For many years, email marketers have either known or suspected that some of the Clicks recorded for their campaigns are not all being created by their subscribers. That instinct makes a lot of sense, as we know that email must be handled by software, firewalls, and filters whenever they are delivered.
For example, products like Barracuda’s Multilevel intent analysis have been around for over ten years now. Those filters have become increasingly sophisticated in how they examine email messages, follow the URLs and analyze links they contain for Calls To Action for your subscribers.
A phrase "Robot Clicks" has become a catchall term used to try and describe this automated behavior. A more accurate, and better description is Nonhuman Interactions or NHIs – we’ll use that term here.
2. How many?
The global industry association, Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) has conducted research on Nonhuman Interactions, how they function, where their use is seen, and what impact can be measured. They looked especially at whether the automated NHIs could be reliably identified and then filtered out leaving just the human clicks, that are seen as more genuine indicators of subscriber engagement.
M3AAWG’s research points to less than 10% impact by NHIs when sending to the large Mailbox Providers such as gmail.com yahoo.com, outlook.com etc.
Businesses, various quasi-NGOs and Non-profits, as well as organizations like universities and colleges, that value greater and more finely tuned control over their inbound email flows will make more use of enterprise level anti-spam software. They will also tend to err on the side of caution and apply stricter tests to the email they receive. Lower subscriber engagement correlated with increased scans and NHIs.
M3AAWG themselves concluded, “It is hard to quantify a summary effect, as most filter agents and ISPs work to mask detection. This is necessary to ensure filters are not circumvented, which would ultimately negate their effectiveness…”
So what can you do to mitigate this extra data in your CRM?
3. Best Practices to avoid the NHIs
3.1 Secure Links
With ClickDimensions version 12.9 you now have a choice to use SSL Certificates for HTTPS Email CNAMEs to brand your links. You can also simply use the default *clickdimensions.com HTTPS out of the box. Either way you should use HTTPS exclusively for all links. Emails with a mix of secure and non-secure tracking links appear to be disproportionately targeted according to M3AAWG’s research. They report mixed link usage—e.g., a non-secure HTTP link directing to an advertiser from a HTTPS tracking link—seems to trigger the most unwanted behavior.
3.2 Segment your Data
Try to keep your engaged and non-engaged subscribers distinct when you are planning your sending domain, campaigns, workflows and automations.
3.3 Craft and Monitor your Content
Content quality is as important as always — not only what you are linking to, but also image to text ratio, Subject: line and Preheader choices and other factors. It was typically found that “aggressive” email marketing tends to lead to more NHIs.
3.4 Conserve your Reputation
Sender reputation has been found to play a significant role in the amount of NHIs. The amount of NHI for senders with highly engaged recipients is considerably lower. There are many steps you can take, but a top three would be:
- Gain clear consent from your subscribers, and abide by it
- Of course, don't Purchase or Rent lists
- Use Double Opt-In during sign-ups
4. What to do now?
The first thing is to take a breath – there are almost certainly not as many “robots” in your engagement data as you might suspect. Second, you can take great comfort knowing that following the email best practices that you already know and love, and that will increase the ROI of your email campaigns, will reduce the number of NHIs as much as possible.