Rise of the bots – an inspiration, not an insurrection!
AI is something that should inspire opportunity, not instil fear. Yes, it’s true that there are plenty of problematic bots roaming wild in the world wide web, but for every ‘bad bot,’ there is a constructive counterpart that can be used to enhance your digital marketing offering.
Some consider bots to be like steroids; great for providing that initial pump needed to bolster a brand, but with consistent use and abuse may have destructive long-term effects. This applies when there’s a continued presence of bad bots on your site, which can lead to skewed data and a high bounce rate. But the good news is that there are plenty of useful AI tools that marketers can deploy to not only safeguard, but optimise, our interests. And when you consider that according to Forbes, top-performing companies are more than twice as likely to be using AI for marketing (28% vs. 12%), it seems that incorporating AI into your offering is not only necessary, but advantageous.
In this blog, we delve into differentiating between good and bad bots and explore how to navigate, and use, AI to our advantage.
What are bots?
It’s important not to tar all bots with the same brush. In order to optimise AI, we must acknowledge the distinction between the different bots out there.
Good bots are technological tools that exist to support, expediate, and enhance our website, brand and online presence. These ‘good’ types of bots are track bots, machine learning, analytics tracking software, and ones that scrape websites to enhance your business’s online visibility. Other good bots are search engine spiders that move your brand’s ranking up the search engine results page. Beyond your online offering, good bots support and speed up internal processes to make life easier and more efficient. This is crucial when we consider that, according to a HubSpot study, marketers spend around 16 hours-per-week on routine tasks. This amounts to almost half a full workweek – it’s practically impractical not to use AI to our advantage!
‘Bad’ bots, perhaps ironically, seem to have an excellent marketing team behind them as they’re the ones we tend to hear, or be scare mongered, about. These types of bots are manipulative and menacing to your platform. They misuse and attack your website by increasing likes and traffic to skew data, and scrape content in destructive ways to generate content on other websites. Some other nefarious bots are those that backlink building tools to build links from other websites. Recent data shows that in 2021, the majority of website traffic was still generated by humans, but that ‘bad’ bot traffic was on the rise. There are of course different levels of fraudulent traffic, but overall 34.4 percent of bad bots can be classified as simple, connecting from a single, ISP-assigned IP address. However, the less encouraging news is that 25.9 percent of bad bots are operating on such a sophisticated level that they can successfully mimic human behaviour and evade higher-level detection methods. These bad bots may feel like a formidable force, but it only takes some understanding to keep them at bay.
Eliminate Bad Bots
Worryingly, with bad bots making up as much as 65% of website traffic, it’s crucial that we have measures in place to siphon off the bad from the good. Fortunately, there are ways to do this to ensure that your data and performance-driven strategies are not disrupted.
Don’t just delete, or block untrustworthy IP addresses to stop traffic from bad bots – whether that’s website traffic, conversions or clicking on a button on a form. However, you don’t want to block out the good bots, so be clear on who and what exactly you are targeting. Tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics can filter out and remove bots so that your results aren’t affected.
Educate your team to observe traffic from a strategic standpoint and be able to identify bots. For example, an IP address from a country that your brand wouldn’t usually reach might be a good indicator of a bot at play. Pay particular attention to dodgy IPs from the US, China, and UK, as they are the worst offenders in terms of where most bad bot traffic originates, as well as countries subjected to the most attacks.
Did you know that your business itself could be acting as a ‘bad bot’ when it comes to marketing data? Working from home means that different IP addresses are being used, which are than counted as multiple users within data. Since home internet is cheap and tends to change IP addresses every few weeks, the search platform also factors this in as different users. By converting your system to a business-driven VPN you can improve security and ensure that just one IP address is registered, ensuring data is as accurate as possible.
The bot-tom line
Bots need not be feared, but they do need to be understood. By familiarising yourself with the different forms out there, as well as learning how to track them, you can avoid your online offering being disrupted and your data being skewed. We can no longer turn a blind eye to AI, by embracing and understanding bots we can use them to the advantage of our online presence and digital marketing comms, as well as a handy tool to speed up and support marketeers with routine tasks.