Articles in The 'Bots' Tag

March 10 2020

Google Analytics Loses Service Provider Dimension

by Theo Bennett

Like the October 8, 2011 announcement that Google would begin to stop the practice of passing a user’s organic search term to Google Analytics; the deprecation of the Service Provider dimension on February 4th, 2020 may live on with similar disdain. While we mourned the loss of the search keywords data that helped value our SEO efforts; at least there was a reason – better security and privacy.

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January 17 2013

Blocking traffic in Google Analytics

by Theo Bennett

As I mentioned in my last posts, AdWords Bots in Google Analytics (GA), and Bot Traffic in Google Analytics we’ve seen more and more bot traffic registering as visitors in GA. (Bots are automated programs that normally don’t fire JavaScript or images, so this traffic shows up in web server logs, but not in Google Analytics.)

In this post we’re going to discuss how to block these bots from your GA reports so that you can have clean data from which to make smart business decisions and make more money!

First let’s understand that “well behaved” bots usually have one of two fingerprints:

  1. Technology profile — this includes browser user agent, version, java profiles, etc.
  2. ISP — Yes that’s right, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Inktomi bots come from Microsoft, Yahoo! and Inktomi ISP’s.

What kind of tracks does your bot traffic leave? Well it’s best to start with an Advanced Segment that begins to whittle away this bot traffic from the real traffic. Apply this segment to your Google Analytics data and you’ll be viewing only direct traffic that bounces.

Do you see any patterns in the browser version reports? (Audience>>Technology>>Browser & OS)

In the screen shot above we’ve selected “Mozilla Compatible Agent” and version 5.0 with no Java Support looks like a likely bot suspect.

What about identifying bots by ISP? (Audience>>Technology>>Network)

So from the data above we can see some interesting sources of bouncing traffic. Next I created another segment to view each of these ISP’s (1. microsoft corp , 6. yahoo! inc. and 16. Inktomi Corporation).

As you can see from the data above, all of the traffic from these ISP’s bounced.

Your next action is to decide if you want to go a step further and actually filter out this traffic from your analysis profiles.

If you decide to block traffic based on browser profile, then you’ll need to construct a series of filters to do this.

The first two combine browser data together with Java Support (yes or no) to allow you to then filter only the offending browser profile (Third filter listed in the image above) that is utilized by the bots.

If you decide that the ISP route is the way to go, then you’ll have a much easier path:

Where the pattern is equal to yahoo|microsoft corp$|inktomi

Either way, you should remember to:

  • Always have an unfiltered profile that collects all data
  • When possible, test your new profile filter as a segment
  • Always apply a filter first to a test profile and when happy with the resulting data, to your analysis profile(s).
  • Consider creating a profile to capture the traffic you’re excluding so that you can monitor it more easily and ensure that you’re not excluding any “real” traffic.

In summary, it really does not matter why the bot is on your site, what’s important is that they are triggering nuisance pageviews that can skew your numbers and conversion rates. Are they affecting your GA data? Apply the segments above and find out for yourself!

December 26 2012

Bot traffic in Google Analytics

by Theo Bennett

As I mentioned in my last post, AdWords Bots in Google Analytics (GA), we’ve seen more and more bot traffic registering as visitors in GA. (Bots are automated programs that normally don’t fire JavaScript or images, so this traffic shows up in web server logs, but not in Google Analytics.)

In this post we’re going to discuss bots from Yahoo! and Microsoft, why it’s important and how to identify the traffic and see if it’s affecting your site.

Why is this important? Well as you’ll see, all of this bot traffic comes into your site as Direct traffic, has exactly one pageview and then does nothing, and that is the problem. We have to remember that a visit as just described equals a bounce — which is a bad thing. So as you look at your reports over time, you may wonder why your goal conversion rates or Ecommerce conversion rates from Direct traffic have plummeted while your bounce rates have increased. Part of the answer could very well be bots. And if you don’t account for this traffic in your quest for the analytics intelligence that will turn your site from a business cost to a profit center, you may never get there!

So how do you know if this traffic is affecting your site? Well by looking from 30,000 feet, you may never know — you have to dig deep. So if you haven’t already been digging for answers about your Direct traffic performance, let me walk you through how to identify these bots.

First of all we know that the focus area is Direct traffic that bounces; so the first step is to create an advanced segment to “filter” all of our reports for these visits in Google Analytics Reports.

If you’d like to “play along” as you read this post here is a link to the segment:

This is a view of the service providers in the Network sub-section of the Technology Report that have been the source of our Direct, bouncing traffic.

Why look here? Well there isn’t much to glean from other reports. Content reports are varied. Traffic Sources and Conversions we know, so the best place to try to find some answers is in the Audience section of Google Analytics. Any report here is a good starting place and in this case we can see from the screen shot above that we’ve gotten a lot of traffic directly from Microsoft and yahoo! inc.

So let’s take a closer look at this bouncing, Microsoft and Yahoo! traffic by applying the segments below.



So the data that points to bots here is pretty straight forward:

  • 100% Bounce Rate
  • Nearly 100% New Visits
  • No Java Support

So let’s look closer at the Internet Explorer Traffic:

We can see that most visits are from IE7 and again with no Java Support. (Java Support by itself isn’t necessarily a “bot indicator”, there are other supporting traits that we don’t have the space to include or address in this post.)

While Yahoo! ignores IE, both companies are leveraging Mozilla Agents.

While Microsoft eschews Firefox 3.5:

So what does this all mean? First, it’s highly likely that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are using automation to explore websites and on the highest level, that it’s no longer safe to say that bots are not tracked in Google Analytics. As Analysts, Marketers or business owners, we all need to make sure we’re accounting for their presence as we explore analytics data.

In my next post I’ll share some strategies to filter out this traffic and more segments to help you remove the unwanted effects of this traffic.

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