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Negative Impact of Online Bots on Digital Marketing

Measurement is what makes marketing a science, rather than a superstition. Digital marketing is a superfluous expense for most companies. This is because the return on investment on digital assets and advertisements is, in many cases, unpredictable. Your website traffic stats and online ad could be a resounding hit, flooding you with thousands of new visitors and interested customers leads, or it could be just online bots, wasting your time, money and presenting with all skewed metrics.

Marketing teams, globally are recognizing the importance of investing in bot mitigation technologies, specifically against advanced bots that pose a severe threat with a wide range of capabilities, including the ability to evade detection, impersonate humans, change identities and vary attack patterns.

Marketing analytics products and a host of data analytics tools are lacking human vs bot traffic identification capabilities, not to mention they do not give you much insight into good and bad bot analysis, the origin of such traffic and what bots are looking at on your site. Since advanced persistent bots can perfectly mimic human behaviour, even when captured as human traffic, distort visitor tracking and reporting, rendering critical business marketing tools ineffective.

How online bots adversely affect marketing KPIs and reporting metrics.

  1. Bots result in skewed website analytics - Your website analytics metrics shows an unusual spike of new website visitors’ from China, browsing your site, viewing more pages, and checking out all of your products in detail. Should you invest more in the Chinese market, or create Chinese-language assets? Perhaps but not if the new users are not human. Worse, what if the marketing analytics software you use does not even capture the bot visits on your website? Not knowing the true genuine monthly website visits is even a major concern for marketers.

  2. Bots result in skewed lead attribution reports - In case you review your lead attribution reports to plan promotion channels, the lead attribution report shows that you have been getting a lot of clicks on a particular ad or an online asset. Unknown to you, the clicks and views are really generated by bots running rampant on the web. Being oblivious to this, you decide to invest in the creation of similar ads and assets. This results in investing in promotional ads and assets which yield lesser returns.

  3. Bots could make you invest in wrong channels for promotion - Marketers need to understand that impressions mean absolutely nothing in today's bot driven world. Consider a Twitter user who is a real person and wants to come off as a more popular influencer, perhaps to attract sponsorships. Such a user can run bots that constantly follow others, and then unfollow anyone who doesn't reciprocate. All that user cares about is boosting impressions. Marketers who aren't careful can wind up paying a lot of money to reach people who only influence Twitter bots but not human beings. According to the site TwitterAudit, one in four of Trump’s followers is fake, and similar ratios run through the accounts of the other presidential hopefuls.

  4. Bots result in wrong landing page optimization decisions - Bots are not subject to the rules of psychology and have no color preference. Let's say if A/B testing metrics shows that more than half of visitors prefer blue over orange for a call to action on your website, it is important to know how many visitors are real human and how many are bots.

  5. Bots drive up PPC costs for companies - As bad bots crawl across websites, they click on ads, thereby driving up PPC costs. Bot perpetrators running scams send traffic to publisher sites, resulting in the perception of boosted site performance. The more sophisticated bots can even perform user-like actions, including browsing pages, varying time on page, and filling out forms. However, these are mostly unusable leads or non-valuable traffic, so the publishing site’s reputation is damaged and ad revenue is lost. Marketers need to invest in technologies that can detect and prevent such a massive fraud.

  6. Bots analysis can help optimize marketing campaigns - Once you know the times of a day your site is most frequently visited by bots and when the traffic is most genuine, you understand where and when humans are genuinely interacting with your site. This is very important for marketing team efforts in selecting campaigns by time and geolocation.

  7. Marketing needs to have a control over bot mitigation strategy - Good bots are certainly vital for successful online businesses. But if a website is getting 200k hits in a day just from search engine but its search engine rankings aren’t getting any better, it needs to rethink about saving over server cost. Marketers, when armed with accurate bot traffic analysis can decide the amount of good bot traffic the business would like to have from social media and search engines like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This also is an opportunity to speed up the load time of the website.

The global marketing ecosystem now needs to take a leap in addressing the bot threat and others associated problems like web scraping, botnet attacks, customer data aggregation, click fraud, and hacking attempts, to name a few.

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