Facebook Ads Bot Traffic? Get The Real Story

Recently a company we’ve somehow never heard of (until now) released results derived from their data. They called Facebook Ads out as being about 80% bot traffic.  Accompanying details to support their accusations were as limited as their name, in our opinion, and none seem to be forthcoming.

We were open minded until we dug in. Limited is way off the data we saw in our study. In the next couple of days we’ll publish a detailed response post in SearchEngineWatch (SEW).

AIMCLEAR‘s results do not omit what we believe to be crucial data points and our findings were substantially different.  We’ll let you know when the SEW post is live. It names numbers.  For now, here are our top level findings. We think you’ll really dig the data in SEW so please watch for it.

First, a bot is hard to spot for certain. We should refer to all bots as “possible” bots because a malicious bot sometimes pretends to be something else.  There are good bots and bad bots. A good bot says in it’s user agent, “I’m a bot.” A bad bot can display a user agent that mimics a real user. For the purpose of this conversation, we call anything that has JS disabled a possible bot.

Here are AIMCLEAR‘s high level findings:

  • The number of visits FB reports from ads appear to be nearly accurate, even if the visitors are bots. That’s, umm… comforting.
  • Possible bot traffic from the USA is much lower than Limited’s study purported, according to our data.
  • Internationally, possible FB Ads bot traffic is higher than in the USA but much lower than Limited reports according to our data.

International bot traffic is difficult to study, given the differences in timestamps between servers involved, international timezones, etc.. When analyzing you need to be extremely careful to understand the timezones that FB is reporting, your server logs, and PHP datestamps on pages.  A parsing error of as little as 4 hours may skew data significantly, especially in small samplings and undermine the entire test. We have no idea the mix of international traffic Vs. US traffic involved in Limited’s study. We do know ours.

Does LimitedRun really have the chops to call out FB? We don’t know. AIMCLEAR had a team of three highly skilled tech people, including  CTO Joe Warner, work on it for days.  Reed and Alyssa worked on it as well. Is Limited that good? We can’t say.

What we can say is that Limited is way off in comparison to our data. They reported a total of about 80% bot traffic.  They better show up with a lot more information about their data and methodology if they want anyone other than a bunch of tech IPO paparazzi, reporters and scared investors to believe them.

We’ll call for the data we believe missing and reveal real bot traffic numbers specifically in the SEW post. Hang tight!

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