Can you trust your email metrics?
More and more, marketers are not trusting their email performance stats.
From instantaneous click metrics to mismatched data between your CMS and marketing automation tools, bots are running wild with email clicks.
If you are noticing a spike in click activity, and you don’t have a valid explanation for it, then you could be the victim of an email click bot. SPAM bots are designed to collect or farm email addresses from the web, create lists, and spam people with unwanted emails. However, not all bots are bad bots. Some have a valid use, such as Google’s search engine bots that crawl websites and index them, or bots that are used to help automate different processes (think “Chat Bots”).
Email bot activity differs from what bot activity may look like on a website. Bot activity in email is typically security software sitting in front of a recipient’s (or contact’s) inbox. That security software will open the email and, typically, engage with some (if not all) of the corresponding links in that email, following them through the redirect. These actions simulate real user engagement potentially causing false opens and clicks data to be recorded.
Bots don’t impact all marketers equally. They are much more common in industries with security filters tied to finance or healthcare but aren’t as common in B2C marketing. Generally, regulated industries where contacts use a company email see more bot clicks than personal email addresses on email providers like Gmail or Office365.
Bots are actually the source of quite a bit of traffic on the internet. It’s estimated that around 48% of web traffic originates from a bot, and they are far more sophisticated today than even a few years ago. So how can email marketers combat bad bots?
Consider the following tactics to identify whether you’re having this issue, how to catch those nasty bots, and what to do once you’ve found them.
Reputable Sender Check
Checking your email domain reputation is a quick way to see whether your emails have the potential to reach people’s inboxes, or whether they’re getting caught by spam bots.
Tools like Barracuda, Sender Score, Talos Intelligence, and others can give you a snapshot of your sender reputation in real-time.
Sender Score is a bit more in-depth. Just enter the IP of the sender you’d like to check, and your reputation is reported. Sender Score is great for providing deeper info on whether your SPF and MX records are still valid and checking your SSL certificate expiration date and your sender scores for specific IPs along with their volume.
Reference Web Analytics
View stats from Google Analytics or other analytics tool and compare click metrics. If they are off by a lot, then you know have a bot problem.
Check with Email Provider
Some email platforms like Hubspot have tools to detect and monitor bot activity.
Design your email templates with a link to a landing page in a hidden spot where no real user would ever click on it. You can then use that link/landing page and the clicks it receives to create a dynamic or smart list to exclude bots.
You can also create specific UTMs to track links from spam bots by placing a hidden link in an email again so only a bot and not an actual person would be able to see and click it. Then create a smart list to see how many clicks the link with that UTM gets.
It is best to add these UTMs to a page someone would typically expect to see when viewing your email marketing just in case a real contact clicks that link! You may find some leads who have interacted with other emails and downloaded gated pieces of content or filled out forms in the past.
Send Email at 2AM
This is very rudimentary, but if you send your email out at like 2AM and instantly receive opens and clicks, this activity is most likely bots.
Although bots are frustrating and a real problem, it’s still important to track engagement to nurture relationships – from opens, clicks, reading the email, and following through on a CTA. But ultimately, the single best way to measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns is by conversions.
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