These days, you may be getting more non-human visitors to your website than human visitors — and you may not even be aware of it. And those non-humans visiting your site may be there to do it harm.
If the idea of non-human visitors conjures up an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator coming to take down your site — it’s not. These non-human visitors are “bots.”
A recent report by Incapsula says that bot visits to sites are now up to 61.5% of total website traffic. This is a lot, so it pays to know what these bots are and what they are potentially up to.
What is a Bot?
A bot is a small robot-like software app that roams the Internet, jumping from site to site. There are good bots and bad bots.
A good bot is sent out by another site (say, Google) to collect information or to perform a specific task, and it jumps from site to site via the links on each site.
The good kind are typically search engine bots that index your site, such as the GoogleBot. This kind of bot traffic makes up 31% of that 61.5% of bot traffic. You can pretty much trust and forget these good bots. They will do their business and then quickly be on their way. However, still keep one eye on them, because some bad bots have been known to disguise themselves as GoogleBots.
It’s the other 30.5% — the bad bots — that you need to be concerned about. Here’s where you start to enter a murky side of the Internet — bots that could potentially do your website and business harm.
Scrapers are bots that will kick in your website door and steal all of your content. That content is then passed back to the scraper owner, who passes it off as his own content (and probably tries to profit off it by putting advertisements on his page). Maybe this article will end up being scraped? It’s impossible to tell in advance, which is why you should monitor mentions of your site and brand name, by regularly searching Google to see what pops up anywhere else online. By monitoring, you may be able to get your stolen content taken down.
Spammers are also another type of entity using bad bots. If you run a blog, for instance, you should be monitoring your comments daily. Otherwise, your pages will quickly get filled with spam such as links to drugs, get-rich-quick schemes, and other dodgy links. It’s like having walk-in visitors come into your store, and deposit trash on your floor and leave. You certainly wouldn’t want to allow that to happen, and you wouldn’t leave the trash there. If you are using WordPress for your site, a spam blocker called Askimet will block 99.9% of your spam (see diagram above for Akismet works). But nothing is perfect in life, so still check your comments section religiously.
The bad bots you should really be concerned about are used by hackers. Some people love nothing more than to break into a site, take it down, desecrate it, destroy the files, and change the login details so you can’t get it back. Bad bots may be designed to let in hackers. You can help protect yourself against this by backing up your site daily, locking out IP addresses after a certain number of failed logins, and even employing Google Authenticator to provide a second layer of protection. Another thing you can do is use a service that blocks bad bots from doing their thing, before they have a chance to trash your site.
Having a website is a must today, but the world has some unpleasant individuals so stay on the alert!