A spike in your site’s traffic can seem like a well-earned pay off for all the effort you put into it. But could you be experiencing an overload of fake traffic?

Traffic generated by bots or software, as opposed to human interaction is known as fake traffic. In 2014, a Wall Street Journal article reported that 36% of all web traffic comes from botnets.

What is a bot?

A bot, short for robot, is a software application assigned with completing automated tasks online. Some bots, the ‘good bots’ are designed to help brands like copyright bots, data bots and trader bots. Then there are bad bots like click bots, impostor bots, spam bots and spy bots.

Why should you care?

Bad bots, usually invisible to the public, move around in the web in order to analyze its content, copy or capture proprietary data, or tamper with the results of online advertising campaigns. These harmful bots are designed for malicious purposes, such as spreading malware, committing click fraud and artificially inflating website traffic.

Some people voluntarily engage in this black hat technique to show that they are getting a lot of traffic. While they may make a few dollars, they stand to lose everything with this trick. Once caught by Google or advertisers, there is no going back to a place of trust and integrity.

Fake traffic causes an increased bounce rate and low time on site. This takes a huge hit at your page rankings. You can even get your Google AdSense account suspended or blog disabled.

All of this will be done for nothing, as fake traffic leads to zero conversion!

How to detect fake traffic?

To detect whether your site has fallen victim to fake traffic, you should start by reviewing the analytics. Check the following factors in the audience overview:

  • Bounce Rate
  • Pages per session
  • Average Session Duration
  • New Sessions

An extremely high bounce rate, extremely low pages per session ratio, extremely short average session duration and an extremely high or low percentage of new sessions are all causes for concern. You can also check if the metrics of language, city and country is consistent with the content of the website.

In addition to analytics, you can also check onsite factors for signs of user interaction. If your site witnesses a huge number of unique visitors but little to no interaction in the form of comments on your blog posts or on social media platforms, that could be considered a red flag.

It is so important to remember that there is no 100% reliable method to detect bot traffic, especially if your website is receiving both real and fake traffic.  The best practice is to be vigilant on the lookout for red flags.

What if you are receiving bot traffic?

There are certain specialized companies that offer traffic audit and combat ad fraud. Or you could talk to your web design company to discuss the possible measure that can be taken. BOT click trap and JavaScript Redirect are two most popular methods.

The presence of bots is a major optimization problem and causes real financial losses. It is a good practice to be mindful of your website’s traffic and take appropriate measures to keep it clean.