What Is Bot Traffic and How Is It Used to Defraud Traffic Reporting?

May 5, 2023
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‍A surge in site visits can cause site slowdowns, performance degradation, resource overload, corrupted visits, click-through statistics, a negative impact on SEO, and increased vulnerability to DDoS and phishing attacks.

Bot Traffic

‍If you want to analyze traffic to your site, look in the counter for the jump in views of particular pages, high bounce rate, unusually long or short time on the page, invalid or missing conversions, and bulk referrals in regions that you do not advertise.

‍What proportion of internet traffic is generated by bots? Estimates vary. However, we can assume that bot referrals account for about 42% of all global web traffic, more than half of which belongs to “bad” bots.

What Is Bot Traffic?

‍Robots always visit the site — it’s just part of the modern Internet, and even search engines index resources in this way. But with the help of bots (or automatic scanners), you can also parse data, i.e., extract information from web resources. The bot involved in this is a program or script that performs simple automated actions on the site:

  1. Unloading the page code.
  2. Dividing it into its constituent elements.
  3. Extracting data.
  4. Saving it in the database.

‍The purposes for such a collection may be different. In most cases, websites are scraped to get specific data from competitors’ pages, which can then be used on their resources and perform malicious attacks. Still, parsing is helpful for analytical or research purposes, which in itself does not imply anything terrible.

Good, Bad, and Ugly Bots

‍Before we dive into the topic of how to identify bot traffic, we must learn the classification. We can divide bots into useful (good) and malicious (bad).

Useful bots

‍These are the robots we need. They perform necessary activities on the Internet. They help to perform valuable and complex work in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, unlike a person, they automate routine processes, as they can process vast amounts of data.

Search Robots

  • You may also know them as “web spiders” or “search crawlers.” They are one of the most common — and most useful — bots on the Internet. All search results and user interaction with the search are the merits of search robots. When a new site page is published, a bot will scan it within a few weeks. SEO tools such as SEMRush, Screaming Frog, SE Ranking, Moz, etc., also have robots to analyze search results and resources to optimize them more effectively.

Site-Qualifying Bots

  • Unlike search robots that index sites on a global level, such bots are a tool for assessing the performance of a particular resource. If the help is multipage or large, such checks are necessary. They allow the site owner to improve it according to users’ needs. For example, they can quickly identify and fix page load time, performance issues, broken links, and under-optimized images.

Bots Checking Copyright Infringement

  • These bots control copyright enforcement on leading video hosting and social networks such as YouTube and TikTok. With the help of special software, these robots analyze large amounts of audio and video data for the presence of specific forms and patterns that match protected copyright materials and are located in the hosting database. Despite the undeniable effectiveness of these robots, many experts and ordinary users agree that bots generate an unacceptably high level of false positives and unfairly punish authors whose content bears little resemblance to copyrighted materials.

Malicious bots

‍Unfortunately, for every “good” bot to improve the Internet, there will be a malicious bot to do something less valuable. For example, to cheat traffic on advertising by bots. Let’s see what “bad” robots are.

Ad Click Bots

  • They represent a significant challenge for digital advertising. They click on contextual ads in search. They waste advertising budgets and wreak havoc on marketing campaigns. Increasingly, you can find bots that can imitate the behavior of real users, thus hiding their malicious activity. For example, they can scroll through the site’s pages, follow them randomly, stay on the page for more than one second, etc.

Bots for DDoS Attacks

  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) is a denial-of-service attack, the purpose of which is to slow down a resource or disable it for a specific time. Directed streaming bot traffic overloads the server, and it stops responding to requests from real users. As a result, the site becomes unavailable. Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) is a distributed denial-of-service attack from multiple devices and networks. This feature makes it much more difficult to block bot attack on website. DDoS bots are typically spread through a botnet, a network of malware-infected user devices. The user may accidentally install malware or visit a fraudulent site. Thus, his device becomes part of the botnet and automatically performs operator-directed attacks.

Buyer Bots

  • They are designed for out-of-stock attacks on online stores. The concept is simple: bots add certain high-demand items to the cart and keep them there without checkout. Accordingly, the number of products in stock is automatically reduced. They do this until the product “runs out.” Then, genuine buyers see that the product is sold out and leave the site. A product from the catalog is tied to a specific basket only for a short time (usually 10–15 minutes). But when a catalog is subjected to a lengthy automatic attack, it is easy for bots to make the product unavailable to buyers.

‍These are just some malicious activities that bot-blocking services like Botfaqtor encounter daily.

Who Needs Organic Bot Traffic

There are many options in which marketers and SEOs need additional traffic. However, almost all of them lie in the plane of affiliate marketing.

Buying and Selling Sites

Selling websites is big business. Like real life, commercial digital real estate comes in all shapes, sizes, and conditions. Those willing to spend time and money on “tidying up” a resource or online business for further sale or monetization are in for big money.

Bot Traffic

‍If the site has a lot of visitors, you can demonstrate to a potential buyer what benefits he could get by placing advertising content on it. Thus, from the seller’s point of view, the temptation to artificially inflate traffic figures with the help of bots is powerful.

