Bot-checks in emails

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Level 8

Bot-checks in emails

Hi all – I was just having a conversation where I had to explain to someone that often times we register email clicks that aren’t actually human clicks but rather an email scanning program. It’s often confusing, but when I see clicks on privacy policy and other footer links I assume it’s a bot.

So I had a thought – what if we put invisible GIFs or a hidden character link in email templates that direct to a Bot-Check page?  With this, the tally of clicks on that link would equal the number of non-human clicks, which would make it easier to explain and verify that these aren’t real clicks.  Have any of you ever tested something like this?

14 REPLIES 14
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Level 6 - Champion Alumni

Re: Bot-checks in emails

Haven't tested this but adding a honeypot to an email to track bot clicks does sounds cool. Only question I have is how do you maintain the hyperlink as tracked by Marketo while also being hidden? Unless you don't plan to hide it which could cause issues with real people clicking the link.... i mean who wouldn't click a link that says "Don't click this link!" Could be a cool idea to submit to Marketo to automatically embed a bot link in the email that would only get triggered by a bot click based on being hidden, but again, not sure how to accomplish this task.... make the hyperlink color match the email background?

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Level 8

Re: Bot-checks in emails

You can HREF a space or a random character in the footer that's the same color as the background and no underline, so in theory... <a href="blahblah.com" style="color:{{my.background color}}; text-tecoration: none;">&nbsp</a>

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Re: Bot-checks in emails

Hi Robb - Thanks for sharing this post, we are facing similar issue, we have updated the above code at the footer of our email, my question is the link suppose to be hidden from human eye as well as not clickable by humans Our code is as follows <p><a href="https://www.xyz.com/?" style="color: {{my.background color}}; text-tecoration: none;"></a><br /></p>, when we send test email we cannot click this link, is this an expected behavior?

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Level 10 - Community Moderator

Re: Bot-checks in emails

The link is intended to be hidden. Of course this means it also looks like a clickjacking attempt. (Also, it will not be hidden in all mail clients, no matter what you do.) I wouldn't place much stock in this method.

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Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Re: Bot-checks in emails

Hi Robb - the thought here makes sense, but don't forget, these bots will often click on the links and then - if the scanner doesn't throw the email into quarantine/junk - the email may actually get delivered to the recipient, who may generate valid clicks.  How would you distinguish the two?

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Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Re: Bot-checks in emails

We are experimenting with a top link hidden in the HTML that goes to a Honeypot page. The spam bots we see click only the first link and even if they click ALL links, then anyone who clicks Link 1 we know is a bot.

No real results yet though, but that's the plan.

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Level 10 - Community Moderator

Re: Bot-checks in emails

The spam bots we see click only the first link and even if they click ALL links, then anyone who clicks Link 1 we know is a bot.

Mail scanners have to click all links to be useful.  If something is clicking only one link it's not a good example.

Also, if "someone" clicks a presumed scanner-only link, that doesn't mean that all clicks registered to that someone are from the scanner. A human click a minute later would be discarded in that scenario.

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Level 10 - Community Moderator

Re: Bot-checks in emails

the email may actually get delivered to the recipient, who may generate valid clicks. How would you distinguish the two?

Right, you can't say "this recipient is only a mail scanner" you can only say "this recipient uses a mail scanner." Otherwise you discard real clicks from the same lead.

However, Robb seems to only want to count the number of times a scanner-only link was clicked, so he can prove to other people that such automated clicks do indeed happen. And in that respect it will be useful.

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Re: Bot-checks in emails

I'm not sure if this is a supported feature or not, but try emailing support and asking them to switch on the "Add hidden link to detect email bots" feature within the feature manager.