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A bot is a software application designed to perform specific automated tasks over the internet without human intervention. They can mimic human behavior to execute repetitive tasks efficiently, which popularizes their use in today’s digital age.
Examples of some well-known chatbots include Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, customer support chatbots on websites, etc.
What is Bot traffic
The term “Bot traffic” refers to any non-human traffic to a website or an app. Bot traffic can be beneficial or disruptive to a website or an app, depending on the bot and its purpose. In 2022, 47.5 % of internet traffic came from bots alone, where 30.2% was identified as bad bot traffic and 17.3% as good bot traffic.
What’s a Good and Bad Bot Traffic
Every site owner (app or website) must identify the kind of traffic that a bot brings, to safeguard their site from harmful activities. Let’s explore the different types of bots and understand how they can be beneficial or harmful to a site.
Good bots: These bots don’t disrupt the website or server in any way. Their purpose is to crawl, collect and deliver web content. They operate transparently, i.e., the bot’s entry and function are announced to "the's owner. Additionally, the site owners" have control over the bot’s activities. Traffic from these kinds of bots is common and most beneficial.
Some major types of good bots:
- Search engine crawlers: These bots scan sites to discover the page contents and index them. This makes a web page available on search engines like Google, Bing, etc when browsed for.
- Aggregator or Feed fetchers: These bots collect information from the websites to deliver relevant content to site visitors or subscribers.
- Monitoring bots: These bots periodically monitor the site's health and provide a report on its uptime, page load times, downtime duration, and more.
- Commercial bots: These bots crawl the web and gather specific information tailored to the particular needs of a business.
Bad bots: These bots are malicious and disrupt the site’s functioning. Traffic from these kinds of bots is harmful and considered to be cybercrime. Here are some bots that every site owner must be watchful of:
- Scraper bots: These bots are designed to steal & re-use site information and resources without the site owner’s knowledge, which is considered illegal.
- Hacker bots: These bots are created to distribute malware and attack websites to steal sensitive information (passwords, bank details, etc.)
- Spam bots: These bots participate in interactions within the site’s community, such as blog comment sections, forms, portals, etc. They interfere with user conversations by spamming them with unwanted ads and phishing links to steal sensitive user information.
- Scalper bots: hese bots specifically target ticketing sites to purchase tickets instead of real users. This results in a loss of a genuine user base for the site. Furthermore, these tickets are resold to users at inflated prices, generating more profits.
Harmful Impacts of Bad Bot Traffic
Website Analytics and Optimization: Malicious bot traffic impacts website metrics like page views, bounce rate, geolocation of users, etc. This causes a deviation from the true website analytics, making it challenging to measure the website’s performance. Furthermore, it blocks opportunities for site optimization and hence performance.
Tip: A sudden rise or drop in these metrics is a major hallmark of bad bot traffic.
Security breach: Bad bots employ brute force attacks to crack password credentials and encryption keys and make their way into vulnerable websites. They introduce malware causing security breaches and stealing crucial user data like passwords, credit card information, etc.
Site ban: Bad bots trigger ad fraud, mimicking the behavior of real site visitors on ad hosting sites. These click frauds may initially boost the ad revenue, but will ultimately lead to the site being banned by the advertising networks. This significantly affects the site’s advertising business and brand image.
Site Performance: Bad bot traffic makes the sites susceptible to DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks. These attacks use a network of devices to flood the server with bot traffic, rendering the site inoperable and reducing its performance.
How to Manage Bot Traffic
Here are some effective bot traffic control and management measures that one can implement to ensure site security and improve performance:
- Include a robots.txt file: This file provides instructions for bot crawling activities. Defining rules in this file helps limit and prevent unwanted crawling by good bots.
- Utilize Google Analytics: Site owners can make use of the “exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” option within Google Analytics to filter and block specific IPs associated with the bad bots.
- Bot Management Solutions: Site owners can opt for bot management solutions that employ intelligent tracking and analysis of bot behavior. These solutions identify and filter bots to ensure site security and performance.
- Deploy a Web Application Firewall (WAF): A WAF acts as a layer of defense protecting the site from internet traffic. By implementing WAF, site owners can detect and block unwanted bot traffic directed to their sites.
Ad fraud is also called advertising fraud or digital ad fraud. It is the practice of boosting clicks, impressions, and other metrics through malicious activities like invalid traffic, which wastes the advertiser’s ad spend.
Ad tags are snippets of code embedded in web pages to facilitate the display of advertisements. Think of them as the orchestrators behind the scenes, directing the content, format, and targeting of ads. Without ad tags, the symphony of online advertising would be a chaotic cacophony.
Click Spam, also referred to as organic poaching or click flooding, is a type of ad fraud where individuals generate fake clicks for non-existent users. Fraudsters usually use mobile apps or websites to generate this particular ad fraud.
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