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Inexplicable spike in traffic reported as coming from MSN Paid search

6:57 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Since approximately Friday, we have observed an inexplicable influx of traffic reported in Webtrends and Google Analytics as coming from MSN Paid search.

While we used to have less than 500 visits/day from MSN Paid search, GA & WT are both reporting over 10,000 visits / day since last Friday from this channel.

Upon further investigation, we found out that those visits are not correlated with an increase in paid clicks reported in MSN Adcenter nor in our SEM bid management tool (Ad Director).

This activity seems to point to an artificial source, probably a new crawler that can execute JS and disguise itself as a web browser.

What is a bit strange is thta this bot seems to be using all our MSN tagged url's to hit our site (the growth in MSN traffic is observed across all our MSN campaigns).

The visits come regularly throughout the day and night, nearly always bounce, spending an avg. of 0 seconds on the page. Their reported environment is always Internet Explorer 6.0, Windows XP 800x600 at 16bit and the service provider is always "Level 3 Communications."
All visits come from the same 4 different locations:
Seattle, New York, Charlotte, Denver. It's not clear what agency/organization is responsible.

Have you guys heard of or observed anything similar?
This situation is quite puzzling, and I am not quite sure what to do about this (or if anything should be done ?).
Any insight/feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.


8:25 pm on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Have you looked at the user agent? I think MSN has a bot that hits your ads to check them. It would be surprising if Google analytics didn't know about that bot though (and also that an MSN bot would hit JS).

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