The truth about bots and SEO manipulation
On a regular basis, companies come to me and say that their website is getting thousands of unique visitors, but no sales inquiries. This could be for a number of reasons, or quite simply due to their SEO company manipulating Google Analytics to show results that don't exist.
Last year, a childcare chain in the US, showed me their Google Analytics account. They had 120,000 unique visitors to their website - at least according to the results we saw when we logged into their account. Their inquiry level was minimal. To be fair, their website was god-damn awful - cluttered, confusing and out of date - so I wouldn't expect that their inquiry level to be high, except for the fact that their visitors were on the site for more than 5 minutes.
I queried it with their marketing company who outsourced to a third party SEO, and they brushed it over. When I had my IT department look at it and they explained how Google Analytics results can be changed, I went back to them. Within 12 hours, those results were gone and the website showed 237 unique visitors. Was I going crazy? No, I screen saved it. The marketing company made up some bullshit excuse and the client foolishly believed them. Funnily enough, the results today are the same as they had back then and they haven't moved ahead at all.
"Ad fraud" generated by online "bots" is estimated for up to 30 per cent of all online ad viewing according to the Australian Financial Review. I would say that the figure outlined in the article is conservative and marketers need to be more aware of what the reality of the tech geniuses who manipulate our data and steal money from our pockets.
Just to reinforce my point and show how much it extends to social media, a non-tech clients went from 13 followers to 80,000 followers on Facebook. You could imagine my surprise. They laughed. A company in India was able to change their facebook page to 80,000 so that they looked popular.
The Wall Street Journal further outlines the issues that the marketing industry is facing with online advertising:
Marketers start questioning trading desks: Programmatic buying of online ads has become one of the hottest segments of the ad industry of late. But over the past year the sector–which uses automated systems to buy and sell ads–has been dinged with revelations of ad fraud.
And so they should! But marketers are not IT gurus and will never fully understand what manipulation is done behind the scenes - after all - tech geniuses can do literally anything and it's a lot more scary than just stealing money from advertisers pockets.
Digital spend is expected to increase 17% to $50 million this year in the US alone, with billions being spent worldwide. Like any newer industry sector, digital marketing is experiencing growing pains as marketers confront rampant fraud and are still gaining an understanding of the new digital environment.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. If your online advertising is working, your sales are going up. Simple.