Posted February 6, 2013 10:16 am by with 1 comment

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page’s talk about bots, baby.

Last summer, many news sources heavily reported (many would say misreported) stories about a company claiming 80% of their Facebook ad traffic was coming from bots. A small company made a big fuss about it, and since then many have stated they were “way off”; no one to this day knows how much they spent, where they targeted, or who they targeted. There have even been companies that took the method this company claims brought them bots and tried it themselves to dispel the myth with data.

Regardless of the bad reporting, this topic brought up good points about bot traffic and made it the forefront of discussion for quite some time within the marketing and tech community, eventually forcing Facebook to talk about it, which is a good thing.

Facebook eventually came out and said they had 300 people working on the team to ensure fraud was minimalized, which was fantastic to those of us that sell and use Facebook ads on a major scale. So, what if you’ve experienced bot traffic previously? What if you’re noticing discrepancies between Facebook clicks and what your Google Analytics traffic says? Well, I have a few answers for you.

After talking to a few employees of Facebook and checking with other experts online, I have determined that one of the major reasons this happens is because of Protocol Transfer. Protocol Transfer was explained really well by the SimpleReach blog recently.

“Facebook gives you the option of secure browsing, just click on “Security -> Secure Browsing” in your Facebook “Account Settings” area. This will enable you to keep the communication between you and Facebook secure so that others cannot see what you are doing. Other social networks like Twitter also offer this. Google Plus even forces it and makes you browse securely.

When you browse a secure site (as shown by the https in the url), you can remain confident that what you do on this site is secure. Here is where it gets tricky, when you browse from a secure site to a non-secure site (known as protocol transfer) all information stored about your session is lost. This includes the place you came from (known as the referrer). When you click on an article from Facebook while having secure browsing turned on, the fact that you came from Facebook is lost.”

This matches exactly what I recently heard from a couple of friends (who happen to be employees of Facebook): 40% of Facebook’s users browse their site using HTTPS versus HTTP. So this means when a user clicks on an ad and converts on a site, the referrer can’t be recorded because they’ve lost the secure connection. Many third-party tracking providers, including Google Analytics, use referrer URLs to credit conversions back ads, which hurts the ability to truly show those that have just been browsing securely.

So, if you encounter this problem, the first thing to do is check within your Google Analytics and know that it’s likely more traffic than is being reported. The second thing you can do is contact Facebook’s help center, because if they have those 300 employees working on this, we might as well put them to work!

About the Author

Andrew Foxwell Foxwell joined PPC Associates in December of 2012. Previously, he was the Director of Marketing and Social Media at a legislative online communications firm in Washington, D.C., where he started and ran the largest social media advertising agency for the United States Congress. In two and a half years, he built a business that worked with over 100 Members from across the country, helping Members listen, respond and improve constituent communications. Andrew is a graduate of Saint Olaf College, in Northfield, MN,and spent his youth on a Wisconsin farm. In his spare time, he enjoys kayaking and wearing flannel.

  • Aaron

    I run facebook campaigns in many countries and I find that there tend to be way more bots in developing countries like Vietnam than in rich countries like Korea or the USA. Any idea why this is, and how to avoid them abroad?