October Newsletter – Explaining Bot Traffic

Bots

It is estimated that 56 percent of Internet traffic comes from non-human sources, which are referred to as “bots.” Most of the reporting software used to collect traffic information about your website does a good job of filtering out bots, but Strong Automotive Merchandising takes it a step further with custom filters specifically developed to identify bots that target automotive sites. This not only ensures accurate reporting of your website traffic, but also addresses other potential risks that bots create. Let’s look at some of the most common questions about bot traffic.

What are bots?
Bots are computer programs specifically designed to “crawl” the Internet. This crawl involves the very rapid downloading and reading of webpages. Think of bots as data-hungry little critters trying to view and read every webpage online – much like the typical teenager. And, like teenagers, there are good bots and bad bots.
What are “good bots”?
The good news is that the majority of bot traffic comes from “good bots.” These bots are employed by search engines — like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. — and other Internet performance tools. Google’s bots read a website’s data to determine its relevance to customer search queries. Your website is regularly loaded by these “good bots,” and one of the specific goals of our SEO work is to optimize your site so that it can be read as easily and frequently as possible by these bots.
What are “bad bots”?
There are several different types of “bad bots” — scrapers, ” “hackers, ” “spammers, ” and “impersonators” — but the common thread is that all have malicious intent. And all are looking for the same thing: some part of your website that could be used for their creator’s personal gain. Let’s take a closer look at some of the bad bots that could be targeting your website:

  • Scrapers: These programs work very similarly to search engine bots (good bots). They also download and read your data, but they are doing it with the intent of using it somewhere else. Scrapers take your content or data and appropriate it for use on their own website. We sometimes see this happen on automotive websites that run high-quality blogs, but plagiarism of this sort is not a major risk in this particular industry.
  • Hackers: Hackers are looking for security flaws in your site they can exploit to take private data — for example, your customer’s financial information. If your website platform is secure, this should not be a concern.
  • Spammers: Spammers look for places on your website where they can promote their own products or websites. They often target forms or message boards to leave links to their website. Google greatly discourages and penalizes this practice.
  • Impersonators: Impersonators are designed to target specific websites or pages specifically to create a problem for the website owner. These are unlikely to hit smaller sites but could possibly be used if a flaw is discovered in a large dealer website platform. These bots could fill out credit applications with false data or overload a site to bring it down. It is unlikely your site is seeing any traffic from an impersonator bot.

What can be done about the bad bots?
The good news is that almost all bot traffic has no effect on the performance of your website. While using your site, neither you nor your customers will likely ever even notice if your site is being crawled by a bot at the same time. However, you may notice bot traffic in your reporting — and there, you want to be sure that you know the numbers you are seeing refer to pairs of actual human eyes. Google Analytics, the most popular Web traffic reporting software, is designed only to register human visits to your website. SAM has also developed custom filters to make sure we are reporting real, human visits to your website.

What are you doing about bots?
SAM conducts thorough reporting and analysis of your website’s traffic. If there is “bad bot” traffic occurring, we take steps to block and filter it. This ensures both that our reports are the most accurate account of the number of real customers visiting your site, and that we help to minimize the risks bad bots pose to your site.


About the author

John Paul Strong: For someone who spends an average of 135 days outside of the office meeting with clients, John Paul Strong remains the driving force behind his Birmingham-based advertising agency, Strong Automotive Merchandising. Strong began his career as a fresh-faced account executive at Martin Advertising. Learning much, but never satisfied, he convinced his father to partner with him in reopening their own advertising agency in 2004, catering exclusively to the automotive industry. The company started strong but humble. The original roster of 10 employees and eight clients has exploded today, growing to 100 full-time employees and more than 220 automotive dealers. And it hasn’t gone without notice. Along the way, Strong Automotive Merchandising has been recognized as a perennial winner in Birmingham’s Best Places to Work contest and as a Top 20 Agency among Google’s National Ad Partners. Yet, Strong still finds time to share what he’s learned along the way. As an avid writer, he has published two books in the Next Day Traffic series, along with more than 1,000 automotive-focused blog posts. He is also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, and his success has been recognized in the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2013 “Top 40 Under 40” feature and the 2017 CEO Awards. The foundation for Strong’s career began at the University of Montevallo where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and advanced public speaking. Always staying ahead of the competition, Strong later went on to study in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program. Amid all of his endeavors, Strong always makes time for what matters most – his family. He is a proud husband to Amy, and father to Lilly Grace, Anne Charlotte, Hudson, and Ford.


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