How do “bots” cause problems with tracking statistics?
If you’re not familiar with what “bots” are, they’re computer programs that scan links and web pages for various reasons. The types of bots that you’re probably most familiar with are those from Google that index the web so you can quickly find stuff you’re searching for.
But there are all sorts of bots.
There are bots that do nothing but search websites for email addresses in order to create huge email lists to send spam to. That’s what we would call a “bad” bot.
There are “good” bots too, such as those that scan your incoming email to protect you from clicking on malicious links.
Bots can be aggressive as they scan links, following every link on every page, sucking up page-after-page of data, or they may simply take a link and look at the first thing it points to—whether it’s a page or just another link—and not scan any further than that.
The point is, the Internet is loaded with bot activity and it’s completely unpredictable.
In fact, it’s estimated that more than half of all the clicks on the internet are generated by bots—not real people. And if you’re wondering whether this can affect your link stats, it definitely can, and certainly will.
Let’s take a look at some common cases where bots can screw up your stats...
Discrepancies between ClickMagick and your autoresponder
Take the common example of using ClickMagick to track click-through rates in email messages. You would think that your ClickMagick stats would have to
match your autoresponder’s stats, right? It’s the same click, after all...
But that all changes when you factor in bots.
When an email message is opened, it’s fairly common for security software to scan the message first looking for malware and viruses. That software uses bots, and the bots may or may not follow the ClickMagick links they find. If the bots stop after reviewing the first link and never follow the redirections all the way through to your autoresponder, ClickMagick will record the click, but your autoresponder won’t see the click so you’ll get a stats discrepancy.
Or, consider an email message where you include your call-to-action link 5 times using the same tracking link. An actual person would click only one of those links and be taken to your landing page. A security bot, however, would check out all 5 links looking for danger, which might register 0 unique clicks in ClickMagick, but could register as 5 clicks in your autoresponder if the bot follows all the redirects!
These are wildly different results between bot clicks and clicks from real people ...
Discrepancies between ClickMagick links
It might seem counterintuitive at first, but you can see stats discrepancies when you send clicks from one ClickMagick link to another ClickMagick link. If a bot hits the first tracking link and stops right there, never redirecting the way a browser would, the second tracking link will never see the click...
This is especially important to keep in mind if you’re using ClickMagick rotators to distribute clicks to other people who might also be using ClickMagick—or for that matter, any other tracking service.
Advertisers and Social Media
Here’s another common scenario…
Whenever you submit an ad to a site like Google Ads or Bing, the first thing those sites do is validate your link by “clicking” on it to make sure they meet the advertising guidelines. That’s a bot clicking on your ad, not a real person, and it can affect your stats.
Similarly, when you try to post a link on a social media site like Facebook, that link will be validated by a bot before the link is published. Depending upon the site, the bot may look at only the first link, or it may follow every redirect to a final page… Who knows? Every bot behaves differently.
Hopefully with these few examples, you now have a great idea of how bots can create discrepancies when you’re looking at your stats.
ClickMagick does a great job at detecting bots, but hundreds of new bots are created every single day and there is no way of knowing how one particular bot is going to affect your stats.
Article 271 Last updated: 05/11/2020 3:30:08 PM
To learn more about bots and how you can configure your tracking links and rotators to manage them, read these articles: