ShieldSquare named a Leader in The Forrester New Wave™: Bot Management Report, Q3 2018. Click to know more.

ShieldSquare named a Leader in The Forrester New Wave™: Bot Management Report, Q3 2018. Click to know more.

How to detect bot traffic?


As an online business owner, you will have the ultimate goal of making your business reach more users. In short, creating maximum visibility for your website will be the key business driver. Increasing web traffic has a lot of advantages for online businesses. It helps take your business, product or service to audiences that are geographically distributed. It also helps acquire more users, generate additional business opportunities and provide confidence to advertisers.

However, when your online business grows, there’s an inevitable possibility that almost half of the web traffic consists of bots. How does one even know about the presence of bots in the web traffic, in the first place? In other words, how can you make sure that your website visitors are human, and not bots?

You must be using an analytics tool to analyze your web traffic, visitors, visitor demographics and traffic sources. This will be a fantastic starting point to look a little deeper and understand the presence of bots in your web traffic. So, what are the parameters to watch out for?

Traffic trend:
Statistics typically show that your web traffic grows gradually, over a period of time. This growth will be aided by some of your initiatives, like improved SEO activities, paid search campaigns, marketing giveaways, improved content quality, new products, services, and many more. Having said that, if you see a spike in traffic for a particular day or week, you should sit up and take a closer look at it.

What are bots

Bounce rate:
Now that you’ve noticed the spike while diving deep into your traffic data, you may notice metrics like bounce rates and new sessions to be abnormally high. There are scenarios where the bounce rates also dip to impractical lows, like 25%, which might also suggest suspicious bot activity on your website. Of course, in most scenarios, when bots are invading your website with the intent of stealing content, they will do so in a mechanically repetitive fashion, indicating it to be non-human traffic on your site.


What are bots

Traffic sources:
For most websites, the traffic comes from a variety of channels (or sources), like direct, organic, social, referral and paid campaigns. However, during a bot attack, the primary channel contributing to the traffic will be direct traffic which will invariably amount to the majority of new sessions and users.


Server performance:
Any slowdown in server performance should be looked at from the bot traffic perspective. There’s a good chance that your servers are stressed out because of the multiple bot hits received within a short period of time. Reduction in server performance, due to bots, directly impacts your business, user experience, and revenue.


SEO ranking:
This may not be noticed in real-time, but bots sent to your website to steal content often publish them on a different website, impacting your SEO rankings. This type of scraping can happen the moment you post new content on your website. When fresh content is lifted off your website and posted elsewhere, there’s a big chance of your site being outranked by the website that is dubiously publishing your articles. Search engines penalize plagiarized content, and that’s the last thing you want for your online business after investing considerable amount of resources to produce quality content.


Suspicious IPs/Geo-Locations:
Let's assume that you run a local ticketing website catering to events locally in your country. An increase in activity on your site from a remote location that you don’t cater to should be suspicious enough to look for bot activities.


Suspicious hits from single IPs:
These are the most basic bot activities that you can detect. Also, If you see a vast number of hits from a single IP within a very short period of time, you can be assured of bots on your website. These bots could be sent with an intent of flooding your web server with useless traffic, amounting to a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.


Language sources:
If your primary website language and the intended audience is English, and you see hits from various other languages, this could be an indication of bot activity on your site. Keeping a tab on the aforementioned areas could help you get an indication of bot activity on your website. However, this becomes a manual process that’s not only laborious but ineffective when it comes to mitigating bot activity. A preferable option would be to set up an automated bot mitigation program that detects bots in real time and blocks them.


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