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Where Is My Paid Facebook Ad Traffic Really Coming From?

Gary Nissim
Where Is My Paid Facebook Ad Traffic Really Coming From?

Today we are looking at the curious case of Facebook reporting versus Google Analytics stats.

This story starts early in July when we noticed that our Facebook campaigns were driving a large amount of traffic from the USA, even though the campaigns were set up to target just Australian cities.

We then segmented the USA traffic down to a city level and noticed something even stranger. Most of the traffic was originating from Oshkosh, Wisconsin (population 66,778). The traffic from Oshkosh all had a time on site of less than one second so to us it looked like bot traffic. We then looked in our Facebook reporting system and found that all of the traffic seemed to be coming from Australia.

We checked our targeting to make sure that this hadn’t been caused by a set up error ensuring that the campaigns were set up to target on people who live in this location.

Indago then approached Facebook via their chat feature to ask them to investigate. Below we can see the conversation that eventuated. As far as they were concerned there was no issue and they were not willing to look into this for us.

Facebook believe that this traffic is coming from people who live in Australia but are in fact just traveling to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’m sure Oshkosh (a.k.a. Sawdust City) is lovely, but unless they have a tournament that involves kangaroos boxing wombats, then I doubt it’s must see holiday destination for Australian tourists.

Some choice quotes from our conversation with Facebook:

Facebook: “You’ve targeted users in Melbourne Australia. However users may be traveling around the world or using a VPN.”

Indago: “I’m extremely doubtful that 60% of users from Melbourne have traveled to a small U.S. town.”

Facebook: “Well noted, I will share your feedback with our product team. Is there anything else we can help you with?”

Unhappy with Facebook’s response, we thought that it was a good idea to check out the rest of our clients Facebook campaigns, and – guess what? – they all had the same problem. Next we checked the client's Google Analytics accounts where we were not running their Facebook campaigns to see if it was something to do with our set up or technology stack.

Again, every single Facebook campaign had a large amount of traffic from Oshkosh whether we were running the campaign or not.

How to Check if You Have the Same Problem

First log into Google Analytics and select All Traffic and the Source / Medium from the left side bar.


Next click the advanced filter button. Add Facebook to the Source/Medium text box and click apply.


Finally, we are going to add the city as a secondary dimension. Clicks the secondary dimension button and select city.


Below we can see our results. Oshkosh, Wisconsin is driving a large amount of traffic but it has 0 time on site.


We haven’t gotten any further in solving the mystery of the Oshkosh Facebook traffic. We’re pretty sure that it must be bot traffic, however Google Analytics blocks all known bots from appearing in the reports. Is this happening with your campaigns? I have a feeling that it might be.

Please reply below if you are seeing the same traffic and perhaps together we can get something better than a stock answer from Facebook.

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We're in the USA, and a Facebook post we recently "boosted" somehow mostly went to people in South Asia, where we have virtually no customers. Beyond bizarre.
Douglas Thomas
Is there a datacenter in Oshkosh?

We see a ton of traffic from Ashburn,VA for our clients because AWS is stored there and I feel ISPs are also based there.
This is really interesting! I've checked my clients' campaigns and for the most part, about 5-7% of the traffic is coming from San Francisco when we are only targeting Perth and/or Australia. Interesting pick up! Although reading the other comments, the testing theory mentioned by a few seems to make sense.
Very odd. Looking through my client accounts I found the same thing. Been able to pin point most of the activity to summer months. It's completely died off in Sept.
Curious if anyone is finding that this is related to specific kinds of campaigns.
Amazing, I thought I'd check one of my UK campaigns and in July 5% of the traffic was from... Oshkosh. It has to be a Facebook tester - if I spent more time and looked back at the launch of new ad sets I bet they would coincide.
Charlie Chatz
Nope. All our 6 ad accounts on Facebook run fine with no bot traffic.
I've noticed this lately since I took AdEspresso to use and started to create multiple ads with individual UTM tagged links to my site. Basically every time I launch a campaign (which I target to Finland only), I get immediately traffic from US (San Francisco mainly) - that traffic appears before the adds are approved, and the amount of traffic seems to depend at least to some extent on the amount of links in the adds.
Yes this is happening. Although not much like other viral bots but yes, it's there in our analytics too.
Joe Martinez
As a PPC guy from Wisconsin, I love this post
I've experienced the same, and also seen it with Twitter. Do you have the audience network or whatever its called turned on?
We have seen the same issue in our campaigns, and what we have realized is that this traffic might be from facebook testing bot. So once you set your campaign, facebook test your campaign, and apparently it all comes from this little town. Once your ad goes live, you might see normal traffic coming from your target audience.

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