Bot traffic from AdWords in Google Analytics Data

Theo Bennett - December 10, 2012

In order for Google Analytics to track visitors; both javascript and images have to be enabled in the visitor’s browser. Most bots, or programs that are written to digest the coding of web pages and collect information, don’t fit that tracking criteria ; therefore, this traffic show ups in web server logs but not in Google Analytics.
Recently there has been an increase in the number of bots that are visiting via real browsers and are able to execute GA code and thereby pollute your Google Analytics data reports. For me, these bots fall into four categories:

  1. Website Monitoring Services — These services continuously check your site to monitor uptime and other things like page load time. (Addressed in this post by a fellow GACP, Blast Media.)
  2. Legitimate Bots other than Google: — This is unexplained bot traffic, but we’ve seen a lot of it recently from Yahoo! Microsoft and Inktomi.
  3. Rogue Bots — Lets face it, any 12 year old can probably write a bot to send “visitors” to your site and wreak havoc on your GA data. (Numbers 2 & 3 here are to be addressed in a future two part post.)
  4. Google AdWords — This is the biggest surprise and as I’ll demonstrate in this post, Google is clearly sending either multiple visitors to AdWords customer pages or they are leveraging a bot.

My interest in this topic began after a colleague inquired about seeing triple the volume of test data expected after creating staged campaigns in AdWords. This data was visible in the Advertising section of Analytics:

Another colleague experienced something very similar when creating new staged campaigns with a small about of URL testing:

After isolating the traffic via an advanced segment using the campaign name of these yet to be launched campaigns, we were able to view the unique characteristics of these visitors.

Most were from the same geographic area, the united states, but suspiciously, city locations were equal to (not set):

Most used the same browser, resolution, and flash version:

As you can see above, 100% of this non-testing traffic bounced.

And interestingly, all of these visits shared the same service provider: google inc..

While we’ve always seen some visitors from google inc.; the spikes in the last few months are different and concerning as to the number of visits and how they can affect data analysis if not accounted for. We’re still evaluating why only some clients see this spike of activity and there are some commonalities we noticed; however, it’s too early to say exactly why this is happening.

As we learn more, we intend to update this post and would like to know about your own experience. Have you seen AdWords bots in your own reports?

If you want to explore your own data, feel free to use the advanced segment below to identify your own traffic from Google. Disclaimer: This segment could also identify the traffic from real Googlers (people that work for Google) that share the same identified service provider.

Google Inc. segment:

And here is one to exclude traffic from google inc.

from your reports:

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