How Mouseflow Helped Me Find Invalid Google Adwords Visitors, Bots!

mouseflow-heatmapI was reading an article about SEO a few weeks ago and the writer mentioned that you MUST use some kind of heat-map or mouse tracking to see what your visitors are up to. I have heard about this type of thing but dismissed it as irrelevant for my purposes as I don’t spend much time on SEO anyway, I forget why I was reading the article in the first place. He mentioned in the article that mouseflow.com is what he recommends as they have a free tier with limited functionality. My interest was piqued and I checked out mouseflow. I was sold in about 30 seconds as they let you test what you’ll see by getting you to interact with one of their pages and then playing your interaction back to you. If you haven’t already head over to mouseflow and do the demo then keep reading.

After putting the tracking code into my website and watching a few visitors I decided I could use this to see how visitors from different channels (sources) interacted with my site. I had stopped using Google Adwords a few weeks ealier because of the terrible conversion rate. About 80% of visitors interacted with one page only and left straight away (bounced). I suspected they were bots or some automated way of increasing Google Adsense advertises revenue. As you probably know Google sells adverts to businesses (Adwords) and buys advertising space on websites (Adsense). I have been using both on and off for about 10 years with extremely poor results.



With my new mouseflow account I was able to see each visitor that came to the site, all the details about where they came from and what technology they were using and most important of all, what they actually did on the site. I turned my Googlge Adwords campaign back on and allocated $35 for testing over 5 days. The $35 provided me with 641 clicks to investigate in mouseflow.

Detecting Patterns

I was able to pick up patterns very rapidly with the information in mouseflow. I picked up two interesting trends, one particularly interesting indeed. I was receiving a lot of visitors from Myanmar (Myanmese??) who were all using android mobile devices. Most of them were bouncing after scrolling part way down the first page, but many of them displayed normal behavior and clicked through a few pages. It wasn’t until i watched them a few times each that i picked up an interesting similarity. *Scroll*… *scroll*… *wait*… *click*. The click was usually the first hyperlink in the content of the first page, which is a sign-up button. This is normal… then on the sign-up page the same scroll, scroll, wait, click happened. This time the closest thing to click was a submit button on the sign-up form. But the visitor would never enter any information in the sign-up form, so it would display itself again with an error. Several of the visitors would then scroll, scroll, wait, click on the page with the error, yep you guessed it, the form was submitted again without any info! See the image below for a sample of my Myanmese visitors.

mouseflow-recordings


Now I am very sure that the majority of my Google Adwords visitors (90%+) are bots. The ones that bounced were almost certainly bots but now there is a percentage, a large percentage of visitors that interacted with two or more pages that are definitely bots also! At this point I sat back and had a small epiphany. Google buys and sells Ad space and takes a cut, just a middle-man. Why would they have an incentive to reduce this type of fraudulent activity? Well… they wouldn’t. I did some reading and some sites that claim to be in the know believe that around 50% of all internet traffic is non human. This is made up of of good bots and bad bots. I believe I’m paying for bad bots to visit my sites through Google!

The Resolution

Update! (27/11/2018) Google gave me my money back!

— Google Response —

 Hi Tony,

Thank you for your patience while we reviewed the details to find our the invalid activity on your account.

Post the review is complete, I would like to share that we noticed some clicks and impressions that didn’t fit the profile of normal user traffic.

We verified that our monitoring software has already filtered out some of this activity, and have confirmed that you weren’t charged for clicks that were automatically discarded. You can find data on the invalid clicks that have been automatically filtered from your account in the Campaigns tab in your account. For more information, please see: https://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?answer=44008.

In addition, please know that we have already applied a credit to your account for potentially invalid clicks that weren’t automatically filtered from your reports during this period. This credit is a result of our offline analysis and will be visible on your Billing Summary page in the next 3 to 4 weeks.

The security of AdWords advertisers is a top priority for Google. Our proprietary technology analyzes clicks and impressions in an attempt to determine whether they fit a pattern of use intended to artificially drive up an advertiser’s clicks or impressions, or a publisher’s earnings. Please be assured that we will continue to monitor all clicks on your ads to prevent abuse. For more information about the steps we take to combat invalid click activity, please visit http://www.google.com/ads/adtrafficquality/invalid-click-protection.html.

We appreciate your business with us and please do not hesitate to share with us if there is anything you think we can do to better your experience with us. If you need further clarification, all you have to do is respond to this email and I will waste no time in getting back to you.

Best,

Pawan
Google Inc. | The Google AdWords Team | 1-866-2-GOOGLE | adwords.google.com

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