The impact of bad bots on digital publishing platforms

By Yasmin Duggal / 14th May 2021

Online digital publishing platforms have thrived in the new media age. The ability to publish an article detailing news from around the world, within minutes of it happening, has allowed publishers to give their customers exciting and up-to-date content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

However, like many other online platforms, publishers are often the victim of cyber-threats. Specifically, malicious bots programmed to perform a variety of attacks such as scraping, content theft and ad fraud.  

Some publishers overlook the bots on their site with the fear that mitigating bot traffic might have a negative impact on website impressions and ad clicks, ultimately decreasing their total revenue. In reality, the opposite is true. Serving bot traffic can slow down your website, poorly impact search engine rankings, skew marketing analytics, and may incur unnecessary costs associated with plagiarism and content theft.  

In this blog we explore four common consequences of serving bad bots on digital publishing platforms.  

Scraping and content theft 

Scraper bots are designed to continuously harvest your website for new content and updates. This could be for two major reasons:  

  • Cybercriminals looking to duplicate your content on another website 
  • Competitors looking to monitor your activity and use it to their advantage  

Both can have a negative impact on your brand, revenue, and digital rankings. 

Content theft can be particularly damaging in multiple ways. Firstly, if your content is stolen and published on another site, major search engines are likely to flag both pieces of content as duplicate content and your site is likely to face the consequences. SEO rankings may be negatively impacted, and you could see a significant decrease in traffic from genuine customers.  

Additionally, taking legal action against the site that plagiarised your work would incur additional financial costs – with no guarantee that this will stop you from being plagiarised again.  

Ad fraud  

Displaying advertisements on digital publishing platforms is a major form of revenue for these companies. For this reason, you would naturally conclude that more clicks, including those coming from bots, is better for your company.  

However, this is not always the case. If the advertisers become aware that the ads displayed on your site are being served to bots rather than genuine customers, they are likely to move their business elsewhere. They will move where their ads are more likely to be displayed to their target audience, and in turn generate more revenue. This will have a clear impact on your revenue due to loss of customers. Plus, ad and click fraud are likely to have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation, leaving your business with hefty PR repercussions.  

Finally, if a cybercriminal’s bot clicks on a Google advert, then immediately abandons the target page, this indicates to Google that the advert or link is poor quality and may affect quality score (making ads more expensive to generate clicks). 

Website performance and usability 

Serving requests to bots can slow down or even crash your website – pushing up infrastructure costs for no commercial benefit. Furthermore, studies have shown that the average customer will not wait more than two to three seconds for a page to load. If you are experiencing slow page loading times, you might also notice a drop in genuine human traffic to your website.  

Skewed web analytics 

Bot traffic can also skew your web analytics by artificially boosting visitor levels to certain areas of the site. If you use tools like Google Analytics or KISSmetrics to gauge which topics are resonating with your audience, these insights may be inaccurate and steer you in the wrong direction creatively if influenced by bot traffic. 

Although bots on digital publishing platforms may seem harmless or not damaging enough to address, they can in fact have a negative impact on your brand, revenue, and search engine rankings. For this reason, it is vital that digital publishers invest in a bot management solution to not only tackle the aforementioned issues, but to also protect against potential cybersecurity threats. 

To find out how much bots could be costing your publishing platform, visit Netacea’s new bot calculator today.


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