A recent report highlighted that over 42% of online traffic comes from non-human sources. Furthermore, all of this traffic comprises various programs ranging from legitimate crawlers and bots to corrupt automated software and programs. So, what exactly does trafficbots or bot traffic entail? Let’s find out.
What is Bot Traffic?
Bot traffic is any traffic coming on a website from non-human sources. While this term usually carries negative connotations with it, bot traffic is not a bad thing if the purpose of the bots is good.
There are many bots that have become an essential element for services like search engines like Google (Googlebot), and even digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. These bots are welcomed by many companies on their sites.
On the flip side, there are also malicious programs that generate bot traffic. These bots are usually used for nefarious purposes like data scraping, credential stuffing, DDoS attacks, and more. Even the low-tier bad bots can cause issues with website analytics and help hackers in generating click frauds.
Bot traffic is estimated to be about 42% of the total internet traffic generated, and a significant percentage of it comes from bad bots. So how can you identify a good bot from a bad bot? Let’s understand the different types of bots that generate traffic.
Types of Bot Traffic
Good bots are one of the most important factors for a website’s performance. A good example of good bots is search engine bots or crawlers. Their purpose is to crawl websites and discover content to index for showing it to the users for relevant search terms. Other examples of good bots are partner/vendor bots and digital assistant bots.
Commercial bots are operated by companies for the purpose of collecting data from consumers and websites, as well as exploiting online content. These bots are honest about their identity and can prove to be beneficial for businesses to accumulate data. However, commercial bot traffic can visibly drain your website performance by taking up a lot of resources on your servers. A few examples of commercial bots are copyright bots, aggregator bots, and price comparison bots.
Bad bots do not follow any rules for robots.txt files and try to hide their source and identity to pass off as human traffic. The main reason where bad bots differ from good bots is that they have bad intent. They are tasked with malicious purposes to disrupt or destroy tasks on a website. If left unchecked, these bots can cause permanent damage to websites. Some of the most common types of bad bots are spam bots, credential stuffing bots, web data scraping bots, DoS bots, Ad fraud bots, and gift card fraud bots.
How is Bot Traffic Identified?
Managing bot traffic is no easy deed, and identifying it is the most important element to correctly assessing your site analytics. Here are some things to look out for which can help you identify bot traffic:
- Sudden increase in bounce rates and traffic – Both of these things happening at the same time is a tell-tale indication of bad bot traffic on your website. This can mean that either many bad bots are visiting your site, or one bad bot is repeatedly visiting your site.
- Sudden decrease in page loading speed – If you have not updated your website or made any big changes and your page loading speed sees a dramatic fall, it is a sign that your website is being flooded with bad bots. However, you should also take a look at some other KPIs of your website, as there might also be some other technical on-page issues that might cause this.
- Dramatic decrease in bounce rates – If your bounce rate suddenly dips very low, it is a strong indicator that bad bots like web scraping bots are flooding your website and stealing content. This usually happens when these bots are scanning a vast number of webpages on your site.
Keep a close eye on the KPIs in Google Analytics, and you can conveniently identify the aforementioned abnormalities to identify bot traffic on your website.
How can Analytics be Harmed by Bot Traffic?
Unauthorized traffic generated from bots can severely impact the metrics in analytics such as bounce rates, conversions, page views, geolocation of users, session durations, and more. This impact can make it difficult for site owners to correctly measure their website’s performance. It can also impact various analytics activities like A/B testing, on-page SEO improvements, and conversion rate optimization. The statistical noise and interference in data can cripple these activities, and make it hard for site owners to efficiently improve their website’s functionality.
How to Filter Bot Traffic from Google Analytics?
Google Analytics provides some options to help filter bot traffic. For example, selecting the “exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” feature will exclude the views from bots in the analytics reports. And if you can identify the source of bit traffic, you can provide a list of IPs to Google Analytics to ignore for site visits. While this won’t stop bots from coming to your website, it will help you in filtering out bot traffic and checking real organic traffic on your website.
How Can Bot Traffic Impact Performance?
One of the most common ways for hackers and attackers to launch DDoS attacks on websites is to send a huge amount of bot traffic. A huge amount of bot traffic can disrupt the origin servers to make them overload, which can significantly slow the website down or even make it inaccessible for legitimate users.
How Can Websites Manage Bot Traffic?
Here are a few ways in which websites can manage bot traffic:
- Include a robots.txt file for providing instructions to bots crawling the page
- Use a rate-limiting solution
- Add a list of identified bad bot sources or IPs to block them from visiting the website with filtering tools.
- Deploy a bot management solution for smart management of bot traffic
Manage Bot Traffic on Your Website Efficiently
While bot traffic has its perks, it is important for websites to identify the good from the bad. There are many approaches you can use to mitigate and control bot traffic on your website. But investing in a smart and certified bot management solution is the most effective way to manage bot traffic and mitigate risks on your website.
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