Marketers are innovating to distinguish real users from human-like bots

By [Dan Lowden, CMO, White Ops]

As marketing has become increasingly digital, metrics-driven tactics that drive higher conversion rates and better business results have become a must. It’s no longer enough to drive likes or views; marketers need to identify the most likely buyer, discover ways to get a compelling message in front of a particular buyer, and do so frequently and on enough channels to ensure that the messaging sticks and the buyer makes a move.

In today’s business environment where every marketing dollar counts, there is no such thing as “good enough”— marketers need to continue to optimize and test to ensure their tactics are driving the most efficient and effective campaigns.

One new approach to optimization is to determine the humanity of a given campaign’s audience. And in this case, humanity doesn’t mean whether the individuals are showing empathy and kindness to others — though that doesn’t hurt — it means determining whether the conversions the campaign is experiencing are literally humans as opposed to bots.

Sophisticated bots can look astonishingly human to the untrained (and even trained) observer. They live on the same devices that marketers and brands use every day, which means they have web browsing histories, purchasing patterns and cookies. They have all those ancillary pieces of the picture that marketers use for targeting.

Leveraging that human facade, the fraudsters operating the bots are able to capture — steal, really — more marketing spend than one might think. For example, one global marketer learned that their conversion rates were suffering despite consistent site traffic and campaigns that seemed to be working. The marketer’s landing page metrics, driven by the campaigns it was running, seemed impressive. But it turned out that 37 percent of the customer data they were collecting were fake. Bots were filling out the forms in a way that made it hard to recognize that the form-fills weren’t real, even though budget was spent for these leads.

Marketing budgets continue to suffer when retargeting campaigns chase these same bots all over the internet, leading to further wasted spend, as well as wasted time and effort from the sales team trying to follow up.

What marketers need is a way to prevent bots from getting into the marketing technology stack in the first place. It’s not enough simply to scan through a list of leads from a webform and try to deduce which ones aren’t genuine; marketers don’t have that kind of time to spare.

Instead, marketers should be able to examine the characteristics of a user session and look into whether a visitor’s behavior aligns with that of a sophisticated bot. Those insights should be attributed to specific marketing campaigns, giving a view into which campaigns and tactics are driving fake traffic to the website. And traffic that shows signs of bot activity should be presented with extra challenges before submitting a webform, or it should be blocked outright from submitting.

Marketing is only useful and effective if it’s humans who are on the receiving end of campaigns. Industrywide, as marketers build, run and assess the success of the messaging they deliver, they need to be thinking about how to stop sophisticated  bots. In doing so, they will drive better business results by keeping marketing human — today and in the future.

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