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A Few Ideas on Email Bot Detection

You just looked at your email marketing performance and saw 35% click-through-rate and are cheering to your nearby co-workers. But is this number really real? Upon closer inspection, it seems a bit fishy and you dive in. Then someone mentions email bots.

Now we know that legit, real people did click on your email and we also know there is a high likelihood that a bot clicked on your email. So how do you determine who is who so you are reporting on correct results?

Idea #1: A Hidden Link

This probably seems obvious, but put text that links somewhere in a white font (or same color as your background) so no human can see it. If there is a click that registers for this link, you could have a bot.

Idea #2: Disregard Your First Link Clicks as Clicks

Most emails I have seen and built have a couple of standard links at the top. First, the 'view this email in your browser' link and second, the banner image link. Bots will act in a few ways but some will click just the first and/or second links or click everything. Just disregard these clicks.

Idea #3: Someone Who Clicks All Links Is Not a Someone, It's a Something

What is the likelihood you would click every single link in an email you receive? This includes any links in the header and even the email signature of the person sending it (and don't forget privacy policy, unsubscribe, etc.). Bots will often click everything. So when you have people who looked like they clicked everything, disregard these as clicks.

Idea #4: Timing

Now let's think about how fast it takes for you to receive an email and start clicking links. If you know your email went out at 7pm and at 7:01pm you have a lot of clicks, these are going to be your bots. (Yes, I know some are people but who seriously reacts that quick?)

TIP: Bots are only going to become more prevalent but that doesn't mean we are walking away from email marketing anytime soon, we just need to be smarter about what we measure. Maybe CTRs should be discarded as trivial just as we have dismissed Open rates?
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