of sessions will be new, possibly even a 100% rate. Your referrals will also help to inform you about the presence of bots – you’ll be able to see if your website is receiving referral spam, giving you an idea of where exactly this traffic is coming from and allowing you to filter out these results in the future.

Some sloppier bot traffic sellers will also make bots easily identifiable in your “Referrals” section, where you will see a high amount of traffic from an odd-looking domain. Simply blocking this domain will stop the bot traffic. 

What does bot traffic mean for my website?

Bot traffic on your website can mean many things – it might simply mean that bots are crawling for contact information or posting spam content, and in extreme (and fairly rare) cases it could mean that bots are looking for exploits or even trying to take down your website. One of the most troubling implications is that bot traffic could mean that your SEO agency is trying to trick you into thinking that your traffic is way up thanks to their efforts, when in reality they’re coasting on minimal effort and making a quick buck off your lack of knowledge about the industry.

Some SEO agencies – but not all, of course – make big, unrealistic promises regarding your website’s traffic that they know they can’t possibly meet. In order to buy themselves more time (or just fool you outright), some SEO agencies will purchase bot traffic in order to make it appear like they’ve generated new traffic if their efforts have not met client expectations. This can continue for months or years with the agency not putting any actual work in, instead collecting invoices and hoping that you don’t get wise to their little game.

Buying bot traffic can be quite cheap and is easy for anybody with the knowhow, making it an all-too-easy option for desperate agencies who can’t produce results. This behaviour is troubling, as it makes you believe that people are visiting your website en masse but aren’t actually interested in your content – bot traffic looks good on paper, but doesn’t create any sort of revenue for your business. It can also end up costing you more in hosting bandwidth and slow down your website for actual human users, meaning that the people who do actually have interest in using your website will be met with a slow, unintuitive experience that could very well turn them away.

These deceptive practices need to be identified early and dealt with so that your business doesn’t aimlessly spend thousands of dollars on an SEO agency that isn’t actually doing anything. If you suspect that your agency is employing bots to inflate your traffic numbers and get your repeat business, it’s important to confirm your suspicions and deal with the problem before any further damage can be done.

Keep in mind that your agency may not be at fault if you are getting a spike in bot traffic, so don’t be quick to blame them. Instead, get a detailed breakdown of what they are doing for your website each month and measure it against their reports. Good agencies will devote human eyes to your account for at least a few hours per month to do very specific things, and actually blocking spam bots is usually in their task list and best interests. If you find something, alert them, and ask them to monitor it in the future. If the traffic keeps up and they aren’t transparent about their efforts, there may be an issue. 

You deserve an agency you can count on. ion8 is an all-in-one business consultancy with a full team of reliable technology and communications specialists with the skills and experience needed to properly set up analytics for your website. With ion8 on your side, your website will be able to automatically block spam and detect bot traffic so that you know exactly what’s happening with your analytics at all times. To find out how ion8 can transform the way you do business, get in touch with us today.