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:
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:
Shortly after the iPhone 5 release and the iOS6 software update, it was discovered that the default browser (Safari) uses Google’s Secure Search. This means that any keywords being searched for on the iOS6 platform will not be available to those who use Google Analytics to track organic traffic data. This keyword is known as a search referrer. If your website garners a lot of organic mobile traffic, this can be a very daunting issue. No longer will you be able to see what a user typed into their iPhone in order to find your website, if they are using iOS6 and Safari.
For the time being, the issue with Safari is not a big one. However, it speaks to a much larger issue that is steaming full force ahead. This is the line being drawn between privacy and data on the internet. Marketers and business owners are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about who visits their websites. This data is often pulled through site usage and Google search data. Searchers increasingly want more privacy, and business owners want to understand their online users and customers better.
Google is also taking an increasingly conservative view on the stance of search privacy. They are creating more and more scenarios in which a searcher’s keyword can not be tracked in Google Analytics. If a user is signed in to any Google account or they are using a Google Secure Search enabled browser, then their search referrer will not be passed to the website’s Google Analytics account. However, Google garners a vast majority of their revenue from AdWords advertising. They have decided to allow search referrer data to be passed through clicks on AdWords advertisements.
This creates a bit of a paradox. On the one hand Google wants to be more privacy oriented and not pass as much data to website owners who are using their services. On the other hand, if the website owner is paying Google to advertise on their search engine it is acceptable.
It is a two sided battle between website owners who want to cater to their users better and website visitors who want to retain more privacy. No matter your view, many search engines and browsers are beginning to look into privacy protection more seriously. It is becoming increasingly important to use multiple sources to understand your website’s user rather than relying solely on the keyword that brought them to the website in the first place.
Okay, so we all know that Google Analytics (GA) is, as my colleague Joe Teixeira says, “…the greatest program on the face of the earth.’ That said, how do you use Google Analytics to: make more sales, drive more leads, and make the most of your marketing budget for your company?
The answer is contained in many good books on GA that have been written by authors like Avinash Kaushik, Brian Clifton and our very own, Joe Teixeira. However, you don’t need to read hundreds of pages on GA to begin to make a difference in your organization.
Getting the most from GA is not a hard and fast path that you take every time you log in. Rather, leveraging Google Analytics for optimization is a process. It’s an exercise of asking questions of yourself (and your data) and drilling deeper to find meaningful and actionable information.
Let me illustrate by providing some insights on how to get more from one of our favorite reports: Top Landing Pages. The Top Landing Pages report in GA is truly powerful. With a quick glance you can see which of your pages, well…ahem… stink. How? Well look at that metric right there on the right, “Bounce Rate”
Bounce Rate is a measure of visitors who come to your site and take absolutely no action. Bounce Rate is rare in that it’s a number which has value to every site owner. I can’t think of any organization, company, e-commerce site, marketing manager, etc. who would want a visitor to come to their site and take absolutely no action.
With the Top Landing Pages report, you can see very quickly which of your pages are performing or not performing in terms of their bounce rate. So how do we dig deeper and find a way to take action to improve our site?
See, that was easy! Now that you’ve saved all of that money from your under-performing campaign or landing page, reallocate it into one that is working and… Boom! You’re on the way to being an analytics superstar! Just remember that this is not a one time exercise. Like they say in shampoo; lather, rinse and repeat. Once you have enough data on your new campaigns, it’s time to start all over again.