Google Adwords upgraded URL structure & strange visits for 3rd party analytics tools

I analyzed our SEM aka Google Adwords traffic after the summer and I was very confused. I looked the stats more closely and saw “lots of” (=hundreds visits) traffic coming from United States through ads in Google and having 100% bounce rate. I asked our SEM manager about this and she said we are not targeting any ads to United States. Well, I can surely see from Adobe Analytics that we get SEM visits from Untied States. What on earth is going on? Oh dear, now I now it “we are victims of clickbots and part of click frauds etc”. Just use google to look for “google adwords clickbots” etc and you surely get in a panic mode, so many stories about this one. But really, we are in so niche market and using quite small budget, it doesn’t make any sense but look at the evidence!

Ok, let’s breath.

I was able to dig more data on these strange visits through SEM and the locations pointed to Google’s servers/offices. What? Are you kidding me? Again, some more google searching and I saw some theories how some advanced clickbots might be able to use even Google’s servers, I mean at least that it would show from the data that users have come through Google’s ip-addresses etc.

Luckily we have good contacts to Google and I asked help from Google’s Adwords team and they responded quickly and soon we figured out what was going on. Google made big URL structure changes inside Google Adwords in July and even our own SEM team knew about this one and we had made all the needed adjustments to our Adwords campaigs. So all good in that way. If you didn’t heard about the change, you can read the official articles:

http://adwords.blogspot.ie/2015/02/get-faster-and-easier-url-tracking-with.html
http://adwords.blogspot.ie/2015/06/reminder-upgrade-your-urls-by-july-1.html
https://developers.google.com/adwords/api/docs/guides/upgraded-urls

So, why did we get strange visits from Google and through Google’s ads?
It was all related to this big change in Adwords URL structure. I got response from Google’s Adwords team that they had to different kinds of checks that (even ours) updated adwords links are working ok etc. These were truly normal traffic from Google’s offices and we were not victims of click frauds or anything like that! Great to hear that.

Who knows how often Google needs to do some kind of checking processes for their Adword clients, but the good news is they don’t (of course) charge any of these clicks and the visits from Google’s offices are also automatically filtered out from Google Analytics, but not from any other “3rd party” analytics tools such as Adobe Analytics that we are using. No wonder why this hasn’t been a big issue, but wanted to write this small blog post for us non GA users… because these “test visits” certainly affected to the conversion rate by decreasing it. I can easily calculate conversions by segmenting and filtering out USA visits, but a bit harder to do if you are doing Adwords in the States? Of course we could block Google’s ip-addresses too in the future, but since this issue seems to be over don’t know would that be worth it, and my plan B is to follow (and filter out if needed) traffic from other countries.

Well, that was an adventure for me. Now time to dive inside data again and let’s see what kind of stories I’ll find out next…

Disclaimer: This was my own analysis based on the comments and data what I have seen and get, so please comment if you have any other information about this one or have you seen similar “test data” from Google in last few months (if not using GA and not blocking Google’s ip-addresses)?

About Antti

Antti

Digital Analytics Manager specialized in Adobe Analytics, Online personalization, SEO, CRO...

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