No matter how big your website is, you’re almost guaranteed to receive bot traffic at some point. These bots are often up to a range of different things on your site, from indexing web pages to scraping your content. With so many different bots out there, how can you detect bot traffic on your website? And should you be concerned?
To help you see if bots are affecting your website and it’s performance, we’re taking a look at how you can detect bot traffic.
If you’ve noticed an increase in page load times, a higher bounce rate or lower average time on page, then you could have bots visiting your site. While not all robots should be blocked, there are plenty out there that could be doing malicious things to your site.
Before we dive into how to detect these bots on your site, let’s take a look at the various types of bots out there.
To explain bots simply, they can be defined as: software applications written to perform specific repetitive tasks. This could be anything from checking the prices on a website every minute to posting a new comment every hour. The whole aim of a bot is to take a repetitive task and automate it. The type of task the robot does can help define if the bot is good or bad. As you’ve probably realised, not all online bots are bad and some of them are actually essential to keeping the internet running.
If you read our last post on What Percentage of Internet Users are Robots? Then you should know about the various different types of robots. To give you a quick summary, internet robots can be split into 2 groups, good bots and bad bots.
Good bots do things such as index your website in search engines, monitor your website’s health, and fetch RSS feeds.
Bad bots, on the other hand, do things such as scrape your links and content, post spam messages, or attempt to disrupt your site.
With so many new bots being made and launched almost every day, keeping track of bots can be a tricky task. But how exactly can you tell if you’ve been visited by a good or bad bot?
Detecting Bot Traffic
When it comes to detecting bot traffic, there are actually several ways you can check to see who’s visiting your site. Some methods are easy and will give you a quick overview if you’re being swarmed by bots, while other methods take a lot longer to analyse the data. Here are some of the most effective means to detect bot traffic on your site:
The first way to check your website for bots is to check your Google Analytics stats for any inconsistencies. By paying attention to the number of page views, average session duration and referrers, you can quickly work out if bots are visiting you, and how frequently.
One of the most obvious things you’ll notice when being visited by bots is a sharp increase in the number of page views. If a robot is crawling your entire website, then they’ll load up countless pages at the same time. If your average page visit per user is 3 and suddenly you see someone visit all 50 pages of your site, then they’re probably a bot.
Other metrics you should be checking on your site should be the average page duration and bounce rate. If you notice your average page duration decreasing and your bounce rate increasing, then this is a sign you’re being visited by bots.
Since bots are incredibly quick, they usually only take a few seconds to crawl your site and get the information they need. Compare this to a typical user, and the bot’s page duration is likely to be a lot lower. Once the bot has finished crawling the page, the bot will leave and move onto the next site. This will have a big effect on your bounce rate. By leaving without visiting another page, Google will class the bot visit as a bounce, even though they were never a real user! Over time, this can wear down you Google metrics. By paying attention to a change in these metrics this can give you a heads up that your website is experiencing significant bot traffic.
Another way to detect bot traffic on your website is to be aware of the speed of your site. If you’re experiencing a massive influx of bots then you’ll probably notice your site loading slower. One bot might not make much difference, but having several bots at the same time can start to strain your server. There’s actually a chance that malicious bots are attempting to overrun your server and take it offline! Also known as a DDOS attack, these attacks can have devastating effects on businesses. Especially when their website is the primary source for doing business and receiving orders.
If you’ve checked your analytics and noticed some unusual metrics or slow page load times, then you could be under attack by bots. Luckily there are several ways you can ban them from your site forever.