If you have a website and social media campaign for your business, chances are high that you’ve encountered spam bot traffic. Spam bots are programs that have been created to follow, befriend, comment on, or otherwise contact as many people or websites as possible as quickly as possible. Usually they are used in an attempt to bring more traffic back to their own site. Fake followers from spam bots are not actively looking at your site. They are not customers, and they can even be detrimental to your business.
Why is Spam Bot Traffic a Problem?
You might wonder how exactly spam bots affect your website and your business. The major problems have to do with reduced communication, security, server load, and faulty analytics data.
One of the most obvious problems is the flood of bogus comments onto your website or social media page. Comments sections are supposed to be a place where viewers can contact a business directly and set up a flow of conversation. A good comments section can genuinely benefit a website. However, if a comments section is overflowing with spam that advertises different sites, it cripples the ability to keep conversations going and takes attention away from the original site.
Spam bot traffic has gotten to be such a huge problem that many websites are opting to turn off their comments sections and user registrations entirely. Some are also forced to spend valuable time and even pay money to try to protect their websites from such attacks. Even large blogging sites such as CopyBlogger.com have opted to remove their comments sections, stating that only about 4% of the comments they were receiving were not spam.
If the spam bots get bad enough, your website can be greatly harmed. Too much spam can slow down your website, which affects how many people are willing to peruse it. Depending on what kind of outbound links the spam bots add to your site, it can even get flagged and ignored by Google, making it difficult for real viewers to find you. You might also lose your website to hackers who take it over themselves.
Spam bots also inflate your website’s statistics, making it difficult to use tools such as Google Analytics. If spam bot traffic is flooding your site, you can’t use statistical information to accurately give you useful information, such as who your viewers are, so you can focus more on those demographics.
How to Identify Spam Bot Traffic
There are two major types of spam bots that can affect your website. One kind is more visible, posting comments, advertising themselves, and directing traffic to their own sites. The other kind is harder to see and is designed to give a website more views or fake followers without adding any benefit to the original site.
A surge in traffic on your website might indicate spam bots. It might also just be legitimate, beneficial traffic. If you see a surge in traffic, consider whether or not you’ve done something recently that warrants an increase in viewership. If not, you probably have a spam bot problem. You can use Google Analytics to help identify malicious traffic by looking at the sources of the traffic before and after the surge. If the traffic is coming from a major website or social network, it’s probably legitimate. If it’s direct traffic, it’s probably from spam bots.
There are some warnings that can help identify spam bots individually. They spew out an excessive amount of comments on lots of websites. They also try to push their own links on viewers, even if they have nothing in common with the website they are posted on. However, being able to identify individual spam bots is not particularly useful, since hundreds or even thousands of them might affect your site at a time.
How to Reduce Spam Bot Traffic
There are several ways you can attempt to reduce or eliminate spam bot traffic on your website and social media pages. The most effective methods are to shut down communications, like CopyBlogger.com did when they shut down their comments section. Most websites allow you to shut off comments and turn off user registrations altogether. However, this is an extreme response, and many people want to keep communication with their viewers open.
Website can also offer options that allow for more restriction for commenting and registration. For example, WordPress has .htaccess files that restrict bots and several plugins that add CAPTCHAs, limit login attempts, and blacklist spam IP addresses. Also, Google Analytics allows you to filter the data, which can remove some of the effects of spam bots. For example, if a lot of spam is coming from a particular country, you can have the analytics ignore that area. Some websites, such as Facebook, are somewhat better than others at removing and restricting spam accounts without hassle to you.
Spam bot traffic is a huge problem online and will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future. Not only do they slow down websites, but they can reduce beneficial communication and even be a security risk. If your websites or social media pages are plagued by spam bots, make sure you check for resources specific to those sites that might help reduce the problem. Don’t let spam bots ruin your site!