Did you know that around half of all internet traffic comes from bots. Estimates vary between 45% and 65%, but either way, most traffic online is automated. Now, this might be a surprise, but if you’re a business owner or marketer, this presents a different problem. And the issue is, how do these internet bots affect my business? And is there a way to block bad bots and welcome in the good bots? To answer this, we’ll quickly explain what are bots, and specifically what are good bots vs bad bots.
What are bots?
Internet bots are automated scripts that perform specific actions. These actions can vary from collecting data or analyzing activity online, to performing repetitive tasks or spreading files such as viruses. And this is where the separation of good bots vs bad bots becomes apparent. A good bot is any bot that performs an action that is useful or is expressly requested by the human user. For example, Google uses bots to analyze the internet and provide the most accurate answer to a search. Other sites such as Ahrefs or SEM Rush use web scrapers to collect data for marketers, and analysis tools can also use crawlers, spiders or web scrapers to collate information. This can be from social media, news websites or anything else. A bad bot is generally used for either malicious purposes, or simply to perform an annoying activity such as ‘spamming’. A good example of malicious bots are those that spread a viral payload, often by sending spam emails with an infected attachment.
How bad bots affect businesses
A good example of how bad bots work is to look at ad fraud. If you’re not aware, ad fraud is the practice of hosting ads on a fraudulent site and then inflating the views and clicks using bots.
Ad fraud is actually one of the most prevalent forms of fraud online, taking more than $35 billion from advertisers in 2020 according to research from the University of Baltimore.
The way it works is the advertiser pays for display ads on Google.
A website publisher then hosts ads on their site using Google Adsense. This is a common way to monetize websites and is currently the biggest online ad platform by far.
The problem is that many websites are visited by a large volume of bots, meaning anything up to half of all clicks and impressions on ads can be from bots. Put simply, advertisers are paying a large sum of their ad budges to ad click bots.
Another way bad bots work is by finding flaws in websites, plug-ins or apps and using these gaps to install malware. This is a pretty typical way for developers to spread bad bots, often by installing them on apps or outdated plugins for sites like WordPress, or even on Google Chrome plugins. With this malware, these bots can then collect anything from activity data to sensitive information, such as payment details or logins.
Avoiding bad bots online
Increasingly businesses are becoming aware of the importance of fraud protection online. This includes everything from auditing their business to identify flaws and educating employees about how to spot digital fraud risks; to using software to block the worst of these bad bots.
As an example, payment fraud cost businesses $32 billion in 2020 through the use of stolen payment details. Although platforms like Shopify and Amazon do their best to block this form of online fraud, using payment fraud software can help to further reduce exposure to potential online theft, abandoned carts, user account infiltration and chargebacks.
Ad fraud, which we mentioned above, is a problem that has been growing hugely in recent years. Even the efforts of Google, Facebook and all haven’t been enough to stem this issue. And this is why click fraud prevention software like ClickCease or Cheq has become so popular in recent years. Ask any marketer about click fraud prevention and they will likely have a story about fake clicks on their ads.
What about blocking real customers and good bots?
A common objection is that these bot blocking programs might block genuine users or useful bots. However, these software services use machine learning and other processes to ensure that genuine humans aren’t blocked from interacting with their business. It is very rare that bot prevention software would block a genuine user from clicking their site. In fact, most marketers and business owners would agree that by blocking bad bots, they actually see their revenue go up. If you haven’t done it yet, run a fraud audit on your business website. Take a look at where you’re spending or receiving money online, for example through payment systems or with marketing, and see if there is a form of fraud protection in place.
Another option is to use a free trial of fraud protection software to see how much of a difference it makes and what it picks up. Stay safe out there, and avoid those bad bot clicks!