Last Updated on April 8, 2016
Detecting and blocking unwanted bots requires website owners to understand how to distinguish between humans and bots.
In the cyber world, it can be difficult to differentiate between human activity and bot activity. Not knowing the difference can be damaging. Bots have the ability to perform thousands, if not millions, of searches per day skewing the web analytics and not in a good way. Bots can run applications automatically, allowing them to run thousands of apps in a very short period of time. It can be difficult to distinguish between the two, but it is very important to understand the process of stopping unwanted bots.
Uncovering the Obvious
There are a few facts that, when thought about, become quite obvious the actions could not have been performed by humans. If there are thousands of searches completed in the span of an hour, it is physically impossible for a human to perform those searches. Another hint is when the searches are done from different locations at the same time; again, it is physically impossible for a human to be in more than one place at a time. When searches are completed by one IP address, but in multiple locations, it is a clue that a bot was in charge.
Method of Searching
The method used to search certain terms could also be a clue that a bot, and not a human, was at work. Humans do not tend to search in alphabetical order or search the same term over and over again. While a human might perform several, if not many, searches within a short amount of time, typically a human will click on one or two links during the search. When a bot searches, sometimes they will not have any click-throughs, which is a significant clue to a bot’s activity. In addition to searching the same term, bots will search terms within one or two categories in a short period of time.
Signs that you are Dealing with Bots
There are certain results that immediately signify the use of bots on your site. The most obvious problem is the fact that they skew your data. With multiple visits in a short period of time, your positive results could be incorrectly inflated in terms of the number of visitors to your site. On the other hand, your bounce rate and length of each visit will be incorrectly lowered due to the lack of click-throughs, a characteristic of the bots.
Stopping Through Automated Programs
The best method to use on any website is to block bots from ever having access to a website. This is much easier than kicking them out, once they have already had access to your site. When a search is considered to be done by a bot, it should be stopped right away through an automated program. This is not a fail proof way to protect your data, however. You still might have skewed results because the visits the bot made to your site may still count in your analytics.
Telling the Good from the Bad
The major problem with detecting and blocking unwanted bots is that not all bots are bad. Certain bots, such as those from Google and Bing are necessary in order to increase your site’s search engine rankings. It is important to be able to tell the good bots from the bad in order to avoid unwanted bots from scraping your website’s information. Even the bots that are not malicious in nature, meaning they are not stealing any data, may be harmful. On the back end of your website, they may be sucking up data, causing your site to operate much slower than normal.
Detecting and blocking unwanted malicious scraper bots from your website requires careful attention and walking a fine line. Good bots are necessary to maximize your search engine optimization but bad bots can do some serious harm to your website. While it might be easy to see the obvious factors that make up bot activity, such as thousands of searches from one computer, not all activity is easy to detect. Using a program that can help you protect your website from bots is crucial to the safety of your data and website, as well as its efficient operations.