Different than a traffic spike and subsequent RPM drop, if you have a spike in traffic and your actual earnings stay flat or go down, you might have other issues. In this article I'll explain how to troubleshoot and take action!
Know the Signs of "Bad" or Bot Traffic
Invalid traffic can cause RPM to plummet because you are effectively dividing the correct amount of revenue by traffic that does not exist. Advertisers can monitor traffic in real time, so if you have an increase in traffic that isn't monetizing, it's important to figure out why.
"Referral spam" is not actually malicious traffic. If that is what's ailing you, you can learn how to filter it out here.
"Bad" traffic does not always look the same, but there are a few signs that are pretty consistent.
A sudden drop in desktop site health -- typically both in-content and sticky sidebar health will be affected.
A sudden increase in desktop traffic. Most lifestyle sites have largely mobile audiences. If you notice that suddenly you have a ton of readers on desktop, you might have an issue.
A sudden increase in traffic to your home page, about page, or other random category pages. This would be an obvious and sudden increase -- not gradual over time.
An increase in traffic from atypical-for-you countries. Usually this will be noticeable because you'll have an increase in traffic from India or the Philippines where your normal audience is usually in the US or UK. But it can also present as a sudden increase in US traffic.
What you are looking for are details that came out of nowhere and look out of place.
Check Your Site Health
The Health Checks in your dashboard are meant to be an easy, color-coded way to identify site trends that need your attention. If you notice that traffic has increased but actual earnings have dropped or stayed flat, that indicates traffic that is not monetizing. Look for negative changes to your health checks.
Is the Health Check for Desktop In-Content Ads suddenly red or yellow? What about Sticky Sidebar Health? Is it also newly yellow or red? If so, scroll down in the dashboard to check the By Device report.
Is the Ads.txt Health Check red or yellow? An up-to-date ads.txt file is required for advertisers to spend. If your ads.txt file is out of date see this article.
Check Your Devices
If you noticed decreased desktop health metrics and then you also notice an increase in desktop traffic, you might have traffic issues.
Not sure if desktop traffic has increased? Here's how to check:
Set the date range in your dashboard to the last 3 days.
Then compare to a custom date range and match up the same 3 days in the previous week.
Look at the By Device graph and look for a noticeable increase in desktop traffic.
Check the By Country report
This report does not always change with "bad" traffic, but sometimes it does, so it's worth a look.
With the same date and custom comparison range set, look at the By Country graph.
Do you see an increase in traffic from a country with lower CPMs that is unusual for you or doesn't make sense with your content? (Example: An increase in India traffic to your home page or other content that doesn't make sense for readers in India)
Do you see a drastic increase in US traffic?
Look at Top Pages for the set date range
The Top Pages report should show you which content is trending.
Open the posts or pages that are seeing the increase in traffic in an incognito window.
Add ?test=houseads to the end of the URL which will force ads into every available slot.
If everything looks good to you -- ads are all in place, you don't spot any odd keywords that might be flagged for brand safety, and all seems well, you might have issues with bad traffic.
If You Suspect That You Have Any Kind of Invalid Traffic
The first thing to do once you've verified all of the details in your dashboard is to open up Google Analytics and see what additional details you can learn.
Set the date range to match the dates you checked in your dashboard (without the comparison)
Go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and then click the post seeing the increased traffic.
Add Secondary Dimension > Device Category to verify that this is the traffic anomaly you're noticing.
Add Secondary Dimension > Source to verify further
Look at Average Time on page -- 0:00 is usually indicative of users that are not real users.
Once you've collected all your details, email your host.
If you think you are being affected by malicious traffic, it can affect your long term ability to monetize. Email email@example.com so that we can help to verify your findings and disable ads until you find resolution with your host.