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Are bots muddying your marketing analytics?

In short, most likely.

Bots have become a hot topic with many retailers lately as security has become a higher priority. Malicious bots can be part of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack or efforts to extract valuable customer data, or both.

Because of the increased visibility and publicity around security breaches, bots get bucketed into a security problem and marketing doesn't give them a second thought.

However, retail bots can contribute up to 30-40 percent of a retailer's traffic.  Marketers need to realize that any marketing data they are collecting will be significantly skewed by the bot traffic - segmentation efforts, A/B testing, product mix analysis, content and campaign effectiveness or even simple metrics like bounce rate - all would need to be re-evaluated based off of the known bot traffic.

That brings us to the first challenge, determining how much of your traffic consists of bots. For Akamai's Bot Manager Solution, this is the first thing we address. Because our solution is built to give you options for the actions you can take, taking the right action is dependent upon knowing how much traffic is bots and what type of bots are visiting your site and erroneously influencing your data.

Recommendations to improve your marketing data:

1. Know your bot traffic and bot breakdown (good, bad, neutral): There are some tools available to do this at no cost, but as with most free tools, you get what you pay for. This article, How To Filter Google Analytics Referral Spam & Bot Traffic, provides an example of both an easy (sort of) way to filter out bots and the quality of the process. As you'll see the author peppers a lot of "probably" throughout, admitting that it is not a comprehensive solution. A good alternative is to go to a solution vendor and trial their bot management product. Most will do this, including Akamai, and it will get you the vital data you need to determine what your next steps are.

2. Align internal teams: As bots can be good, bad and in between, you need to make sure all teams internally - marketing, IT, site operations, etc. - are aware of the different bots as some may be tied to partners, and thus legitimate. It is also a good idea to make sure everyone understands the impact that bots are having on the business.

3. Extract the bot data from your marketing data and analytics: First, you need to be able to tag the bots as bots so that you can work to exclude from data analysis. Next, you need to ensure your data tools can use the bot tag to perform the necessary exclusions. In the case of Akamai's Bot Manager, the first step is very simple. The second step is also possible for most analytics tools as part of the traffic filtering capabilities. By taking the unique identifiers provided by a bot management tool, analytics users can create the appropriate filters to ensure their data is as clean as possible. Generally, this will take coordination from the teams managing bots and the teams managing web site analytics, at least until the analytics team is familiar enough with the bot management tool to own the entire process.

Bots aren't new to the landscape, but their impact on marketing is changing and it can be tough to navigate the best path forward for your company. If you want to know more about bots and how to combat them feel free to contact us.

1 Comment

You want to be able to have your data to be clean as possible. This is great information, thanks for sharing these tips!