You may not know it, but your computer could be part of a bot farm right now. Thousands of computers are infected with malware every year simply so that they can become part of one.
Bot farms are not only a scourge on computer owners but websites and advertisers everywhere. But what are bot farms, exactly? First, let’s take a look at what bot farms are and how malicious agents use them. We’ll also talk about how you can protect your business from its impact.
An Introduction to Bot Farms
The term bot stands for robot. Bots are often hijacked computers running automated scripts sent by a controller. Computer networks can run these scripts and perform actions far faster than a human could. However, they also need to rely on many computers since thousands of clicks from a single device would look suspicious.
What Harm Can Bot Farms Cause You?
Bot farms are often used to commit click fraud. Bots will be used to simulate activity and perform clicks. This may be an ad on the website or a call to action button. The goal of click fraud is to trick the site, app, or ad into thinking that it has been triggered. Of course, if you’re paying for those ads on a per-click basis, you’re losing money.
Some scammers use bots to generate clicks to increase the amount they’re paid for hosting the ads. One of your rivals could also use bot farms to click your ads and drain your advertising budget.
Sometimes click fraud is used to increase the ranking of malicious websites since search engines use the clicks to measure interest in the site. Your competitors could use click farms to do just this to increase their rankings in internet searches. It is also common for someone to hire such a service to hit “like” on an article or follow a social media account to increase its reach.
If you have digital ads, odds are you’ve been hit by click fraud, though you may not know it. One study suggested that half of all internet traffic was due to bots. This doesn’t just skew traffic data. If you want to learn more about bot farms and click fraud, Clickguard has an excellent piece on the impact of bot farms on PPC. It explains how bot farms are predicted to cost PPC advertisers more than 7 billion dollars in 2020 alone. It also explains some of the steps you can take to protect yourself from bot farms.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Bot Farms?
The first thing you should do to protect yourself from bot farms is understanding how being attacked by one will affect your data. Signs bot farms are attacking you include an unexpected spike in click-through rates, high bounce rates, or spikes in website traffic you can’t explain.
In the most basic cases, you can block traffic coming from a single IP address. There are also tools you can use to identify click fraud and then mitigate it. This involves blocking bot traffic and invalid clicks. For example, a user will be flagged and likely blocked if their activity is suspicious, such as when all they do is click on ads on a web page. Search engines are also doing their part by using machine learning to filter out a bot-related activity on advertisements, followed by a manual review process.
Businesses shouldn’t engage in click fraud, even if they think it will help their search engine or social media marketing. Know how to recognize and stop it so it doesn’t undermine your digital marketing efforts.