Spam bots are nothing new – anyone who tried to run their own website in the 90s using one of the many free services available at the time will know just how prevalent spam bots are. Many spam bots are designed to simply roam the internet until they find vulnerable websites and then automatically exploit them. Here are three ways that spam bots can tank your SEO ranking.
Bots have been growing more sophisticated over the years. The bots that are online today are very different from those that websites were dealing with just a decade ago. They have always been capable of filling out and submitting forms on websites, but modern bots are able to circumvent the security measures that are now in place to try and curtail their activities.
Google’s CAPTCHA is the industry standard for assessing whether traffic on a website is automated or human. While the modern versions of CAPTCHA are truly impressive, they are not perfect.
Bot makers can use form spamming in order to turn a regular comments section into a canvas for them to spam links on. If this happens on your website, it is you who will be penalized by Google. It is, therefore, important that any website owners who noticed that their site is being used for form spamming take prompt measures to resolve the situation. If your website is persistently being used for forming spamming, then you may ultimately find yourself blacklisted from Google and removed from search results. Similarly, the website that is the target of spamming also risks being delisted.
In the earliest days of SEO, it used to be incredibly simple to game Google’s algorithms. All a website had to do was create a bot to go online and spam a link to the page that they wanted to promote. Back then, Google could not differentiate between pages that contained nothing but spam links and those that housed legitimate content.
Today, the algorithms are considerably more advanced, and Google now knows what tricks to look out for when people are trying to take advantage of their system. Whenever Google detects that a link has been repeatedly spammed illegitimately, it will penalize the page in question by reducing its SEO score. Similarly, websites that are found to be hosting spam links will suffer similar penalties to make them less visible to the average Google user.
Traditionally, it has been the owner of a website that has been responsible for spamming links to a webpage. However, there are a growing number of reasons that third parties might wish to promote someone else’s content. For example, interest groups may promote content that they think supports their political leanings, even if they had no hand in its original creation.
Websites rely upon their analytics to let them know how healthy they currently are. A website’s analytics tell it how many people are visiting the website, how often they are visiting, and what they are doing when they are there. All of this information is essential for any website in terms of developing a growth strategy.
If you cannot trust your analytics to be accurate, you cannot use them reliably to develop your strategy. Every bot and automated user on your website is going to be skewing your analytics and painting a false picture of activity on your website. Most web analytics platforms today are still incapable of reliably differentiating between human users and automated users. That means that only data from the most obvious and simplest of bots tends to be filtered out when analyzing website data.
Not only does this make it difficult for websites to accurately assess their current health, but it can also have wider impacts for businesses that are dependent upon these conclusions for making broader strategic decisions. For example, the amount of funding available to IT and marketing departments may well scale depending upon the performance of the website. If the website is reporting inaccurate analytics data, it can throw off decision making throughout an entire business.
This applies just as much to SEO professionals as anyone else. Without accurate analytics data to work from, it is very difficult for an SEO professional to accurately assess the effectiveness of their current approach.
How To Combat Spam Bots
Fortunately, there are a number of things that website owners can do to protect themselves from the negative impacts of spam bots. No method is perfect, but by using the right combination of techniques you can all but eliminate spam bots from your website.
Block Them Via .htaccess
The simplest way of blocking spam bots is by using the .htaccess file. You will find this file stored in the root directory of your domain. If you look online, you should be able to find the necessary code to copy and paste into your .htaccess file.
Note that this file is critical to your website’s operation – if you get even a single character wrong then you can end up taking your entire website offline. Make sure that you back up your original working .htaccess file before you make any alterations.
The above method will not stop spam bots from accessing your website entirely; it will only protect you from future attacks and won’t affect your existing data. By using analytics filters, you can remove any clusters of traffic that you know to be bad from your analysis.
Wp-Ban is a WordPress plugin that makes it easy to block access to your website for specific users or groups of users. Best of all, you can manage your WP-Ban settings from within the WordPress administration panel.
Spam bots can wreak havoc with your SEO score in a variety of different ways, both directly and indirectly. The three effects we have listed above are just some of the issues that spam bots can cause if they are allowed to run rampant. It is essential that every website owner today takes steps to reduce the prevalence of bots on their platform if they want to maintain a good SEO score.