Ronen Wasserman

Bot or Not? – Are you suffering from ‘bot clicks’?

Discussion created by Ronen Wasserman on Sep 4, 2018
Latest reply on Oct 28, 2019 by Mike Mastropaolo

If you are a marketer, you probably have heard about the somewhat new and emerging enemy: The Email Security Bots. The war is on and we have been standing clueless for a while, watching from the side while the Bots were messing with our numbers, with no real solution available.
Well, it’s time to fight back!
It all started a couple of years ago when some of our customers noticed a surge in email click metrics and they also pointed out some interesting and strange behaviors in their data:

  • Seconds after email is delivered, they see a high volume of clicks
  • They noticed a high volume of clicks from the same account/company
  • The activity log shows ‘clicked a link in an email’ before the ‘email open’ event and in many cases without visiting the actual page

Our research concluded those behaviors are typical for Bots, and NOT for humans. The bots' role is to click each link in emails, sent to the domain they protect, to prevent harmful clicks that can harm the company by flagging them as a phishing scam.
The implications of those Bots clicks can be devastating for marketing teams worldwide.
All your marketing numbers could be way off. It means you’ve been counting clicks completely wrong in your marketing automation program. Not to mention the impact on your scoring, interesting moments and nurturing campaigns and obviously your reports.
We, at eDigital.Marketing, did an extensive research and came up with a solution that we would like to share with you. We implemented it in our customers' instances and our customers are surprised by the findings and are satisfied with the results.
We started by running a test on an email that was part of a nurturing campaign already built in Marketo.
The test was using a Smart Campaign that was listening to page visits and email delivery.
The program was running for about five days to allow enough time for prospects to actually click on the link in the email.
Five days later we ran a new Smart Campaign just to collect data from Marketo about "clicked the link in the email" without any filters at all.
We downloaded both lists to excel and checked for clicks in Marketo that were NOT in the list we have created. Here are the shocking numbers:
Marketo counted 327 clicks WHILE the Smart Campaign only identified 91 of those clicks as real people who clicked the link and actually visited the page.

So at that point, it was pretty simple to calculate that approximately 72% of those clicks were fake and were made by ‘Bots’, we then identified and created a list of the companies that are using bots as part of their IT security infrastructure.
To make things even more complicated, we then went ahead and made some additional research on the list and found that a third of the remaining ‘humans’ can NOT be counted as clicked anyway since they visited the webpage in the past and NOT by using the email we've tested. The Smart Campaign was flagging them since the email was delivered to them and indeed in the past, they visited the page.
BUT since we compared the Marketo clicks to the Smart Campaign clicks, those ‘humans’ (that didn't click but visited the page) where excluded and therefore no extra calculating was needed.
To make sure the data is correct, we sampled some ‘Bot’ leads and checked their logs in Marketo. All leads from all companies who were suspected to be using ‘bots’ were showing the activity of a ‘bot’ - clicked but no open nor visited page.
In conclusion, out of 327 clicks identified by Marketo, only 91 were Humans.
Now all was left for us to do is to add a few Smart Campaigns to neutralize the Bots and stop them from disrupting the scoring system, the interesting moments and all reporting.
We now have a Bot system running in the background making sure all our numbers are correct and not just making us look good.