Identifying and Filtering Bot Traffic On Automotive Websites

December 23, 2014 / Automotive SEO, Featured, Internet, Paid Search, PPC /
Bot Traffic - Strong Automotive

What is a bot? A bot is a piece of software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.

Good Bots VS. Bad Bots

Good bots

  • Web crawling – Google, Bing, other search engines employ bots to crawl and index the web. They read the sites to check their content for updates and keyword relevancy.
  • R2D2, C3PO, RoboCop, Autobots, The Terminator in T2

Bad Bots

  • Spammers – these bots crawl the web looking for places to leave spam comments.
  • Scrappers – bots that crawl the web and look for content to steal and repost
  • DDoS – bots that repeatedly download the website to slow down the servers
  • Decepticons, Ultron, The Terminator in The Terminator

Recognizing Bot Traffic

You will never notice the good bots. They do not register in analytics and they do not slow down your site. Bad bots, however, are supposed to be filtered out of Google Analytics. Google Analytics is designed to filter out non-human visitors. Some get though and are then filtered out manually by website administrators. You may notice spam from pages with a form without a CAPTCHA (an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”). A CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human.

Detecting and Filtering Bot Traffic

To detect bot traffic you need to know how Google Analytics categorizes traffic. Organic Search is people visiting your website that have used a search engine to search a term and then clicking a link on the search results page. This is typically the largest source of traffic. Paid Search is people searching a term and then clicking an ad on the search results page. This is also known as PPC Traffic. Referral Traffic is traffic from a visitor who clicked a link to your site on a non-search page. This may come from a manufacturer site or something like YELP. Direct Traffic is people typing “yoursite.com” directly into their browsers or clicking a bookmark in their browser. Email Traffic comes from clicking a link in an email advertisement. Bot Traffic will always be categorized as Direct Traffic in Google Analytics. Monitoring for a spike in Direct Traffic (as shown below) will show you when your site is being read by a bot.

Identifying Bot Traffic

It is possible that your site suddenly became popular. However, much like high school, it is unlikely. Here are a few characteristics of bot traffic that normal traffic will not have. You can look at these three metrics after a spike in direct traffic to identify bot traffic.

  • Time on site will be close to zero.
  • Bounce rate will be abnormally low. Bots often hit multiple pages.
  • Most bots will show as new sessions. (>90%)

Filtering Bot Traffic

Using filters in Google Analytics you can filter out the bots from your traffic. This ensures accurate reporting on your customers visiting your website. Blocking the bots from loading your website at all would have to be done on the server side and is not recommended.


About the author

John Paul Strong: For someone who spends an average of 135 days outside of the office meeting with clients, John Paul Strong remains the driving force behind his Birmingham-based advertising agency, Strong Automotive Merchandising. Strong began his career as a fresh-faced account executive at Martin Advertising. Learning much, but never satisfied, he convinced his father to partner with him in reopening their own advertising agency in 2004, catering exclusively to the automotive industry. The company started strong but humble. The original roster of 10 employees and eight clients has exploded today, growing to 100 full-time employees and more than 220 automotive dealers. And it hasn’t gone without notice. Along the way, Strong Automotive Merchandising has been recognized as a perennial winner in Birmingham’s Best Places to Work contest and as a Top 20 Agency among Google’s National Ad Partners. Yet, Strong still finds time to share what he’s learned along the way. As an avid writer, he has published two books in the Next Day Traffic series, along with more than 1,000 automotive-focused blog posts. He is also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, and his success has been recognized in the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2013 “Top 40 Under 40” feature and the 2017 CEO Awards. The foundation for Strong’s career began at the University of Montevallo where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and advanced public speaking. Always staying ahead of the competition, Strong later went on to study in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program. Amid all of his endeavors, Strong always makes time for what matters most – his family. He is a proud husband to Amy, and father to Lilly Grace, Anne Charlotte, Hudson, and Ford.