5 min read

Understanding Bot Traffic: Its Significance and Implications

Understanding Bot Traffic: Its Significance and Implications

Bots have become an indispensable part of the modern digital landscape. They assist us in ordering groceries, playing music on Slack channels, and even settling debts with colleagues for those delightful smoothies.

Bots also roam the vast expanse of the internet, diligently fulfilling their designated tasks. But what does this mean for website owners? More intriguingly, what are the environmental ramifications? Continue reading to uncover the nuances of bot traffic and why it warrants your attention.

Table of Contents:

  • What is a Bot?
  • What Constitutes Bot Traffic?
  • The Bot Dilemma: Good vs. Bad Bots
  • Why You Should Be Concerned About Bot Traffic
  • Countering 'Bad' Bots: Defensive Measures
  • Navigating the Realm of 'Good' Bots

What is a Bot?

To begin, let's establish the fundamentals: a bot is a software application created to automate tasks on the internet. Bots are proficient at mimicking or even replacing human actions. Their prowess lies in efficiently executing repetitive and labor-intensive operations, making them ideal for large-scale endeavors.

What Constitutes Bot Traffic?

Bot traffic encompasses all non-human visits to a website or application, a common online occurrence. If you own a website, bots have probably visited you. Currently, bot traffic constitutes as much as 40%+ of all internet traffic.

The Bot Dilemma: Good vs. Bad Bots

You've likely heard that bot traffic can be detrimental to your website. In many cases, this assertion holds. However, it's important to discern between good and bad bots.

The categorization hinges on their intent and purpose. Some bots are indispensable for functioning digital services like search engines and personal assistants.

Conversely, others harbor malicious intentions to infiltrate websites and steal sensitive data. Let's delve deeper into this classification:

The 'Good' Bots

'Good' bots engage in activities that do not harm your website or server. They transparently announce their presence and their functions on your website. The most prominent 'good' bots are search engine crawlers. These crawlers play an essential role in discovering and indexing website content, ensuring that search engines can provide accurate results to users.

Other examples of 'good' internet bots encompass:

SEO Crawlers

If you operate in SEO, you're likely familiar with tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, which employ bots to crawl the web and gather data for keyword research and competitor analysis.

Commercial Bots

Commercial entities employ these bots to collect information from the web. Research firms utilize them to monitor market news, ad networks employ them to optimize display ads, and 'coupon' websites rely on them to aggregate discount codes and sales promotions.

Site-Monitoring Bots

These bots assist in monitoring your website's uptime and various metrics, periodically checking and reporting data such as server status and uptime duration.

Feed/Aggregator Bots

These bots curate and consolidate newsworthy content for delivery to your site visitors or email subscribers.

The 'Bad' Bots

'Bad' bots are conceived with malicious purposes in mind. You've likely encountered spam bots that inundate your website with nonsensical comments, irrelevant backlinks, and obnoxious advertisements. Some bots perpetrate scams, usurping spots in online raffles or hoarding prime seats at concerts.

The prevalence of these malicious bots has tarnished the reputation of bot traffic, and rightfully so. Several undesirable bot varieties plague the internet today:

Email Scrapers

These bots harvest email addresses and employ them to disseminate malicious emails.

Comment Spam Bots

These bots inundate websites with spammy comments and links, redirecting unsuspecting users to malicious websites. Often, their goal is to advertise or acquire backlinks for their sites.

Scraper Bots

These bots descend upon your website and download a wide array of content, including text, images, HTML files, and even videos. Operators may repurpose your content without authorization.

Credential Stuffing or Brute Force Bots

These bots endeavor to gain unauthorized access to your website to pilfer sensitive information, attempting to mimic legitimate user logins.

Botnets and Zombie Computers

These nefarious networks comprise compromised devices employed to execute Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. During a DDoS attack, the attacker harnesses the collective power of these devices to inundate a website with bot traffic, overwhelming the web server and rendering the site sluggish or completely inaccessible.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Bot Traffic

Now that you possess a nuanced understanding of bot traffic, let's explore why it warrants your attention.

For Website Performance

Malicious bot traffic strains your web server, sometimes pushing it to overload. These bots consume server bandwidth with their constant requests, resulting in sluggish website performance or, in the case of DDoS attacks, website unavailability. During such episodes, you may lose valuable traffic and potential sales to competitors.

