Two bots standing next to each other, right one is large left one is small

5 Ways Bad Bots Can Devastate Your Online Presence

December 23, 2020

For many, bad bots are a nuisance. But for marketers and marketing agencies seeking an ad fraud solution, bad bots can be devastating to your online presence. Here’s how:

    • Bots crawl pages and catch content thieves
    • Some bots serve spam, scrape information and generate fake ad impressions
    • Bots run bad advertising campaigns, bad ad placements and bad search results
    • Bad bots can fill out forms with fake information
    • They can spam your contact or survey forms with bad messages
    • And they can inflate your online reviews by posting fraudulent reviews on your website

In order to avoid all this trouble with bad bots ruining your reputation as well as sending customers elsewhere, it is important that companies take proactive measures by blocking access from known spammers

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5 Ways Bad Bots Can Devastate Your Online Presence

1. They Tarnish Your Brand Name

If you have been on the internet for more than a few minutes, you have likely come across some bad bot activity. These bad bots usually use fake emails and accounts to trick people into clicking links or purchase products online, leading to bad reviews on your site. While most of these spammer bots are harmless, they still pose a problem because they can lead customers away from your website and cause bad reviews on social media channels like Facebook or Twitter.

Bots Can Spam You With Questionable Backlinks

It's bad enough when bad bots are used to create bad links, but what if they also get your readers to click on bad ads? A new study found that up to 45% of all ad impressions served in the US were viewed by a bot. That means that every time you serve an ad for one of your products or services online, there's a high chance it will be seen not by human eyes, but by some kind of automated program. And once those bots start clicking on ads themselves - well, you can see how things could go downhill quickly. More than half the clicks on mobile ads are made by bad bots.

Bots Can Steal Sensitive Information

Bots steal sensitive information, use it to spam other websites or sell it to competitors.

Some bots are even advanced enough to harvest your customers’ financial data, including credit card numbers and social security numbers. What's more, many bad bots are designed specifically to defeat traditional anti-bot countermeasures like CAPTCHA codes. The bad news is that bot fraud is getting harder for you as a marketer or marketing agency owner to control with every day that goes by.

It's understandable to be wary of sharing information online due to this threat, because bad bots are stealing any data that users put into forms and comments. They'll use that information to build a spam campaign, or they'll sell it to a competitor.

Not only do bad bots steal sensitive information, but bad bots can also deplete your website traffic by automatically filling out forms on your site with fake user profiles or bad data. Some bad bots are even automated enough to replicate human actions when trying different login credentials for an online service until they are successful in gaining access.

Bots can't have free will, but bad bots are the bad guys that do bad things by stealing your customer's sensitive information or filling out your forms with bad data.

Bots Can Get You Blacklisted

From killing your site’s load time to spamming your visitors with unwanted download links, bots can discourage any legitimate visits you might get from potential customers.

blog-wordpress-malware-removal-chrome-blacklist-warningsIf you don’t take proper steps to block malicious bot activities, your site may be flagged and blacklisted by search engines, such as Google. Visitors landing on blacklisted sites are met with a security warning message that they must review before proceeding. Blacklisted sites usually see a dramatic drop in traffic, thanks to these warning messages.

 

2. They Damage Your SEO Ranking

Your site's ranking on a SERP depends on many factors: fast load time, content quality, trustworthy backlinks, etc. However, some bots can cripple your website enough that it’s no longer functional or reliable, causing your SEO ranking to plummet.

Bots Can Crash Your Website

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks occur when botnets are used to target and overwhelm a single system with the intention of crashing it.

Most DDoS attacks last less than four hours, but some can exceed over 200 hours. A shorter DDoS attack, while still bad, won’t hurt your SEO ranking too much, but a longer one will. In the event of an attack, you’ll want to secure your website as soon as you can to help prevent any future attacks.

Bots Steal and Plagiarize Your Content

Bots are bad news. They’ll steal all of the high quality content you’ve carefully crafted for your site, post it elsewhere without your knowledge or permission, and they won’t give you any credit for it either. Search engines consider duplicated content as plagiarized- which means that if a robot posts the same article on 20 websites at once, Google will think that each one is an original page created by different people…. It may take weeks before Google realizes what has happened. Your site’s SEO ranking could drop as a punishment for copying, even if you’re the original publisher. The worst part is there's no real way to know your content has been scraped is if you're actively checking for it.

Related Post: What Is a Bot? How Do Bots Impact Your Digital Ad Campaigns?

Bots Can Slow Your Site Speed

When bots invade your website, they bring hefty chunks of data with them. They’re extremely invasive, and they’ll automatically slow down your site. Not only will this cause your users to go elsewhere out of frustration, but it’ll also damage your quality score.

 

3. They Corrupt Your Analytics

When bots invade your website, they bring hefty chunks of data with them. They’re extremely invasive, and they’ll automatically slow down your site. Not only will this cause your users to go elsewhere out of frustration, but it’ll also damage your quality score.

