A simple way to detect bot traffic

Published: May 21, 2020

Category: Affiliate marketing guides

Bots are a huge part of the internet. Some studies show that more than half of all website visitors are bots. This can have a huge impact on your affiliate campaign. For this reason, Affie is here to show you how to detect bot traffic.

What is bot traffic?

Bot traffic is any traffic that doesn‘t come from humans, but from bots instead. If you want to get rid of bot traffic on your site, you need to know what you‘re up against. This is why Affie brought you this beginners’ guide to bots.

Bots are programs and scripts made with the purpose of doing an automated task on the internet. Usually, those tasks are simple and repetitive, so it is easier to write code for a bot that will keep doing it indefinitely. Some of the tasks bots do are:

  • Indexing sites into search engines
  • Monitoring if a website is online and working
  • Making sure no one is stealing copywritten content

These are benevolent and useful bots. They take over tasks that are too repetitive and mundane for a human to do.

Illustration of a friendly robot.
The internet could never function without good bots

However, there is a great number of bots created with the intention to actively harm other users. Their purposes include:

  • Scraping sites for personal data
  • Spamming users and owners of different sites with promotional material
  • Stealing content
  • DDoS attacks

These are the malevolent, bad bots, and you should do everything you can to prevent them from visiting your website.

Why is it important for advertisers to detect bot traffic?

The repetitive nature of the actions bots can do can make you lose money. Simply put – a less-than-honest affiliate can use bots that repeatedly visit your page, generating fake traffic. These bots won‘t buy anything, because they‘re not human, and yet you‘ll have to pay for all clicks if you’ve agreed on a pay-per-click model. This way, an affiliate can make lots of money off of you by inflating page views, while putting in almost no effort to actually sell your product. For that reason, it is crucial to detect bot traffic as soon as possible.

Illustration of a mosquito robot.
Bad bots can leech your wallet if undetected

Another reason to be concerned about bots is the fact that you‘re optimizing your site to cater to bots and not people who are interested in buying your product or service. This can result in a lower SEO ranking, which isn‘t easy to raise even without bots. Also, you won‘t be able to have a realistic insight into the success of your campaign.

It is better to have 1000 clicks with 100 purchases than 20000 clicks if they only lead to 20 purchases.

How to identify

A clear indicator of bot traffic is an exceptional number of visits to your site with a very low or non-existent click-through rate. Additionally, bots are made to do one thing again and again, and their success depends on how many times they can repeat an action in a certain period of time. That is why a very short time visitors spend on your pages is another sign of bot traffic.

Both factors can affect your campaign negatively and make you lose money rapidly.

Affiliate marketing is a growing field that can be very lucrative. Unfortunately, this attracts many affiliates who are willing to turn to bots and seek out publishers with SOI offers with the intent of scamming them. For this reason, you should make sure to single out any traffic source that shows this kind of behavior in your campaign.

How do you detect bot traffic?

A defining trait of a huge majority of bots is that they aren‘t very smart. If they are programmed to click links on your page, they‘ll do so indiscriminately. This is a flaw you can use to identify which traffic sources are sending you bot traffic. You can avoid a percent of bots with good hosting, service, but this can get expensive. However, there is another way, which requires you to detect bot traffic. It demands a little know-how and an activity tracker.

Silhouette of the detective Sherlock Holmes
You need to outsmart bad bots

Unfortunately, your problems may stem from other sources. A faulty link can make purchases impossible. Hence, you should be 100% sure you have a bot infestation. You can do this by doing some detective work. Set a ”bot trap” in the form of hidden links. Make sure no actual human can see this link. You can do it by making it very small, for example, 1×1 pixel. Another option is to place it in an unapproachable spot on your site, such as a non-scrollable block. If your tracker records any number of clicks on these links – you know you are dealing with bots.

Block bot traffic

Now you‘re sure you are losing money because one or more of your affiliates are sending you bot traffic. The next step is blocking it and demanding refunds. Screenshot the activity tracker to prove bot activity and get your money back.

Future campaigns

If you discover a traffic source that utilizes bots, you can include it in your blacklist, and never work with them again. However, this doesn‘t necessarily mean you‘ve fixed all your problems forever. Use the knowledge you have to immediately block bot traffic sources, but still run new bot tests by setting traps in every campaign that follows. This blacklist can be a source of reputation if you share it with other advertisers. Try to build mutually beneficial relationships with them.

Other benefits of blocking bot traffic

If you’re sure real people are visiting your site, you can track and observe their behavior for a more successful campaign. Your optimization will be a lot more effective and your analytics will show you the actual state of your affiliate program. Not to mention the fact you‘ll be paying the actual worth of your affiliates‘ traffic and avoid losing profit right from the start.

An honest collaboration can lead to a long partnership that will benefit both you and your affiliates if you start off on the same page.

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