Re: Detecting Spam Filter Activity in 2020

Level 2

Detecting Spam Filter Activity in 2020

I know there's been many version of this discussion over the years, but I'm curious what's the most current solution since most of what I've seen is from 2018 or older. 


My primary concern is that we're starting to see lots of lead scoring for "Web Page Visits" when the visits are coming from email spam filters clicking all the links within seconds of the emails being delivered. This is leading to false increases in a person's score - particularly since each email tends to have between 4-6 links to click.


I've been finding it much easier to filter "Clicks Link in Emails" because I look for a recent email open - I do know this has the effect of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if images are turned off, but my org has decided it's worth losing some images-off reporting given the sheer number of spam filter clicks we're seeing.


My question is, how are you tracking "Web Page Visits" and making sure they're not coming from spam? I had the idea to look for previous web page visits in the past 2 seconds, but not sure if Marketo will trigger quickly enough for that time frame to be effective. Even though this issue is caused by unopened emails, we can't use "Opened Email" as smart list filter because that would throw out organic web traffic, traffic from social media, etc.


I'm thinking our best bet is to use a honeypot link in emails, but how long after a honeypot was clicked would you not track other web page activity? And how do you ensure that the honeypot is clicked before other links?

Anne Sample
Level 9

Re: Detecting Spam Filter Activity in 2020

Great question and you've definitely already got a good head start compared to many. Fortunately for me, we haven't YET seen the web page view data get too muddy from bots (at least not yet) based on a lot of testing and reviewing of the activity logs. 


I totally agree Marketo will NOT be able to process link clicks/web page views that quickly as I've tried to use "In the Past 1 Minute" as a rule and it fails often to filter correctly. 


From my conversations with other Marketo users, I think most people who are encountering the strong bot web traffic are either using multiple web page views over a certain period of time/days, or simply building an actual conversion into the page (download, button, whatever) that's being monitored for activity since the bot won't "browse" your content. 


Curious to hear what others are doing to help combat the issue. I am still holding out hope that Marketo will be able to use some of the power of Sensai to use machine learning to properly filter our reporting, even if detecting in real-time is challenging but we'll see.  

Level 3

Re: Detecting Spam Filter Activity in 2020

I thought I'd heard/read some update/upgrade was happening in a product release this year or something like that. Or someone mentioned it at the virtual summit. I can't really remember where I read that. But yes this whole issue is quite frustrating - even moreso that it hasn't been solved yet. 

Level 9

Re: Detecting Spam Filter Activity in 2020

Personally, I completely commiserate and understand the frustration and you, me, and other markers feel when we simply want to be able to measure the impact and engagement of our marketing campaigns and spam checkers, etc,. make that difficult.


However...  if you put yourself on the OTHER side of the equation I kind of DO understand why it's such a challenge. If you or I were able to without a doubt know which engagements or activities were happening by real humans vs. those by a bot, couldn't malicious parties do the same thing and leverage that information for the wrong reasons? The reason I think spam checking platforms have to mimic human behavior is so that they can mimic what will happen when a real human DOES click a link or open an email. The ability to differentiate by it's own definition causes risk for spam technology, right? 


My only point here is that while yes it's frustrating, it does absolutely make complete sense WHY it's such a hard nut to crack. I think there are tons of options for platforms like Marketo to step up and use the literally billions of sends they do at an aggregate level to appropriately clean up reporting and things of that nature to provide an accurate representation of engagement, but I'm personally a lot less confident them or anybody can really stop the bot triggering from happening to begin with, but instead could help us users filter those out. If we could know how to stop those bot actions from triggering activities, I don't see what's stopping other less well-meaning people from using the same techniques for phishing scams, etc. 


Just sharing my perspective!