Threat to Online Businesses from Global Bot Traffic

Have you heard about Googlebot, the search engine crawler that Google uses to index web pages across the Internet? Or perhaps about Bingbot, Microsoft's search engine crawler, or Yandex Bot, the Russian search engine bot, or Baidu, the Chinese search engine crawler? Do you know that there are over 2500 plus crawlers that are actively crawling the web pages across the Internet and are most probably crawling your website as well?

Yes, 2500 is a significant number, and apart from the top few handpicked search engine crawlers, the others don't result in any positive business impact. Now, these 2500+ crawlers are not such harmful bots that crawl the Internet. However, there are tons of competitor analysis and marketing companies that run the second type of bots that are designed to harm one's business. The nefarious include fake bookings, fake profiles, and creation of fake listings, theft of data, content, and listings, commonly known as web scraping, form spam, account takeover and a bouquet of other automated attacks that are designed to hurt one's business severely.

The two classes of bots, the good bots (crawlers) and the bad bots together constitute 50-80% of all web traffic. This is a trend seen across websites from different countries. Every site today faces this traffic. Ten years ago, the bot traffic surfing the Internet was a much smaller percentage. However, in the last five years, this traffic has multiplied significantly - majorly due to the creation of new online business models that rely on bots to extract data and content for their businesses.

More than half of global web traffic comes from automated programs - many of them malicious

The sudden growth of bot traffic doesn't seem to be stopping. With more companies being formed every day in the online space, and innovative uses of automated traffic being explored, online bots are growing in number, with some websites seeing up to 90% of their traffic coming from bots alone. In fact, as the trend suggests, within the next three years, the world wide web will be experiencing a whopping 70-80% of its traffic coming from bots. Automated attacks have been in the news lately from Linkedin filing lawsuits against web scrapers to Google hiring 100 employees to hunt down and remove fraudulent ads to fight against bots.

But why the fuss around bots and web traffic? Is it indeed something that business heads should think about? So, what if the website is getting bot hits, if the genuine users are coming, why look into the bots? The matter of the fact is that most business owners do not realize the growth that can be achieved by blocking the fraudulent and unwanted bot traffic - The kind of impact that can be created to ease things out for the engineering teams, the server maintenance teams, the online marketing teams, the price research teams, and the search engine monitoring teams. Each of these teams individually benefits if the right bot mitigation platform is deployed by a business.

There are two critical points that online businesses need to look into – the first thing to be checked is the amount and degree of automated attacks happening on one's website. Most of the cybersecurity attacks happen over an application layer. The site is the most vulnerable and necessary element that gets exposed to hackers and competitors. While the hackers try to steal login credentials and hack into accounts using automated bots, the competitors steal all the available data in real-time to stay a step ahead. The stolen data can be real-time pricing info, entire product catalogs, seller details, customer details, real-time user-generated listings and classifieds, news and other multimedia content, or any other data that can be used to divert legitimate traffic to competition's platform. Every online customer-focused business suffers from this data theft and suffers substantial business losses in terms of lesser conversions on the platform, lower SEO, lesser website visits, lower sales, ineffective marketing insights and burdened internal IT teams.

The second thing to look at is the number of server resources and bandwidth that are getting wasted on processing the unwanted traffic. A server does not differentiate between hits. It just treats everything that comes its way. Keeping one's server clean and free from unwanted traffic dramatically optimizes a server and the resulting website load times. With unwanted bots removed, the web pages load faster at a lesser server cost.

The automated attacks and the degree of growth of bots over the Internet are alarming. Businesses are left vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data wars. Thankfully, the industry has seen the growth of some start-ups that provide security against such bot attacks. These platforms use robust bot detection engines that plug and play with websites seamlessly, thereby removing any unwanted traffic that comes to one's site. This has become crucial for every online business to deploy such platforms and keep a check on their traffic. Sanitizing and optimizing one's web traffic goes a long way in saving a brands reputation and winning over the competition.