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Bots that are bad for business

As an entrepreneur, especially someone who does a lot of online transactions, your website is one of the most important things to take care of.

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One of the very first things that a business needs in order to survive and thrive in today’s market is a strong online presence. Besides a comprehensive social media and advertising approach, simple things like the copy on your company’s website and the traffic you receive can make or break it. In order to be able to stay one step ahead, you need to be aware of factors that could tip the scales in your favour or cause a headache instead. Enter: the bad bots.

Bots run the internet – and could cost your business a lot

In this context, bots are essentially pre-programmed algorithms that are set to run scripts on the web. They are instrumental in keeping the internet going – and actually, literally running it. A recent study revealed that almost half of all internet traffic (48.5%) in 2015 was attributed to bots. Out of those, just over 19% are helpful bots; the remaining 29% are bad for your website. If your company is a startup or an SME, chances are you get even more bot traffic than that: small websites that cater to up to 1,000 visitors each day get more than 85% of their traffic from bots, while medium websites with a maximum audience of 10,000 daily receive roughly 71% of their hits from bots.

But why should a business owner or manager care about bots? Quite frankly, because they can be bad for business – and costly. According to research, bots in 2016 managed to outnumber humans in terms of traffic output and, on average, bad bots cost companies an estimated $7 billion in financial losses every year, due to ad fraud. Even though efforts are made so that good bot activity can outweigh the bad, the truth is that malevolent bots are out there and ready to do harm. One of the most damaging ways they can be used is in order to launch DDoS attacks that overwhelm websites with traffic and cause them to slow down or crash completely – one thing you certainly do not want your enterprise to suffer.

Separating the bad bots from the good

Bad bots can be used in a variety of ways that are very specifically targeting businesses. For example, they can be used for web scraping, which is the term for the practice of using bots to extract content, code and valuable data from a website – a practice that usually targets e-commerce sites. Using that data, they can then set up shop elsewhere on the web, copying entire website content and even stealing copyrighted material or automatically undermining competitive pricing models on a large scale. Bots can also be used by hackers as a medium to infiltrate a company’s website and steal sensitive data or as spambots that cause artificial traffic which could get flagged by search engines in their rankings and result in legitimate, non-spammy sites getting blacklisted.

Bots can be good for business, too. Web crawlers index your potential visitors amongst search engines, ushering them straight to your website.

It is crucial that any cybersecurity you have in place know how to identify bad bots and let human visitors and helper bots safely pass through. (Source)

Yet, internet bots can also be good – in fact, necessary – for business. Bots like web crawlers help search engines with indexing and thus your potential visitors are accurately guided to your website. Too, CAPTCHA requests can help block bots out of specific areas of your site.

The internet can be a tool for growth in business or it could be a pitfall – and in order to make it work, every business needs to be aware of the little things they need to pay attention to.

Sharon Harris likes tech and biz. Any technology topic from analytics to the Internet Of all Things to digital devices is enough to send her Muse into overdrive. The lady from Canberra was also born with one foot in the business world, thanks to entrepreneurial parents who built a business from literally nothing. One of her life goals is to put up her own startup one day.

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