A traffic increase on your site — cause for celebration, right? Most businesses read increased traffic as a sign of a brand's visibility and relevance. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, things might not be what they appear to be — enter bot traffic. 

With over a third of all web traffic attributed to bots, how can businesses know that the growth they see on their site is legitimate? To establish if your visitors are real or not, start by leveraging data for answers.

Establish What 'Normal' Means for Your Business

If you're buying traffic, you’re familiar with your back-end system. Be it monitoring page views, your conversions or a different metric, you know what "normal" looks like. Your data and tracking should be sorted by source, so if there’s a drastic change, you can isolate and identify the problem. Changes in new sources are good indicators that you might have a click-fraud problem. Any drastic shifts that don't align with normal functions will need reviewing.

But to recognize what's normal and what's abnormal, you'll have to establish a baseline to work from. Review performance data consistently and methodically. And if you manage several websites, make each site unique, so all aren’t vulnerable when bots strike.

Not All Spikes Are Bad Spikes

Identifying if abnormal spikes in your site traffic or analytics are good or bad is difficult. For instance, say a new publisher generates traffic to your site. This can cause an increase in visitors, thus causing a spike (or on the converse, a dip). But an influx of bot traffic can cause the same result.

Sudden spikes and dips could also alert you to a logistics issue. Many PPC providers offer campaign pacing to help clients spread their budget throughout a set time frame. A spike in traffic could show that pacing is inactive or isn't operating right. Reviewing your campaigns helps isolate these factors.

Once you’ve ruled out operating or account issues, look at the behavior of the clicks.

What are they are doing, where are they going and what do they do next? To a degree, you can separate organic from paid traffic to see what visitors do before they come to your site, how they exit and where they go next. It's not a perfect science, but it’s insightful.

Common Sense and Logic

Not all answers will lie in the data. Sometimes you’ll need to go with your gut. Understanding your back-end systems helps you see what's normal or not, but listen to your suspicions.

For example, say you’re purchasing traffic for a divorce attorney. You expect traffic to go to the website and pages related to attorneys who handle divorce litigation. Unless your organic search patterns show otherwise, this traffic shouldn’t go anywhere else. Looking at these clicks holistically will make it easier to separate fraud from converting, paid traffic.

Look for the oddities, the things that don't make sense. Review your behavior flow to identify patterns of users to your site. When you know your flow-through, most traffic will perform consistently, allowing you to predict the next move of a click. It will help you understand key attributes of the traffic or keywords you’re purchasing, too. Once those patterns emerge, review and adjust the flow of your site to optimize it for goals.

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