THE CURRENCY OF THE INTERNET
Web traffic is defined as the amount of visitors and visits a website receives. Typically, the more visitors and visits a site receives, the more popular and more valuable the site will be—more visits, in theory, yield more conversions.
However, in the age of digital marketing and internet trickery, traffic metrics are becoming less reliable and less valuable thanks to something called, fake web traffic.
WHAT IS FAKE WEB TRAFFIC?
Fake web traffic is generated by bots or software, as opposed to human interaction. Bots can “mimic the mouse movements and clicks humans make to give the impression that a person is visiting a website…”
FAKE WEB TRAFFIC’S IMPACT
In the last 10 years, thanks to online ads, marketers and advertisers realized they could reach TV-size audiences at a fraction of the ad price. Digital advertising and marketing budgets skyrocketed as marketers could surgically target specific audiences better than ever before. With web traffic being the “currency of the internet”, it wasn’t long before people adopted fake web traffic as a way to bolster their own agenda.
It’s estimated fake web traffic will cost advertisers $6.3 billion this year alone. According to the ANA study, which was conducted by the security firm White Ops and is titled The Bot Baseline: Fraud In Digital Advertising, 11 percent of display ads and almost a quarter of video ads were “viewed” by software, not people.
How fake web traffic is used today:
- Artificially inflating the views of ads to garner more ad dollars from marketers and in turn from businesses
- Boosting site traffic to attract marketers to advertise on their site
- Increasing visits and visitors to increase the value of a website before it’s put up for sale
IDENTIFYING FAKE WEB TRAFFIC
Start by reviewing your site’s analytics and looking for these common fake web traffic signs.
- Sudden Increase in Traffic—If your website receives 100 views on average per day, then one day it suddenly jumps to 10,000—something is likely off.
- The Same Browser—If all of your visitors are using the same browser, this is likely a sign you’re experiencing fake traffic.
- Short Visits and Session Duration—If visitors aren’t spending more than a couple of seconds on your site before leaving, this could be a sign of fake traffic. Now, you cannot expect every visitor to stay on your site for a few minutes, but leaving seconds after arrival is a cause for concern.
- Unusual Language, Country, and City—For example, if your site is primarily targeted toward English speaking people living in Colorado, yet you’re getting a majority of your traffic from a non-english speaking country abroad, investigate further.
- User Interaction—If your site is claiming a high number of unique visitors but none of the blog posts on your site are being commented on, and/or your social media has little to no interaction, fake web traffic could be the culprit.
It’s important to keep in mind—there are no telltale metrics that will undoubtedly identify fake traffic, especially if the website is receiving both real and fake traffic. Instead, you must be able to correlate multiple factors, identify, and investigate anything suspicious in your traffic data—the more red flags the more skeptical you should be.
PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM FAKE WEB TRAFFIC
The number one thing you can do to protect yourself from fake web traffic is connect your website to Google webmaster tools and regularly monitor and review your site’s analytics. Once set up in Google’s webmaster tools, Google’s own bots will crawl your website and provide a list of any errors it may find as well as send you email alerts when:
- Your website is being attacked by malware
- Your pages are not indexed
- You have server connectivity problems
- You get a manual penalty from Google
If you feel your website is being affected by fake web traffic or you’re looking for some help on protecting your website against fake web traffic, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help.