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How to Identify Whether Your Increased Traffic Is Spam

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How to Identify Whether Your Increased Traffic Is Spam

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Traffic has spiked — hallelujah! This is what you’ve been working towards!

Pause: before you start celebrating, it’s good to do your due diligence and make sure that glorious, spiked blue line under “All Users” is in fact genuine users visiting the site, and not spam.

The checklist to determine whether or not increased traffic is spam is not too difficult to follow. You’ll probably know in 10 minutes whether it’s time to do a celebratory dance, or if you need to solve a problem. Either way, today you’re going to do something valuable.

Before taking action on that pesky spam traffic, be sure to read this article in full. It’s important that spam traffic is identified from multiple indicators.

Identify spam traffic by checking suspiciously high (or low) metrics in Google Analytics

There are four core metrics that can point toward spam traffic:

  • Average Session Duration

  • Bounce Rate

  • Pages/Session

  • New Users

These Google Analytics metrics are incredibly useful for SEO and can be found in Google Analytics > Audience > Overview. Simple!

The more metrics throwing a suspiciously high or low result, the more likely it is that traffic is spam.

GA graph shows Audiences > Overview report. Metrics are looking healthy; no suspicious results. The four metrics used to determine if traffic is spam are highlighted with a blue rectangle.

#1 Average Session Duration

Average Session Duration in Google Analytics shares how long, on average, a user (visitor/person) has spent on a website during one session (a visit).

Generally, spam traffic doesn’t spend long on a website. Spam traffic isn’t browsing the site — it’s not reading blogs or researching the products or services provided. Instead, spam traffic usually lands on a page, then bounces.

#2 Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate on Google Analytics is an incredibly useful metric for indicating that there’s a problem on the site.

The Bounce Rate metric shares the percentage of users who visited one page on the site, didn’t engage, didn’t click to another page, and left. Every user who lands on a page and leaves on the same page without clicking to another counts as a bounce.

*A little note for those who are using GA4 (I salute you!), Bounce Rate is no longer a metric. It was replaced by Engagement Rate.

As always with SEO and data analysis, you need to contextualize the data. Not all pages with a high bounce rate indicate a problem. For example, organic traffic might search “brand name + telephone number”, visit the contact page from SERPs, grab the number, and leave to make a call. It’s a bounce, but it’s not a bad thing — the user was served.

One guarantee is that a percentage of users will bounce. Artificially low bounce rates definitely need attention. Pictured below is a screenshot from a client’s Google Analytics account. Their analytics was reporting a 1.47% bounce rate. Seem a little too good to be true? It is.

After some investigation, this site was found to have two analytics tags. The duplicated UA codes were skewing the results. It’s for reasons such as this that I reiterate the importance of checking numerous data points before assuming increased traffic is spam.

How to Identify Whether Your Increased Traffic Is Spam

#3 Pages Per Session

If there’s quality traffic on site (aka not spam), then you can expect to see users viewing multiple pages per session. Naturally, engaged traffic clicks around the site.

Spam traffic is most likely going to view 1.00 (or a very low number of) pages. If the Pages Per Session metric is plummeting with increased traffic, then it’s a strong indicator the traffic is spam.

#4 New Users

If Google Analytics is reporting 100% new users to a site or a significant increase in new users, then this may be spam traffic. To determine if new users have spiked, compare the percentage of new users with historic data and look out for a spike.

Check your traffic sources: spam traffic is often hidden in referral traffic

If you’ve looked at the metrics in Google Analytics and it’s pointing to spam, then referral traffic is the next place to go.

By looking at the data under Traffic Sources, you can find which links are sending spammy traffic, then you can decide what to do about it. Generally, the action is either to disavow the link and/or set up a spam filter, which helps reduce the spam within Google Analytics reporting. Both of these options are covered below.

Find referral traffic

First, find referral traffic by visiting Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Overview > Channels > Referral

Review the links pointing to the domain and driving traffic. If the links are highly relevant and recognizable, they’re fine.

If a link feels spammy and/or the traffic coming from the link appears to be returning some suspicious metrics (see bottraffic.pw pictured below), that’s an indicator of spam.

An increase in spam traffic from referral can go unnoticed on websites with a high volume of genuine traffic, since it’s often a minor inflation and impactless. However, spam traffic can have a greater impact on smaller or new websites since it can largely skew data by percentage.

The screenshot below shows a small website with only 120 users. The top referrer — bottrffic.pw — is driving 66 users, more than 50% of overall users. If the domain name alone wasn’t enough to conclude that the traffic is spam, the metrics — 0% bounce rate, two pages/session, 66 users (all of which are new), and an incredibly short average session duration — certainly point to spam.

1649860070 857 How to Identify Whether Your Increased Traffic Is Spam

Check your traffic’s geographics

Another indicator of spam traffic is increased traffic from countries that aren’t targeted by the digital strategy.

It’s incredibly important to reiterate here that in order to decide whether or not traffic is spam, numerous indicators of spam traffic must be present. It’s not enough to see an increase in traffic from a non-target country and assume it’s spam. Always do your due diligence and check different reports before reacting to potential spam.

The screenshot below shows the geographic report for a B2C website. The company ships products to consumers in the US and Canada, yet traffic from other countries is finding the site. Unlike bottraffic.pw above, the metrics don’t scream spam traffic.

Some investigation proved the traffic was genuine. It was organic traffic from blogs. In this instance, you can accept that websites will occasionally reach audiences in different countries. If the data is not useful, Google Analytics provides an option to filter out traffic by country.

1649860070 509 How to Identify Whether Your Increased Traffic Is Spam

Take action against spam traffic

If you’ve checked multiple metrics and see at least a few indicators that your traffic spike might be the result of increasing spam, you have a couple options.

Action option 1: Disavow spam backlinks

Disavowing links is not something to be taken lightly. Before you take any action with a disavow, you need to be certain that this is the right thing to do and the link is definitely spammy and harmful to the site.

Google’s disavow recommendation is: “You should disavow backlinks only if:

  1. You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, AND

  2. The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.”

In the instance of bottraffic.pw, it might be enough to simply filter the traffic in Google Analytics (see instructions below), but if you feel a disavow is needed, then follow Moz’s instructions on When & How to Disavow a Link.

Action option 2: Filter spam traffic in Google Analytics

Thankfully, Google is pretty well informed about which websites drive spam traffic and which don’t. (You can see how Google might wise up to a domain like bottraffic!) This means that you can avoid risky disavows, and instead, simply set Google Analytics to filter out bot traffic.

Here are the five steps you need to take to filter spam in Google Analytics:

  1. Head to the “Admin” cog in the bottom left-hand corner

  2. See the “View” section within settings

  3. Click “View Settings”

  4. Look out for the tick box that reads “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders”

  5. Save

How to Identify Whether Your Increased Traffic Is Spam

Remember, a filter view will filter the data from the date it was added. Historic data will remain exactly the same. It helps to take note of the date you added this change so you can rationalize the inevitable drop, big or small, in traffic when you stop recording spam traffic in GA.

Keep an eye on spam traffic

All websites have a percentage of spam traffic, and how you deal with it depends on the website, the impact of the spam, and the potential harm. It’s wise to be diligent and stay close to the data so you can spot a problem if it arises.

  • Check in on your core site metrics so you’d spot a drastic change when it happens.

  • Run quarterly backlink audits and check that links to the site are not causing inflated traffic spikes.

  • If you haven’t already, add the bot filter to GA

Stay aware of spam and always run a double-check if there’s a sudden spike in traffic. The optimist in all of us could easily overlook such a problem.


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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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