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Googlebot or naughty bot?

     
7:55 am on Oct 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys,

I've just come across from the chat on WebmasterWorld on the Sept algo changes. Lots of chat about zombie traffic, reduced conversion rates, etc. Hoping you can help with something...

We're an online store based in the UK. Yesterday morning, we had 30 items added to basket by an IP where the host was not found (but seemed to be within googlebot's published IP range) but the whois resolved to 'Google Inc'. Each basket-add was around 5 seconds apart, so clearly a bot. We've never had googlebot add items to basket before.

According to Google Analytics, the source country was India and the traffic was direct (not paid or organic). So you might think that this was just a bad bot spoofing google, but... 28 out of the 30 items added to basket were in the top 5% of click volume on Google Shopping. We have 10,000 products in total so that's pretty lucky to hit just those ones. The only people that could have known this were us and Google. So this implies that Google have a bot that is targeting high click volume items and doing artificial adds to basket, albeit as direct traffic rather than cpc. Also, each product page was the landing page, i.e. the bot hit those pages directly and so must have presumably known the URLs beforehand.

Anyone have any thoughts? Google or not Google?
12:45 am on Oct 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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It would be very helpful if you could show us the IP that this bot used. Or even better, the full log entry for one of the visits by this bot.
1:27 am on Oct 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@Simon_H - Adding to what aristotle said... just because the IP resolved to "Google Inc" means little as far as the hit coming from any of the Google departments. Google has many ranges they lease out to anyone for any purpose, just like Amazon and Microsoft.
1:28 am on Oct 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Sorry for the delay in responding. I didn't know my topic had been made live. The IP is 74.125.63.33. Full details are (Mozilla/5.0 (X11; CrOS x86_64 7262.57.0) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/45.0.2454.98 Safari/537.36).

Google (paid) came back to me on this and said that it might be their team in India manually checking out the site, but they refused to confirm this, or why their team would need to add to basket 30 times and only target items with the highest paid clicks. The pattern of the 30 basket adds is:
First 5 adds: ~15 seconds apart
Next 17 adds: ~3 seconds apart
Next 8 adds: random ~3 - 20 seconds apart

Every item was hit as separate landing page. So the user would presumably have had to click across from links within their system, added to basket, shut down and repeated. 3 seconds seems fast for a human, although Googlers that do this day in day out may be fast.

Have you seen these patterns before?
1:59 am on Oct 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I doubt very seriously it was Google
9:36 am on Oct 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr So do I. The Google helpdesk guys are nice, but this sort of thing is beyond them. I explained to them this is far more likely someone else on a Google IP or spoofing one, but they didn't seem to understand.

Also, if Google accepts this is someone else, the implications are very severe. Because the clicks were on 28 of the highest clicked items out of 10,000 from Google shopping. To be clear, these aren't items that necessarily sell well, they're just items that have received the highest number of paid clicks. The third party would have had to have known these were the highest clicked items. The only way that's possible is if the third party were also responsible for the original clicks from Google shopping, i.e. that these were all fake clicks that Google failed to spot and exclude.

So if Google admits this isn't them, they're also admitting that they've been charging for lots of fake/bot clicks.
12:33 pm on Oct 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Here is what an IP lookup shows:
IP: 74.125.63.33

Decimal: 1249722145

Hostname: 74.125.63.33

ASN: 15169

ISP: Google

Organization: Google

Services: Confirmed proxy server

Type: Corporate

Assignment: Static IP

Continent: Asia

Country: India

City: Hyderabad

So apparently it's coming through a proxy
12:44 pm on Oct 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If this only happened once, then I suggest that you forget about it. I see strange things in my logs all the time, but if they don't cause any problems, it's not worth the time and trouble to investigate them.
 

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