How well do you know bot traffic? If you do not know much, then be our guest. You’re are going to be learning about bot traffic, what they are meant for, how harmful and useful they can be, and how to detect and block them.
In the past, I have always been happy anytime I look at my website traffic data and notice an increase in the number of visitors. Now I know better – not all traffic you notice on your website is human-generated. A large chunk of web traffic is non-human traffic.
If you are not careful, you will end up making wrong decisions based on your user engagement metrics, which has already been contaminated by bot traffic. I have been there before, and I know how bad bot traffic can mess up your decision-making process. Not only do they ruin your traffic data, but they can also equally be harmful to your website.
With the adverse effects bot traffic has on websites, it is important website owners, and administrators know about them. However, an overwhelming number of them are not even aware of bot traffic. By knowing about bot traffic, what they intend to achieve, and how that can ruin your own websites and it metric, you will step up your game and prevent them – or exclude their data from your decision-making data. This article will serve as an ultimate guide to bot traffic.
Bot Traffic – an Overview
Bot traffic is traffic generated by computer programs and scripts. They are non-human traffic to a website and, as such, would most likely be the type of traffic you do not need in your analytics. Web bots are the main source of bot traffic. Bots are being developed to carry out specific – and sometimes, periodic tasks on the Internet. The kind of tasks they are meant to complete is the repetitive, tedious, mundane, time-consuming tasks that humans will find unattractive and time-wasting. This could be anything from clicking on ads such as in the case of ad fraud to Googlebot crawling and indexing your site.
Whether a bot action falls in the good or bad category does not matter, what matters is that you need to know how to differentiate them from your human traffic data. One interesting statistic about bot traffic is that they account for over 40 percent of Internet traffic. More than ever, humans are actively automating more of their actions online, such as automating purchases, tweets, data collection, and much more.
Good Bots Vs. Bad Bots
Before we move on with the rest of the discussion, it is better I make a distinction between the good bots and the bad bots so that you do not end up blocking traffic from the good bots.
Good bots are those bots that do not have adverse effects on website performance, and the end result of their action is beneficial to the websites it visits. Some of the most popular good bots on the Internet are search engine bots such as Googlebot.
Others could be site monitoring bots, chatbots, and copyright monitoring bots, among others. Even though they can be helpful, you need to give them proper directives using the robots.txt, so they do not affect the performance of your website. You also need to separate bot traffic when carrying out any analysis of your traffic data.
Types of Bad Bots You Do Not Want Traffic From
I grouped click bots, view bots, and download bots together for a reason – they are meant for fraud. Click bots will visit websites and click on advertisements for the sake of claiming unearned revenue. Click bots, view bots, and download bots are also for faking engagement. They are the worse form of bots that can ever engage with your site, and their traffic is bad for your traffic data. On websites like TikTok, view bots can fake engagement and make a video go viral. They can inflate view and download count and make one have false hope.
Scraping bots are meant for collecting data from websites. These bots send web requests to web servers downloading web pages of interest. They then parse out the required data. They are meant for stealing content without the permission of website owners.
Scraping bots are notorious for unintentionally slowing down the performance of websites as they send too many requests in a minute. As a website owner, protecting your website against content theft via scraping can be difficult. However, you can make scraping unattractive by providing APIs and designing smart anti-scraping systems.
Have you noticed a good number of spam comments being dropped on your blog? They are mostly automated and dropped by spambots. Some spambots do that for link building purposes – some do that as a negative SEO technique in other to hurt a competitor's ranking.
Spam bots traffic is huge on big social media platforms such as Twitter as they are used for political propaganda – and Internet marketing campaigns.
How to Detect Bot Traffic
From the above, you must have understood that bot traffic takes a large part of the chunk of Internet traffic. As a website administrator, you need to know if the traffic your website analytic tool record contains bot traffic.
Certainly, you wouldn’t be able to comb through individual requests manually. However, you can tell if bots are having a filled day with your websites and then come up with measures to prevent them from visiting. The below are the indicators of bot traffic you should always look out for.
Abnormality in Your Traffic Data
As a website administrator, there are some traffic metrics you have to keep your eyes on, and ones you notice any form of abnormality in it, just know that bot traffic is messing things up for you.
Pageview, bounce rate, and average session duration – these 3 metrics will help you to know if bots are infiltrating your site. When you notice a spike in your pageview, and there’s also an unreasonable increase in bounce rate, then just take that as a pointer to bot traffic. The average session duration can also be a pointer. When there is a considerable change in this data – and the other metrics too are abnormal, then just know that bots are accessing your site.