Black Hat Sellers

‍Despite the categorical assertions of search engines such as Google that “website traffic is not a ranking factor,” many experts mistakenly associate high traffic with high positions in search results.

‍Consequently, many promotion “experts” (and clients) are still willing to pay big bucks for organic bot traffic. Search engine bombardment technology is used, in which an irrelevant site is displayed in the search results on request, on which there are no occurrences of the searched keywords. They will mistakenly believe that their rankings and positions will grow this way.

Dishonest Marketers and Agencies

‍Unfortunately, the unfair practice of inflating website visitors with bot traffic is still alive and well in 2023. Anyone who understands even a little bit about digital marketing knows that traffic as such is an indicator designed to amuse the ego and nothing more.

‍If none of the visitors who clicked on the ad completed the targeted action, the increase in visitors would not benefit the business. However, many business owners do not have time to learn all the ins and outs of marketing.

‍Even when the truth about inflated traffic becomes apparent, a dishonest marketer or agency will try to attribute low conversion rates to other factors (product or service offered, poorly optimized page, etc.). It also allows them to promote the customer for additional services.

‍As you can see, organic bot traffic is of very little use unless it is associated with some dishonest marketing and SEO services.

‍As a rule, bots create the appearance of many visits. However, in reality, they are used only for financial gain.

Paid Bot Traffic is a Game Without a Winner

Using traffic bots to increase ad clicks will only benefit two groups of people: the publisher/webmaster who places the ad or the advertiser’s competitor.

Increasing revenue through hidden bot traffic may seem tempting for publishers who already monetize their sites through Google Adsense. For example, there are many articles on the web about the best ways to buy bots.

However, advertising platforms are increasingly tightening the rules for participation and are vigilant about boosting traffic. Therefore, you should not use this option to increase income.

Ad fraud by publishers is not about easy money and impunity. Instead of large payments, you can get banned and lose any income from your site.

Detection Methods

Protection against individual robots, or even full-fledged protection against botnets, is based on one principle: you first need to detect bot traffic.

Bot Traffic

‍To find out if the traffic influx is the result of a bot attack, you can refer to the following methods:

  1. You can track access statistics by accessing the server logs using the access.log file. This text file contains complete information on traffic on the server. In it, you can view the IP address from which the request was made, its time, type, and content. You should pay particular attention to the % {User-Agent} parameter — a header containing information about the request- the application, and the language in which it was made. Sending multiple requests from the same IP and User-Agent at regular intervals should alert you.
  2. Using JavaScript can help collect important information about the users who visit the site (screen resolution, time zone, clickable buttons). It is possible to identify which users are most likely to be a parser by simply matching information about requests.
  3. Unwanted requests from agents with the same request, region, time zone, and screen size from the same IP can be safely blocked using one of the methods we will describe below.

‍Notice that not all requests from bots can come from the same IP address. It is because bots usually use a proxy network, thus performing distributed parsing. However, even if the same requests are received from different servers, this is most likely a reason for blocking.


‍Speaking of malicious bots, one cannot ignore such a topic as protection against DDoS attacks. Currently, this problem is especially relevant for some specific areas of activity. These include sites of online stores, multiplayer online games, exchanges, investment platforms, and other commercial resources. Sometimes a DDoS attack on a site can be provoked by aggressive competitors who seek to disable your resource. Still, sometimes the site is also attacked by ransomware hackers, and sometimes it can be attacked just for fun without an evil purpose. Whatever the case, any serious project will need protection from these attacks. You must know how to stop bot traffic on the website.

‍Typically, DDoS attacks are described in the seven-layer OSI model. The first level of the network is physical. The second is the channel (connects networks at the channel level through switches); the higher, the more abstract. DDoS attacks can be low- and high-level. The lowest-level attacks are at the network’s third-fifth levels: “clogging” the channel with ping or TCP connection requests (the so-called SYN requests). They are easy to deal with. But the higher the attack level, the more complex the defense becomes.

‍High-level attacks of the highest, level 7, are more dangerous. They are directed to the most difficult pages of the site or perform complex actions on it, for example, setting up a catalog filter to display the maximum selection of products. Hundreds or even thousands of bots carry out the attack, and denial of service can occur from the web server, backend, or database server.

‍To cope with such attacks, we use WAF (Web Application Firewall) — a special system of monitors and filters designed to detect and block network attacks on a web application. However, this is a relatively high level of attack, and we enable WAF only in the most severe cases — as a rule, essential protection is sufficient, enabled by default on all our servers.

‍If your site is hosted on your hardware in your server room, you will likely have to deal with the attack yourself. You must connect an additional IP address or a specialized service to protect your site. In some cases, switching to a VDS or a dedicated server may be an excellent option to which such services are already connected. In the end, a massive attack can be waited out! But the best thing is if you have a reliable hosting provider to whom you can delegate site protection from DDoS.


Owners of their web resources often face the problem of data parsing and malicious attacks, but the development of protection methods does not stand still. To protect against copying and theft of site data, you can go in several ways, for example, install a captcha on the page, enter a trap in the code, or track bots according to User-Agent data with subsequent blocking. Careful attention to analytics and installation of protection tools, even with minimal work with the code, will help solve the problem of parsing, spam, and loading on the site.

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