ARE YOU IN THE DARK? The Dark Truth About Bot Traffic

by David Metter

Sometime in the 1890’s, marketing pioneer John Wanamaker coined the famous phrase, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Personally, I have always hated this phrase. My old boss and mentor would say it to me all of the time. However, advertisers have lived within the confines of this mindset ever since. Even today, dealerships just “accept” that some of their advertising will work and some won’t. As a former CMO and a current “Urban Scientist,” I find this entire concept to be demeaning to marketers. This is 2017. We have the science, technology, and tools to make decisions based on prescriptive, data-based confidence rather than “going with your gut” or experimenting with different solutions. You should never be in the dark when it comes to 50% of your budget.

The same concept applies to your website traffic and the conversion of that traffic. Transparent vendors don’t just tell you how many clicks and visits you received, but whether or not those visits converted or engaged with your website. They should also be the ones alerting you of any suspicious activity. If an ad source is generating a significant amount of traffic, but none of that traffic is filling out a form or interacting with your site’s content, you’re most likely paying for bot (non-human) traffic. This is a huge problem for an industry that spends billions of dollars on paid search.

As of January 2017, Incapsula studied 100,000 domains and found 51.8% of website traffic came from bots. Orbee is an automotive software company that analyzes the quality of dealer website traffic and specializes in identifying bots. Orbee determined up to 60% of dealerships’ paid traffic, and up to 80% of their overall website traffic is coming from non-humans. That’s extremely alarming, and it’s concerning for several reasons. First, robots don’t buy cars. Second, dealers are paying for traffic that is incapable of converting. Traffic that converts is the only type worth paying for.  

Source: Incapsula

Source: Incapsula

In a recent episode of CBT News’ Auto Marketing Now, Brian Pasch, Founder of PCG Companies stated, “Most dealers have Google Analytics installed, most dealers are getting reports about website traffic, but to be truthful many of those reports are coming from the companies who are selling them advertising.” What this means for dealers and OEMs, is they have to face the fact that their vendors and ad agencies may only be sharing one piece of the story.

Website visits are important, as your traffic patterns can be a great indicator of how to stock your inventory or prepare for future market conditions. However, when your Google Analytics are not showing engagement click actions, there is a need to dig deeper. The average dealer doesn’t get reports from their advertising vendors on cost per engagement. Dealer principals and managers don’t have the time to dig deep into their analytics and look for instances of fraudulent activity. As a result, advertisers can take advantage and get away with charging dealers for traffic coming from bot clicks with zero intent to buy.

In their August 2016 Research Report, PCG identified several automotive marketing companies that were generating “highly irregular” traffic and strongly felt dealers were being misled about their ROI. Brian Pasch wrote, “Automotive leaders are now investing in intelligent website analytics and bot detection software. Orbee is leading that charge by providing bot detection for all online marketing investments.”

VistaDash is also a great tool that combines all sales and marketing data from multiple vendors and sources into one dashboard to immediately identify instances of wasted spend. VistaDash is the only independent data dashboard that scores and measures your website traffic engagement.

With all the new technologies and third party vendors entering the market, dealers need partners that will alert them of any instances of bot or fraudulent traffic. Across all verticals, automotive is the second-largest spender in digital advertising, so you have to know your tools. Know who your tools are coming from. Know how they work, why they work, and the data that sits within them. Choose to know where your money is going. Choose vendors that take strong security measures and will go out of their way to inform you of any suspicious activity.    

 

Note: The AutoHook platform has strong security measures in place in order to catch suspicious activity pertaining to our virtual incentives. If we recognize any behavior that is out of the ordinary, we will reach out to our OEM, agency, or dealer directly in order to further investigate and resolve any issues.