What are these 'bot traffic' referrals in Google Analytics?

21 June 2020

Recently, two of the sites I manage had a burst of referrals show up in Google Analytics from a suspicious looking source: in one instance 'websitebottraffic.pw' and in the other 'bottraffic4free.xyz'. Both of these domains, if you visit them in the browser, redirect to gammatraffic.com. What are these referrals and should I be worried?

What are these bot traffic referrals?

Gammatraffic.com, or GammaTraffic, is a service offering "cheap website traffic". Their FAQs explain:

It is automated traffic, we use real web browsers with automation to create it, it means the traffic looks like real human traffic just doesn't make purchases. We guarantee that you will see all the traffic in your Google Analytics.

I hadn't signed up for this service, but I suspect that GammaTraffic sent a burst of traffic to my two websites as a form of advertising. Savvy web managers would notice the referrals, investigate them, and discover GammaTraffic. And perhaps some of them would go on to pay for more automated traffic.

Personally I can't see the benefit in the service because the automated traffic will not result in any sales or other conversions. Again GammaTraffic explains:

Most of our clients use our services to improve their websites' traffic metrics. We can fix your bounce rate, return rate, session time, increase your traffic volume, add more organic or social traffic and work with almost every aspect of the traffic.

However, speaking personally, if I had an issue with any of these metrics I would look to address the root cause rather than masking the problem with automated traffic. Also, in effect you would be paying for this traffic twice (one payment to GT and another to your web host for your server resources).

Should I be worried?

On one site I had 300 referrals over a four-day period; on the other I had 133 over a two-day period. Here's what the first looked like in Google Analytics (click on the image to view a larger version):

Bot referrals

Each of the referrals had identical session durations (5 secs), pages/session (2), and bounce rate (0.00%).

However apart from skewing my traffic stats slightly, these referrals seem to have done no harm. I was concerned about the potential impact on Google AdSense (specifically getting limited by Google for 'invalid traffic'), but apparently:

[GammaTraffic] is absolutely safe for PPC ads, we avoid clicking on ads and therefore you won't violate any rules of these programs. In case of Adsense by default we don't even load the ads so by default you won't see any impressions.

As for the impact on my analytics data, I could build a Segment in Google Analytics to exclude traffic with a Source of bottraffic4free.xyz / websitebottraffic.pw. (Another option would be to apply a Segment like that to a report in Google Data Studio.)

It is worth noting that websitebottraffic.pw and bottraffic4free.xyz each redirected to a gammatraffic.com URL with a different campaign tracking parameter appended. By which I mean websitebottraffic.pw redirected to https://www.gammatraffic.com/?utm_source=2121 whereas bottraffic4free.xyz redirected to https://www.gammatraffic.com/?utm_source=2113.

I don't know how widely GammaTraffic reuses its domains, but this approach would potentially enable GT to work out which webmasters had noticed and investigated the traffic it had send them. So you may want to think about whether you actually want to visit the referring domains that show up in Google Analytics.

How about a filter?

Also, the use of different domains makes it difficult to pre-emptively filter out referrals from GammaTraffic in Google Analytics. You could build a filter today to filter out referrals from websitebottraffic.pw and bottraffic4free.xyz (or indeed all domains containing 'bottraffic'), but the traffic that GT sends you could come from a completely different domain.

A quick Google indicates that GT have also used the domains trafficbot4free.xyz,  bottraffic4free.club and seo-services-with-results.com in the past (I am sure there are many others).

My personal advice, should you start to receive referrals from one of these GT domains, is just to ignore them. They should stop as quickly as they started.

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