Search engines are one of the biggest customer acquisition channels, but a Cheq report has identified a prevalence of bot traffic in organic and direct traffic that is leading to wasted spend and missed conversion opportunities.
Cheq analysed traffic across its global client portfolio and found that 8% of organic search traffic hitting company sites is from bots and fake users. The proportion of traffic that is bot-driven varies widely by sector—from 3.4% invalid organic search clicks for SaaS solutions to 19% for insurance search-engine optimisation (SEO).
This means businesses spending money on SEO are capturing bot attention, junk leads and fake users alongside real people. Cheq found that eliminating bot traffic can increase SEO conversion rates by up to 20%.
One leading agency found that eliminating invalid clicks for one prominent client caused direct traffic to plummet by 30% while conversion rates increased by 17%—leading to a record quarter for leads and customer acquisition.
Direct traffic has a much higher prevalence of bots; across Cheq's client base 37% of direct traffic was found to be bots and fake users. The higher weighting is due to the fact that most bots want to attack a specific site. Once again, insurance has a much higher proportion of invalid traffic than other sectors Cheq analysed.
Bots also skew marketing analytics. Cheq found that up to 20% of the contacts processed in marketing analytics software are bots and fake users. Since solutions like Salesforce and HubSpot charge businesses per contact or terabyte, this means significant budget is being spent on fake users. Marketing decisions based on skewed analytics means further wasted spend.
Techniques include competitor attacks (such as 'negative SEO'), scraper attacks, autoclickers and dropping fake reviews.
Competitors can interfere with SEO rankings by sending automated bot traffic through important keywords. High bounce rate for traffic that came in through a certain keyword tells Google that this keyword is less relevant for your brand, and hence ranking for that keyword drops.
Cheq estimates that bots are responsible for around 5% of fake reviews on the internet.