Mind the Loading Speed of Your Website
Unlike traffic metrics, you cannot use just loading speed to reach a valid conclusion that bots are disturbing your website. This is because there are many reasons why your website is slowing down. This could be a problem from the server, from your network, and even a recent change to the website.
However, when all of these are not in place and then all of a sudden, the loading speed of your website web pages starts dropping, then look at your traffic data. You’ll notice a spike. Bots can send too many requests in a minute, and this will affect the performance of low-powered websites.
Odd Traffic Sources
Sometimes, for you to detect bot traffic to your site, you need to dig deep into your server log and look at the raw data there. Doing this manually would waste your time and wouldn’t even be efficient and effective. There are tools such as Deep Log Analyzer, which you can use to detect odd traffic sources. If you notice too many requests coming from locations you do not usually have traffic from, then count that as bot traffic. Noticing too many requests from the same IP address is also a pointer.
Some bots leave traces which you can use as a pointer. When bots fill forms, they do so in a spammy matter, using fake names, emails, and phone numbers. Some of them drop duplicate contents, while others use nonsensical sentences. When you notice anything like this, then just know that a bot is behind that. Link building bots are notorious for spamming the comment sections of blogs with automated messages.
How to Block Bot Traffic
I have to be frank with you here – it is incredibly difficult to block all bad bot traffic. The big corporations have not been able to do that. This is because most of these bots appear as legitimate users by using the user-agent string of popular browsers. While you can’t block all bot traffic, you can make the process unattractive and difficult – this will reduce the number of bots that will be able to access your website.
Set and Enforce Request Limits
The most popular method of blocking bot traffic is setting limits to the number of requests a device can send within a period of time. Internet-enabled devices have IP addresses assigned to them. Even though the address does not remain the same for some devices, it is the best identifier for devices on the Internet. For every request sent to your website, the IP address is bundled with the request. With this, you can set request limits and make sure that a particular device does not send more than the acceptable number of requests.
When that happens, you blacklist and block the IP address to prevent it from sending further requests. While setting this limit, make sure you set it in such a way that it is friendly to your heavy users. Because bots send too many requests, they will exceed this limit and get blocked.
Set up a Captcha Service on Your Website
Captcha is a test used for detecting if traffic is human or not traffic. Google reCAPTCHA, which is taunted as easy on human, hard on machines, is one of the Captcha services you can use to block bot traffic. I am sure you must have been forced to solve Captchas before. This happens when there’s something unusual about your traffic – you have to prove you’re human to continue accessing the website for that moment. Most bots find it difficult to solve Captchas, and as such, it can be effective in some cases.
Use a Bot Management Solution
The above two methods might not be very effective. Besides, you might not have the technical knowledge, time, and patience to effectively manage bot traffic. Because of this, using a bot management solution is very good. Bot management solution such as Cloudfare Bot Management software makes use of a lot of pointers and artificial intelligence to block bot traffic.
FAQs about Bot Traffic
Is Bot Traffic Harmful to My Website?
Bot traffic, whether good or bad, can distort your website user engagement metrics. However, when it comes to the real sense of the word (harmful), bad bots can be harmful. Bad bots can slow down a website or even crash the server because of too many requests in the case of a Denial-of-Service (DOS) attack. They also steal content and can harm your SEO. They give false hope too.
Can Bot Traffic be Blocked?
As stated earlier, you cannot block all bot traffic. You can only make it difficult and unattractive – and then exclude the traffic data from your traffic analysis. What makes it difficult to block is that bot developers are making use of techniques to evade detection. Take, for instance, using proxies, and Captchas solvers render IP tracking and Captchas useless, respectively.
How to Exclude Bot Traffic from Google Analytics
Google Analytics can detect bot traffic. Hopefully, we can make use of it to get actual traffic metrics by excluding bot traffic from the overall data. To do this, go to view settings lookout for bot filtering checkbox and check it. Then save.
How to Stop Bot Traffic for WordPress?
WordPress does not help you block bot traffic by default. You have to set it up by installing bot blocking plugins. There are many of them you can install. Blackhole and Cloudfare WordPress plugins are good options.
Bot traffic is becoming part of the Internet we have today, and they do not seem to be going anytime soon. While some of them are good, the larger parts are bad, and we have to guard against them messing things up for us.
Unfortunately, detecting and blocking them can be much difficult than we think. While outrightly doing so would be difficult, making the site difficult to access by bots will go along way in reducing bot traffic. If you can, provide APIs for developers just as Twitter did.