When science fiction depicts robots, they’re often seen as powerful machines sent to war with humans. But in reality, bots are much less scary, though they can certainly wreck havoc on our technology.
Specifically, Internet robots, or bots, are used by hackers to destroy people’s websites through spam, security breaches and other malicious behavior. Simply put, your business just can’t afford to be vulnerable to bot attacks.
To give you an idea of how prevalent bots are, check out this graph:
While the data is a couple years old, it indicates the ever-growing presence of bot activity online.
In addition to affecting usability, bot attacks can negatively impact your SEO. If Google detects what appears to be shady behavior as a result of bad bots, it may penalize you for it, as the search engine giant has no way of knowing whether or not the offense was your fault. And in case you’re wondering, no, penalties are not pleasant.
Consequences of a Google penalty:
- Decrease in search engine traffic
- Lower search rankings
- Loss of leads and customers
- Recovery costs time and money
The good news is that a bot attack isn’t a foregone conclusion. You can implement security measures to keep your website safe, and your search engine optimization strong.
(And for more insight on improving your SEO strategy, contact SPINX Digital today).
Let’s take a look at some important info and tips to help you understand how bots work, and how to fight them.
Not all bots are bad
While most hackers use bots to randomly victimize innocent websites, not all bots have an evil agenda. In fact, Googlebots exist to help us defend against their nefarious counterparts.
Now that we’ve covered the good bots, here are suggestions for fighting the bad bots and preserving your SEO.
Check for duplicate content
One of the most common types of evil bots is called Scrapers.
These malicious tools scrape websites for content as well as users’ personal information, like email addresses. Their mission is to steal info and content, so common victims include directories, ecommerce and property sites, though really anyone is fair game.
Hackers can also scrape multiple pieces of content and reassemble it into “new” content for a different (shady) website.
Fortunately, there are a few ways in which you can tell if you’ve been attacked by Scrapers. You can always use a duplicate content detector. Copyscape allows anyone to check if content from a particular domain has been re-produced in another location online.
If you do discover that your material has been copied without your permission, you can also file a complaint with Google. This is generally a good idea, as it signals that you’re aware of the problem, and are (hopefully) trying to fix it.
Google does not take kindly to duplicate content, so make sure to watch out for Scrapers.
Protect your site against security breaches
Sadly, security disruptions on ecommerce sites happen with some frequency. From Target’s $148 million breach to small business hacks, they’re becoming part of our daily lives. Which is all the more reason to install a strong line of defense on your website.
One of the easiest things a webmaster can do is enhance the .htaccess file. The hacking bots listed here can provide extra security. Simply copy and paste them into your file, and it will keep any of those dangerous bots from invading your site and stealing its data. If you discover new bad bots or just want to make a modification, you can always edit the list at any time.
Install anti-spam plug-ins
Spam bots can arguably inflict more damage to your SEO than any other kind of bot. They basically fill your website with illegitimate links against your will. In turn, visitors who click them will be directed to unintended sites, or even worse, become infected with malware.
Google has targeted link farms for a while, which is essentially what your website becomes as a result of spam bots. If one of its algorithms thinks that you’re merely trying to create backlinks for people or generally create havoc, it will most definitely give your site the boot down the line of search results.
If your business, like so many companies, uses WordPress for your site, you can fight spam bots by installing Askimet. This plug-in effectively sniffs out, blocks and even adapts to new forms of spam.
Additionally, WordPress offers other security plug-ins that indirectly combat spam. One tip is to automatically back up your site on a regular basis, so that you can recover in the event that you do get spammed.