Additionally, malicious bots masquerade as regular human traffic, often eluding detection in website statistics. Consequently, you may observe sporadic traffic spikes without comprehending their origins. This can lead to misguided business decisions, as the data at your disposal lacks accuracy.

For Website Security

Malicious bots pose a significant security threat to your website. They use brute force attacks, attempting to infiltrate your site by employing many username/password combinations or targeting vulnerabilities to report back to their operators.

In cases where security vulnerabilities exist, these evil entities may endeavor to inject viruses into your website, jeopardizing the security of your users. If you operate an online store, safeguarding sensitive information like credit card details becomes paramount, as hackers covet such data.

For the Environment

Remarkably, bot traffic also exerts an environmental toll. Each bot visit to your site necessitates an HTTP request to your server, which, in turn, expends a small amount of energy to fulfill. The cumulative energy expenditure is staggering, considering the sheer volume of bots traversing the internet.

Notably, this energy consumption affects the environment irrespective of whether the bot is 'good' or 'bad.' The process remains identical for both categories, as they entail energy consumption.

Even prominent search engines, integral to the internet's functionality, are not exempt from this energy expenditure. They may excessively crawl your site, often failing to detect meaningful changes. Monitoring the frequency of crawler and bot visits to your site is advisable, as it sheds light on resource utilization. Google Search Console offers a crawl stats report for insights into Google's crawling frequency.

Countering 'Bad' Bots: Defensive Measures

To combat 'bad' bots, consider implementing the following strategies:

Detect and Block

Identify 'bad' bots and block their access to your site. This conserves bandwidth, alleviates server strain, and contributes to energy savings. The manual blocking individual or IP address ranges is a basic yet practical approach. Alternatively, consider utilizing a bot management solution from providers like Cloudflare, which maintains extensive databases of 'good' and 'bad' bots. These solutions employ AI and machine learning to identify and thwart malicious bots before they inflict harm.

Security Plugins

If your website runs on WordPress, installing security plugins such as Sucuri Security or Wordfence can fortify your defenses. Some plugins automatically block specific 'bad' bots, while others enable you to examine the origin of unusual traffic and determine how to handle it.

Navigating the Realm of 'Good' Bots

While 'good' bots are essential and transparent in their functions, their energy consumption and potential drawbacks should not be overlooked. Here are strategies to optimize your interaction with 'good' bots:

Block Non-Essential Bots

Assess whether allowing the crawling of 'good' bots on your site yields a commensurate benefit. If their visits do not significantly enhance your website's performance or traffic, consider blocking them to conserve resources and reduce environmental impact.

Limit Crawl Rates

If bots support the crawl-delay directive in robots.txt, employ it to restrict their crawl rates. This prevents them from incessantly revisiting the same links at short intervals. Adjust the crawl rate incrementally, monitoring its effects on your site's performance. Assign distinct crawl delay rates for bots from various sources. Note that Google does not adhere to crawl delays.

Enhance Crawl Efficiency

Block bots from accessing irrelevant parts of your website through robots.txt. This not only saves energy but also optimizes your crawl budget. Additionally, eliminate unnecessary links generated automatically by your CMS and plugins, as they attract bot traffic that serves little purpose.

Bot Traffic & Site Performance

In conclusion, comprehending bot traffic and its nuances is pivotal in safeguarding your website's performance, security, and the environment. Striking a balance between accommodating 'good' bots and mitigating the impact of 'bad' bots is essential. By implementing defensive measures and optimizing your interaction with bots, you can fortify your digital presence while minimizing your environmental footprint.

SEO for Large Websites: Managing Technical SEO and Content at Scale

SEO for Large Websites: Managing Technical SEO and Content at Scale

@ith great opportunities come great challenges, especially in the realm of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Read More
Understanding Bounce Rates and Their Impact on SEO

Understanding Bounce Rates and Their Impact on SEO

Bounce rates are a crucial metric in the world of website analytics, holding significant implications for your website's performance and its search...

Read More
Unlocking the Power of YMYL SEO: Strategies and Best Practices

Unlocking the Power of YMYL SEO: Strategies and Best Practices

Google's continuous updates, particularly regarding YMYL (Your Money Your Life) websites and the E-A-T principle (Expertise, Authoritativeness,...

Read More