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Understanding the basics of bot-generated leads

An explainer for enrollment marketers of graduate and adult programs

January 19, 2023, By Morgan Belcher, Senior Analyst, Product Marketing (Appily Advance)

It’s no secret that lead generation for graduate and adult programs can be challenging. Common points of frustration for enrollment leaders include high cost per lead and lower-than-desired conversion rates. And on top of that, we’ve heard reports from enrollment leaders recently who’ve been experiencing another frustrating issue: a portion of their purchased digital leads are turning out to be fake contacts generated as a part of lead fraud scams. Below are some important facts to know about bot-created graduate leads and what to do about them.

What are bot leads?

Bot leads are fake leads deployed as part of lead generation fraud, often by clicking on digital ads. Bot deployers can generate revenue through these practices – driving up the clickthrough rate on ads benefits the host of those ads, so the platform may pay the bot source a small percentage of its profit without knowing there’s fraud involved.

How prevalent are bot leads?

You may be wondering how likely this is to happen to your institution’s graduate or adult student leads. According to a Barracuda Networks report, activity by “bad” bots makes up 39% of all internet traffic. While this isn’t specific to the higher education field, this suggests that this is an issue that graduate enrollment leaders should be familiar with.

How do bots impact lead generation?

Bot leads can drive up ad spend by artificially inflating your clickthrough rate (CTR) by clicking on your advertisements. Ad providers can then charge more for each impacted advertisement. Further, if you’re testing multiple messages or images within your ads, click bots can skew test results, causing you to spend money in the wrong places.

Because bot leads will never convert, they drive up lead volume –meanwhile, your application and deposit numbers remain steady. It’s then up to you to discern which of your lead sources are actually performing well and which are being influenced by fake leads. In addition, your overall lead to deposit conversion rate looks very low, which may not reflect the work you and your team have put into sourcing leads for your institution.

Improve Your Adult-serving Program’s Lead Conversion Rate

Finally, bot leads are challenging and time consuming to root out if your team takes on the task of sorting through all your leads. It typically stretches small graduate enrollment teams thin – not to mention it wastes valuable time you could be using to nurture legitimate potential students.

Despite the headaches that bots can cause, there are steps you can take to mitigate their influence. One strategy is to ensure you’re monitoring your CTR and conversion rates from each of your lead sources on a regular basis. If one source’s rates become unusually high, you’ll notice quickly and be able to investigate for potential bot activity.

On the whole, it’s also always best to diversify your lead sources to ensure you’re receiving as many different leads as you can. Incorporating high-intent sources into your lead generation strategy alleviates some of the pressure of vetting leads by shouldering that responsibility.

Of course, bot leads are not the only “bad” leads you’ll come across – whether you’re getting leads from individuals who are too young for your graduate programs or are looking for a different type of degree, it’s frustrating when even the real leads are unusable.

At EAB, we mitigate that issue with Cappex by using a carefully designed registration path to pre-qualify leads before sending them to our partners, meaning there’s a smaller chance of receiving leads you can’t use. Cappex also assumes the upfront cost of marketing your graduate programs, meaning you’re also saving dollars while improving your lead quality. With assurance that your leads are legitimate, your team’s time can be spent cultivating relationships with prospects, rather than weeding out bad leads.

Sources: Kahn, Anura, 7/21/21; Kahn, Anura, 3/19/22; Rafferty, ActiveProspect, 9/9/22

Morgan Belcher

Morgan Belcher

Senior Analyst, Product Marketing (Appily Advance)

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