July 24th, 2020 Update: The bot continues to be an issue despite unchecking the automatic updates. It will be interesting to see how Google will be more and more intrusive with Google Shopping being free to list and now commission free. This aggressive attempt to compete with Amazon is to the detriment of preserving their own analytics. Read more here.
The Bad News is that the conversion rate in Shopify will not be accurate with the bot. See an example store where John Smith started crawling in March, 2020. The conversion rate from Shopify is much lower than Google Analytics as it is unable to filter out the bot traffic for false abandoned carts.
The semi-Good News is that there is a way to clean up Google Analytics. Please note that GA won’t have information such as order cancellations and won’t have orders registered that is executed in the platform directly by Customer Service in cases ex. draft orders but it can filter out Bot Traffic.
Under View Settings in the admin, be sure to mark off “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.” This will filter out John Smith.
This action should take care of John Smith. For other bot traffic here are the instructions on how to filter them out from the Google Analytics team:
If you are sure that certain traffic that is not being filtered is coming from a bot and want to remove it from your reports, you may try the steps mentioned below:
- Along with every valid hit that is getting sent to GA, pass along a custom dimension that has a random, static value (for example, daskldjas).
- Create a custom view filter that Excludes hits (GA data) with the custom dimension equal to that static value (for example, daskldjas). Bots/spam won’t get into the account because they don’t proactively know/have that CD with the custom value. So this could be a potential workaround in the client getting ahead of spammers.
Note: we recommend testing these filters in a duplicate, sandbox or test view before applying it your main views. You also need to be very careful not to set overzealous filters, or you will end up excluding legitimate traffic as well.
July 15th, 2020 Update: After a call to Google Merchant Center, they confirmed that it is ok to remove John Smith. While they would not disclose what is John Smith, they did 100% confirm that John Smith is not connected to Google Ads. Removing John Smith will not affect the Ads performance including Shopping. I had initially raised the issues of inflated sessions, lowered conversion rates, and false abandoned carts that is corrupting Google Analytics and Google Merchant Center immediately confirmed the above statement. Their recommendation was to contact a developer to remove the bot traffic. The false sessions will have to be filtered out of GA.
*A GMC rep clarified his comments on July 16th that REMOVING John Smith was ok but not blocking. The above statement has been updated from blocking to removing.
For merchants who rely on Google Shopping as one of the main streams in their performance stack, it will be interesting to see the effects it will have on costs and ROI.
July 4th, 2020 Update to original article: Google finally admitted that they are running bot traffic to check for shipping costs on Brands who sign up for Google Shopping. Most email service providers will have a warning for phishing should there be multiple entries of emails in one session. To circumvent this, Google creates multiple versions of an email for ex. John Smith which can amount to hundreds of profiles. See an article where they finally admitted to the practice: link
While Google may want to check for shipping prices and valid promotion details, they are also skewing their very only analytics for abandoned cart and conversion rates.
John Smith, Emily Boyd and Jack Black are known bot names triggering a slew of abandoned carts in several platforms including WooCommerce, BigCommerce and Shopify. Shopify’s help boards with their advisors are not too helpful in providing solutions for this thus far.
In one help thread, a Shopify expert advised on adding a free Fraud Alert App or adding a reCaptcha to the checkout. The problem with both of these solutions is that the order gets cancelled but Stores are stuck with fees or can’t block a User from initiating the Checkout and leaving. If a brand is not on the Plus platform, they also do not have access to the Checkout liquid.
Why this is important
- A large amount of abandoned carts will skew a brand’s data for the Shopping Funnel.
- Brands pay for the number of Users in an email list and these bot emails trigger the welcome series as well as the abandoned cart drip series
Who are these bots?
- Some say that it’s due to Google Shopping Actions checking the shipping rates of products although Google has denied this practice or it’s due to automatic updates in Shopping Actions.
- Some say that it’s price spiders crawling the site. One Reddit user had Emily Boyd follow them in multiple stores and adding products to the cart that were not even launched yet.
What can I do about this?
- Email suppression. Deleting the emails will only allow the bot to use the same email to sign up again. ESPs such as Klaviyo will not charge you for suppressed emails. Here is a link to on how to suppress emails. Read More. Emails can be added one by one or import a bulk upload with a txt or cvs file.
- Add a Captcha for email sign up or a double opt-in.
Captcha: a program or system intended to distinguish human from machine input, typically as a way of thwarting spam and automated extraction of data from websites.
Adding ReCaptcha to a Shopify Plus Checkout Liquid link – test if this will interfere with any other pop ups or onsite vendors.
Links to Help boards discussing John Smith
ReCatpcha by Google
Examples of John Smith emails
The address used to be as follows
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
mountain view CA 94043
There is an alternate new address at 1600 North Shoreline Boulevard which is also a part of Google.
More recently as of September 14th, 2020. John Smith is using the same address and phone number but different addresses. Here are some examples.
If your brand uses a service like Feedonomics that pulls the data feeds from Shopify directly, you do not need to opt into Google crawling your site for price nor availability. Turning this feature off should fix the Google bot issues.
Lost? Contact us to get you on the right track and preserve clean data. Google bots will alter your conversion rates, sessions, abandoned cart values, and add to your email service provider costs.