Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

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Level 7 - Champion

Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

It looks like other systems are solving the issue of fake clicks, specifically ones that come occur because SPAM filters click every link to make sure none are malicious.

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There is already an idea asking for this functionality: https://nation.marketo.com/ideas/7095#comment-35229

There are a few discussions that can help you identify if a click is real or fake: Bot or Not? – Are you suffering from ‘bot clicks’? Fake clicks followed by fake web visits Spam filters registering clicks?

This discussion is to generate ideas for how we (or engineers!!) can identify fake clicks to remove them from reporting. Things like...if you get an open or a click (or multiple clicks) before the email is delivered...it implies something!

Amy Connor​ recommended all links clicked in the same minute be excluded - no human does that. Or excluding certain links like the header. (Christina here - why do we link the header if no one clicks it?!)

Brooke Bartos​ pointed out that clicking every social link never happens IRL. Too true.

Do you have a suggestion? Jump in!

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25 REPLIES 25
Level 6 - Champion

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

We don't have the granularity to view this in Marketo's UI, but my guess is that all link clicks are very close together in the same minute. Perhaps even in the same second. I don't think we can use that data in Marketo via the UI, but there must be a way for Marketo to see that on the back end! Our lead scoring is all messed up because of this, and it's giving false information to Sales—and making them not trust us!

Level 6 - Champion

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

Hey Amy,

Not sure if it's a viable solution, but we have audience segments where auto-clicks are a HUGE problem. We've switched instead to utilizing the web page view activity to trigger those lead scoring and lead management workflows. We need to do some additional work on our end by filtering web page views using the querystring associated with particular campaigns, but we have found this to drastically cut down the false-click scoring. Our audience is B2B, and the technologies they use for SPAM monitoring do NOT appear (in my own experience) to trigger the Marketo "page view" activity to be trigger, or for GA data to be impacted. I've heard others on this board state differently, but that's our audience/experience. Message me if you want to chat through our solution.

Thanks,

Chris

Level 6 - Champion

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

I, like many, am constantly fighting this in our instance. Bot clicks are a serious source of frustration for our marketers who are sometimes getting a skewed perspective of results. Of COURSE, I am fully on board with a built-in Marketo solution to help address and normalize real-person activity and that of spam filtering technology. But that being said, part of me thinks there is no permanent solution. If an email marketing platform can easily understand what activities are being driven by a bot or triggering a bot to scan/click/etc., wouldn't someone with malicious intent be able to use the same exact information to avoid the can/spam checkers from the get go, and/or be able to react differently to a bot response than they do to a real person response? I.e. be a nice safe website with no code injecting or phishing scams present for bot traffic, but then presenting a different experience to people? I know I'm being overly simplistic, but doing this accurately and forever seems like a pipe dream.

I'm probably not thinking about a lot of things correctly, but as much as I would absolutely utilize and cherish this feature, I just don't see it being a holistic and viable long-term ask of Marketo. At least, not without direct cooperation of those can spam technology companies.

Level 5 - Champion

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

We have a surpression Smart List that tracks clicked more than 5 links in 2 minutes without an email open, then excludes those people from running through the scoring campaign until after 2 minutes. It's not perfect, but it helps. Stops the worst offenders at least.

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

Going off of volume of clicks, frequency of clicks, or even the link clicked isn't a viable solution because with thousands of customers sending out thousands of emails a year, there will bound to be scenarios where each of those was the desired behavior and we'll end right back up over here but with the opposite problem of Marketo not counting real clicks.

Instead, I would suggest looking at the order of events. SPAM filtering servers often ghost click the links to validate there is no malicious intent, but without registering opens, so one solution would be to not count clicks unless the email has also been already opened. Alternatively, if the link is for your own domain, don't count the click unless the web page visit is also logged. This isn't a fully comprehensive solution since GDPR and cookie-enablement could prevent this from being error-free, not to mention not every link is for your own domain.

Another interesting solution is that Marketo white-labels 250ok for it's email deliverability metrics. It could tap into that existing relationship and only count clicks if the email also has a successful delivery.

Ultimately, systematically solving this problem would require building for all corner cases not just the mean, so better understanding all of the root causes would help provide for a more informed decision regarding possible solutions. However, human behavior can't dictate the solution since that behavior itself isn't consistent across the millions of email recipients.

Level 5

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

Here's an helpful article that explains how email clicks are fake - https://www.demandlab.com/insights/blog/want-believe-email-link-clicks-arent-real/

Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

There was an active discussion last February regarding Courtney Grimes’s blog post: Re: [Shared Blog]: I Want to Believe, But: Your Email Link Clicks Aren’t Real

Level 6 - Champion

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

To piggy back off of that other discussion and Courtney Grimes​article, we've also used filter constraints using querystring parameters to identify true clicks as well. In the article/discussion it's pretty well agreed to use web page views as a 'true' indicator of clicking, but if a campaign includes multiple web pages you need to add those every time to every trigger. Since we're already tagging URLs for GA, we can use any web page visit that includes the correct source/medium combination for our GA tracking to know if any given page view was directed via an internally distributed marketing email. This allows a 'catch all' to score those engagements.

In practice, we have different scoring rules based on the content that was engaged with, so we have multiple of these 'catch all' filters running for each of the groups of content and their relative score values, but we've had decent success with this setup. Obviously all depends on your instance and use case!

Level 2

Re: Fake clicks from SPAM filters - is there an end in sight?

We implemented a simple solution for SPAM Clicks. If there are more than 3 clicks in the same email. We dont consider it. We built a smart campaign around it.