In a world where billions of users interact with each other online every single day, the internet can seem like a hectic place. With users liking pictures, retweeting messages, and upvoting comments, the amount of daily traffic on the internet is at an all-time high.
However, just how much of this traffic is actually real?
In recent years there has been a massive surge in online bot traffic thanks to the improvement in artificial intelligence and automated services.
With more and more bots being launched onto the internet every single day, is this a good thing for website owners and users, or a bad thing?
To answer that question, we must first explore the different types of bots out there and what they actually do.
The Many Types Of Bot Traffic
Bot traffic can be defined as any online traffic that is not generated by a human. This usually means the traffic comes from some kind of automated script or program, that is made to save a user the time of doing all the tasks manually.
These programs and scripts can do simple things like clicking links, or complicated jobs such as scraping or filling out forms. Whatever they are made to do, they usually do it at a large scale and run almost non-stop.
With over 50% of the internet estimated to be bot traffic, it’s clear that bots can be found almost everywhere and on virtually every website.
To give you an idea of the different types of bot traffic out there, here’s a quick breakdown of the good bots and what they do, as well as the bad bots.
The Good Bots
Although bot traffic does get quite a negative reputation from webmasters, there are in fact a range of good bots out there that are only trying to help.
Search Engine Bots
The first and most obvious kind of good bot traffic has to be search engine bots. These bots crawl as much as the web as they can and help website owners get their websites listed on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Their requests might be automated and listed as bot traffic, but these bots are certainly good bots.
If you own a website, then making sure your website is healthy and always online is often a priority for many owners. To help users ensure their website is always accessible, there is a range of monitoring bots out there that will automatically ping your site to ensure it’s still online. If anything ever breaks, or your website does go offline, then you’ll be immediately notified and be able to do something about it.
Trying to get your website to number 1 on search engines can be extremely difficult, especially when you don’t have a lot of information. Luckily, there is a range of software out there that can help improve your SEO efforts by crawling your site and competitors to see what you rank for and how well. Webmasters can then use this data to improve their search visibility and improve their organic traffic.
Ensuring nobody has stolen your images and used them as their own can be a challenging task. With so many websites to continually check, the only sensible solution is to have an automated bot do it. These copyright bots crawl the web scanning for specific images to ensure nobody is illegally using any copyrighted content without permission.
The Bad Bots
Unlike the good bots we just mentioned above, bad bots do really bad things to your website and can cause a lot of damage if left to roam free.
Web scrapers are annoying bots that scrape websites looking for valuable information such as email address and contact details. In other cases, they will steal content and images from websites and use them on their own site without permission. They don’t benefit anyone apart from the person who is using it to scrape data.
If you’ve ever got a bizarre email or blog comment from someone, then the chances are a spambot left it. These robots love to leave generated messages (that often make no sense) on a website’s blog. They also fill out contact forms on websites and spam website owners with promotional messages to their website.
One of the oldest and deadliest bad bots out there has to be DDoS bots. Known as distributed denial of service bots, these bots are often installed on unsuspecting victims PC’s and are used to target a particular website or server with the aim of bringing them offline. These have been plenty of reports in the paste of them doing some severe financial damage to sites which have ended up being offline for several days.
These bots might seem like good bots from a website’s server logs, but that is unfortunately not the case. There is a range of bots out there that will scan millions of websites for vulnerabilities and report them back to their creator. Unlike good bots that would inform the website owner, these bad bots are specifically made to report back to 1 person who will then most likely sell the information or use it themselves to hack websites.
How Bot Traffic Can Be Harmful for Websites
Now you know about the different types of good and bad bots out there, how can bot traffic be bad for your website?
The important thing to understand about bot traffic is that most of the scripts and programs are designed to do 1 job many times over. The creator of the bot obviously wants the job done as fast as possible, but this can bring up many problems for your site.
The biggest problem is that if a robot is continuously requesting information from your website, then this can lead to an overall slow down. This means that the site will be slow for everyone accessing it, which can cause massive problems if, for example, you’re an online store.
In extreme cases, too much bot traffic can actually take your entire website offline, which is obviously not good. But thankfully, this is only in extreme circumstances, most of the time, the effects of bot traffic on your website are very subtle.
Having lots of bot traffic on your website will usually lead to things such as:
- More pageviews
- Higher bandwidth usage
- Incorrect analytics
- Decrease in conversions
- Junk emails
How to Detect Bot Traffic
If you want to check to see if your website is being affected by bot traffic, then the best place to start is Google analytics.
In Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see all the essential site metrics, such as average time on page, bounce rate, and the number of page views. Using this information you can quickly determine if your site metrics have been skewed by bot traffic and to what extent.
The first place to check is the referrals section to check you aren’t receiving any referral spam. Many companies target other sites with a custom bot that will spam their website URL. When a webmaster visits their referral traffic they’ll see the name of the website and be inclined to visit. As crude as this sounds, it can help generate the site quite a lot of visitors (mainly our of curiosity!). It might not sound like they are doing harm to your website, but they are actually skewing all of your metrics, wasting your bandwidth, and clogging up your server in general.
How to Stop Bot Traffic
Stopping bot traffic from harming your website is possible, but the solution will depend on the type of traffic that is affecting your site. Remember, not all bot traffic is bad, and blocking bots such as search engine crawlers is really not a good idea!
If your website is prone to being scraped by scrapers, vulnerability scanners and spambots, then the chances are you’ll want some protection in the form of a firewall or shield. The best way to do this is to install a free service on your website called CloudFlare.
This service acts as a barrier between the website and user, meaning it will only allow legitimate users through to access your website. Any suspicious users won’t make it past and won’t get to access your site. This means they won’t waste your bandwidth, ruin your analytics, or steal your content.
Another useful way to block bots is to use your website’s robots.txt file by filling it with user agents or the actual name of the bot. You can learn more about blocking robots in the robots.txt file in this handy guide. Of course, this only works if the robot respects the robots.txt file, which most good bots do. If you’re trying to get rid of a pesky bad bot, then using the Cloudflare option mentioned above is the best.
However, if you’re looking to protect your website from other forms of bot traffic such as fraudulent and repetitive clicks on your ads, then you’ll need something else.
Protect Your Ads From Bad Bot Traffic
PPC Protect is an automated fraud detection tool that will identify fraudulent and legitimate clicks on your PPC ads in real-time.
By collecting lots of data from every click, the software will be able to detect when something is suspicious and block that particular user from seeing your ads in the future. This helps combat things such as SEO tools that crawl Google and other search engines looking for PPC ads.
To protect your ads from the likes of unwanted crawlers and scrapers, click below to sign up for a free 14-day trial of our service.