A bot which is short for robot is a software program that either runs automatically or with commands over the Internet. Many different types of bots exist; malicious like email-gatherers (without user consent)–or helpful, chat room bots, search engine bots, monitoring bots, and those that complete repetitive tasks. As marketers quality form data and content is imperative to the continued success of your business. When you receive misinformation this can derail your campaign, junk-up your CRM, and lead you down a long costly road of recovering and fixing. Unfortunately, malicious bots aren’t going away–so you need to know how to best prepare your forms and website data so you are capturing accurate human interaction, information, and traffic.
Why are bots attacking my website in the first place?
Some bots are utilized with the sole purpose of adding backlinks. When used correctly backlinks operate similarly to a citation, they link two web resources together. When used incorrectly–like in the case of bots, they provide low quality redirects. Backlinks featured heavily in Google’s page ranking past because of a simple concept; if a lot of other pages link back to a certain page that it must be useful and valuable. Bots take advantage of this.
Google and other search engines want you to find the answers you are looking for when you search. The team constantly makes updates to the search algorithm and today contains 200 varying factors to page ranking. With recent updates like unofficially named “Fred” and the commonly known “Penguin” Google will penalize offenders that are producing high volumes of backlinks that do not direct to the correct useful content users are searching for. Websites with a lot of “no-follow” backlinks are negatively impacted by a lower page ranking or have their pages and site removed altogether from search results. Backlinks still feature heavily in this algorithm so you should’t sleep on its importance although the value of backlinks has dropped slightly in the last several years.
How do you check to see if you have negative backlinks and fix issues?
Utilize Google Webmaster Tools – Search Traffic > Links To Your Site > Who Links Most > More > Download Latest Link
Some common ways you can identify bad links:
- Link Directories
- Backlinks from websites with identical content
- Social Bookmarking websites
- Auto-approved comments on an un-moderated site
- Large volume of backlinks to your homepage–verify these first
How do I protect my website and forms from negative backlinks?
- Utilize Google Webmaster Tools Email Alerts to receive notifications about new backlinks
- Monitor your backlinks profile with tools like monitorbacklinks.com
- Do not repeat website passwords, use symbols; make passwords difficult for hackers to guess and acquire
- Check to make sure your content isn’t being duplicated using copyscape.com
- Add a 2 part password authentication to your website
- Don’t link to websites you don’t trust, don’t buy links, and don’t sell links
What about forms? I’ve been told that I need to protect my forms from bots, what does that mean?
You cannot entirely prevent SPAM but you can utilize multiple methods to make it very difficult for automated programs to submit a form or damage your site. Some common methods used to protect your forms and website comments section are:
- Using a CAPTCHA.
- Using reCAPTCHA. Similar to CAPTCHA except users only need to check a box saying they are not a robot.
- Adding ghost fields (called a Honeypot) that only a SPAM bot would see and fill in. Then create a workflow to separate this bad data from your good data, reject it, or re-direct the bots through a fake successful form submission.
- Add a simple human math friendly test question to the final submit button. For example, 1+3 = __ (4)
- Record IP addresses and use that data to block spammers
- Don’t use standard URL for comment forms
You will never be able to completely stop bots from attacking your website. But with a combination of methods you can make it very difficult.
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