Analytics Mysteries: Surges in Web Traffic From Amazon

Recently, we saw steep increases in traffic to several of the client websites we monitor via Google Analytics. While we like to think that all increases in traffic are due to our marketing strategies, these were short-lived, dramatically high spikes that we couldn’t tie to specific campaign events.

The first case was an oil and gas company who saw a large spike over a three-day span – one spike was more than 10 times the usual traffic, and that traffic appeared to be coming from Amazon. This would normally be a good thing – except that this brand isn’t sold on Amazon.

So why was Amazon sending us this traffic?

It turned out the traffic wasn’t made up of human visitors – but of bots from Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of that provides cloud computing platforms and data analysis.

What Are Bots?

Bots, short for “robots,” are computer programs that crawl around the internet visiting different websites, often to gather information (for instance, comparing prices of retail competitors). These types of info-gathering bots aren’t necessarily harmful, but they can skew your analytics and make it harder to determine how well your website or ad campaign is converting your real customers.

“[Bots] can skew your analytics and make it harder to determine how well your website or ad campaign is converting your real customers.”

How to Identify Bot Traffic

In Google Analytics under Audience > System > Service Provider, examine the ISP (internet service provider) your visitors are coming from.

  • Look at the names of the networks. You should see ordinary ISPs, like Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon. If you see something else, your traffic could be a bot.
  • Look at the quality of the traffic from each network. If the sessions from a particular ISP are close to 100 percent new, have a high bounce rate and a low average session duration (such as under 10 seconds), that’s a good sign the traffic is composed of bots.

How to Filter out Bot Traffic

  • Check the box to filter bot traffic. Google Analytics can help you automatically filter out traffic from well-known bot sources. Just look under View > View Settings > Bot Traffic (near the end) and make sure to check the box that says “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.” This will help improve the accuracy of your analytics, but remember that, at least right now, this option is not catching all bot traffic from Amazon.
  • Create a custom filter. Create a new Reporting View so you don’t lose any information in your main Analytics feed and add a custom filter. Under “Filter Field,” select “ISP organizations” from the drop-down menu, and add the name of the offending ISP into the field for “Filter Pattern.”

Be sure to keep a shrewd eye on your analytics for other issues like these – after all, analytics can’t offer very helpful guidance on your marketing efforts if they aren’t accurate.


Tags: Web & Digital, Media Planning & Buying

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