Bots Can Click on Your Ads

Known to advertisers as click fraud, bots interact with your ads by clicking on them, ultimately falsifying your click-through rate (CTR), filling out forms and making it look like you’re getting a conversion when in reality you have no legitimate prospects at all. The bad bot epidemic impacts not just advertisers but businesses as well, with millions of dollars being lost each year due to click fraud. Bot interaction basically renders your ad campaigns useless, because you’re paying for ads that only attract false bot clicks. These clicks drain your advertising budget, and then your ad no longer shows to legitimate traffic.

Beyond just clicking ads, more sophisticated bots can even fill out forms on your site, which flood your database with fake customer information, altering your conversion statistics and making it seem as though you have more leads than you do.

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Even worse, if you’re collecting information like phone numbers and you’re not properly vetting each lead you receive, you could risk TCPA noncompliance if you call the number without proper consent.

 

4. They Affect Your Revenue

Any security threat carries a potential loss of revenue. But when it comes to bots, there’s an even greater risk: bots work exponentially harder and faster than a hacker who’s trying to bypass security manually. Unlike a human working on a single task, bots can be programmed to harm you financially in more ways than one.

Bots Can Spy for Your Competitors

Certain bots, either working on behalf of a competitor or a data reseller, are designed to crawl your site and gather information about your product details and pricing. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to gain an edge over the competition, because these bots are constantly sharing your information with others looking to exploit it.

Bots Can Collect Your Data

Data aggregators are a type of bot that can steal any research you’ve done or data you’ve spent money gathering and release it for free. The value of your now-public data will essentially be nonexistent, so you’ll no longer be able to profit from it.

Bots Can Skew Your Advertising Costs

When bots mess with your analytics, it affects the cost of your advertising. Publishers will be able to charge a lot more for ad space, because they’ll reference your inflated traffic numbers (even though they’re bots), instead of looking at your actual traffic. This means that advertisers will probably end up paying higher prices for low-quality traffic.

Bots can also mess with any A/B testing you do. They’ll automatically click on everything, as they’re programmed to do, so you won’t know which ads are actually performing well, nor will you be able to properly optimize your campaigns.

 

5. They Target Your Customers’ Devices

Anyone who visits your site can become a victim if your website is full of injected ads or download prompts for spam and malware

Bots Can Clickjack You

Clickjacking occurs when fraudsters trick you into clicking on a site and filling out a form by making a legitimate webpage transparent and layering it over a fake website. The visible page looks completely normal, but when you click, you’re actually interacting with the transparent page.

Anura_2-1Source: Smart Techverse

On a clickjacked page, anything can happen. You may be giving hackers and fraudsters access to sensitive information as you click around on the visible site. Clickjacking bots can also trick you into activating electronic bank transfers, liking social media pages without your permission, downloading malware, or even making online purchases.

Bots Can Infect Your Site’s Code

If your site’s security isn’t up-to-date, it’s easy for bots to inject malware into your HTML header. The code is usually hard to detect, because it looks similar to your site’s real code.

It’s possible that these injected codes allow bots to redirect your traffic to sites your audience never meant to visit. This is exactly what the MosQUito jQuery script does to Joomla or WordPress sites. The MosQUito script takes traffic coming into your site, either from search or paid advertising, and then directs it elsewhere.

 

How to Combat the Bad Bots

Catching the bots is just the first half of the challenge, and fighting them can be impossible. The best approach is to take preventative measures so bots can’t touch you in the first place.

Related Reading: How to Protect Your Brand and Consumers From Bad Bots

1. Search for Copies of Your Content

Pull a quote or two from your content and do a search for it. If you see a match from a website that you didn’t give permission to use your content, you’re probably a victim of content scraping. You can also use a site like Copyscape to do the heavy lifting for you.

2. Delete Spam

Browse your blog’s comments regularly and delete any comments that contain spam or questionable links. It might take a while, but it means your readers are at a lower risk for malware schemes.

3. Block Untrustworthy IP Addresses

It’s not 100% effective, since some bots have multiple IP addresses, but you can block the known addresses of bots to keep them from coming back for another attack.

4. Block Known Bots

On top of blocking questionable IP addresses, you can also copy a starter list of known bots to your site’s .htaccess file to block them from accessing your site.

5. Test the Speed of Your Site

If you’re continually testing, you’ll know when your site slows down, which could be a sign that bots are infecting your site’s code.

6. View Your Site in Incognito Mode

You can keep tabs on your SEO rank this way, and you can also see how your website appears to customers. You’ll know if they’re being served any spam or if they’re getting redirected to an unfavorable site.

7. Filter Your Traffic

Traffic filtration helps you block the bad bots before they interact with your site and cost you time and money. You’ll be able to make sure that your ads are appearing to real people and not bots.

 

No matter what you do, some bad bots will slip through your security net. However, you can make sure that you’re educated about bots and taking every precaution you can to prevent a bot attack. It’ll keep your stress levels down and your customers’ online experience positive.

 

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This article was originally posted in August 2017 and has been republished with new information.