Protecting Your Email Stats from Bot Activity with Metrics Guard for Email

Internet security is always evolving. As attack methods change, so do defense mechanisms. A few years ago, we saw a new development in email security. Some inbox providers started employing scanners that would click every link in an email to test its source. This is good news for email security — less risk in your inbox! — but terrible news for digital marketers, who saw click rates suddenly skyrocket to impossible percentages over 100% and watched unengaged prospects with lots of automated “scanner clicks” get passed along to confused and frustrated sales teams.

At first, these scanners were mostly coming from the same few IPs. So in the December 2018 Pardot release, we identified consistent email scanner IPs and packaged them as visitor filters out-of-the-box for all Pardot customers. But the problem didn’t go away. As this practice of protecting email recipients from malicious links gained popularity, we saw a proliferation of scanners on cloud hosts.

Now, a cloud host is tricky. When the activity’s IP can only be tracked to AWS or another public cloud provider, we can’t simply add that IP to a blocklist. Will clicks from cloud IPs always be scanners, or will they sometimes be customers? Will they be scanners this month and customers next month? Unlike IPs we can easily identify as belonging to security providers, we couldn’t just filter out all activity from public cloud IPs that sometimes acted like a security scanner.

But we can filter out activity from an IP when it is acting like a security scanner. So that’s exactly what we did.

We built Metrics Guard for Email to watch for activity that isn’t really part of your hard-earned metrics. This brand-new service monitors email clicks and opens to identify patterns that are clearly bot-based, and it keeps those activities out of Pardot entirely. In its first week, Metrics Guard for Email kept 2 million scanner clicks from inflating our marketers’ metrics and triggering actions that shouldn’t have happened.

The best part of this service is that it’s totally hands-off for you — no activation is required! Since early November, Metrics Guard for Email has been working behind the scenes to keep your engagement data clean so that your click metrics are accurate and only truly engaged prospects become qualified.

So send away, knowing that Metrics Guard for Email is serving engagement metrics you can trust.

Check out how to use email metrics to make data-driven decisions.

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20 thoughts on “Protecting Your Email Stats from Bot Activity with Metrics Guard for Email

  • What about those using the Pardot “unsubscribe” link in the footer of emails? Any plans to address false bot-clicks on those links? Or is that too risky due to compliance requirements?

    • Great question! You are spot on that this is risky due to compliance requirements. We chose not to filter out bot clicks on unsubscribe for that reason, but the option to use a two-click unsubscribe is coming in Spring ’21 as an additional feature to combat unwanted scanner clicks.

  • Hooray!!! Congratulations. Been waiting for something like this for a long time. I am really looking forward to this and hope it works! Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you.

  • Really glad to see this feature launched – hopefully this will bring some more trust back to Email Completion Actions and Email Reporting!

  • Does Metrics Guard work retroactively? Will it weed out false clicks from past campaigns? What if I know there are still security scanner clicks coming from certain emails. Is there a way for me to pass this information to you to get them added?

    • Hi Renny – Sorry, Metrics Guard doesn’t work retroactively. We don’t currently have plans for allowing flagging scanner click behavior, but we are continuing to keep an eye on impact of security scanners with Metrics Guard now live.

  • Thanks, good to know the click metrics are valid. I have noticed that the Gmail app on my iPhone automatically registers as an open even before I look at an email. Would be nice to fix that somehow too.

    • Yes, gmail tends to pre-open and cache images and it can impact the reliability of opens as a metric. It’s good to take that into account when considering KPIs.

  • What does this mean for the Visitor Filters option in Pardot? Are the IPs that were blocked in 2018 now being handled by Metrics Guard in the background?

    • Great question. We’ve left the Visitor Filter IPs in place. We have seen some of the activity that would get caught by visitor filters get filtered out first by Metrics Guard, but I like to think of them working together. Visitor Filters can still help if there are particular IPs that are problematic specifically for your org, but don’t show up in great volume across all of Pardot.

    • Hi Kohji – Metrics Guard for email only works to keep email clicks and opens out of prospect activity, but doesn’t otherwise impact prospect activity.

  • Hi Heather, this is great news. Is this included in all versions of Pardot and there is nothing we have to “turn on”?

    • Hi Darryl – Because it can be legally risky not to honor an unsubscribe click, it does not filter those out. Because of that gap, we will be adding an option to turn on two-click unsubscribe in Spring ’21 which will prevent the original link click from executing the unsubscribe.

  • Has this already activated? I still get emails (opted in) in which 80% of the clicks are suspected bots. I recently have been manually checking the individual unique clickers and can see the pattern of the same companies and people clicking on these emails. My last email had 67 bot clicks out of 79 unique clicks — I cannot rely on this data to A/B test, optimize, learn, or report on. It’s likely that the same goes for my opens.

    • Hi Ray – Yes, this has been activated. We plan to tune the sensitivity of the filters to make them more aggressive going forward, but started with more conservative threshold.

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