What are Online Bots - Top FAQs

Almost all online businesses have been affected by bots since their inception, in both good and bad ways. The entire search engine industry runs on bots. However, there have been "evil bots" as well in existence since a long time. Lately, these bots have been used to automate and commit online fraud on an industrial scale. Online bots and scrapers have been a pain for online businesses like travel, classifieds, e-commerce, dating and content focussed websites since a decade now. Yet, there are only a few companies that have bot prevention strategy in place.

In this post, we will cover a basic overview on bots, their uses, identification of bots, problems that bad bots pose for online businesses and lastly the benefits of having a bot protection strategy in place.

What are web bots and scrapers?

A bot, or web robot, is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Web bots may be deployed by search engines, competitors, and other third parties. Examples range from good bots, such as Googlebot, which collects information to index and display website pages, to bad bots that steal content, hijack user accounts, commit online frauds and overtax your servers.

What are bad bots used for?

Web bots, scrapers, and other automated apps may be used to gather competitive intelligence by stealing content and data such as leads, user info, product pricing info and other business critical data. For instance, a web bot may be used by a classified or an aggregator to scrape listing data quickly. In other cases, a competitor may deploy a bot to grab inventory details and sell similar products at a lower price.

How are web bots identified?

Bots can be identified in a variety of ways, including the information in a request, the volume and rate of requests made, and other behavioral indicators that greatly differ from human requests.

Why are bad bots a problem for online businesses?

Bad Bots can make several thousand requests per second - far in excess of what human users generate through a web browser. Such heavy volume of bot traffic, can impose an undesired load on IT infrastructure. For industries such as travel, airlines and classifieds, bots can represent 40-60% of overall site traffic. From a business perspective, web bots can have both a positive and negative impact. Good web bots, like Googlebot, are essential to your online business strategy. Other bots, such as those operated by competitors, content aggregators or scrapers, get between you and your customers. This results in

  1. Less control over your online business strategy
  2. Fewer sales opportunities
  3. Damage to customer relationships
  4. Downgrade website SEO and user experience for genuine visitors

How to protect against bad bots?

A strong website bot security foundation is vital for both startups and big companies. The best strategy to stay protected is to use a web security platform. An effective SaaS based bot protection platform can help businesses:

  1. Stay protected from online fraud
  2. Save business critical data and content from duplication
  3. Use collective fraud intelligence using machine learning algorithms
  4. Manage their website traffic
  5. Improve site-wide performance for genuine users

The biggest benefit of deploying a third-party bot protection software is cost optimization as the company now does not need to build an internal security team.

We will share more about bots, content protection and web security in our upcoming blog posts.

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