Today, we are living in the era of the Fake Web, where a large portion of the internet is made up of malicious scrapers, spam bots, suspicious human users and other bad actors. It seems like every day there is a “breaking news” story about another company falling victim to a data breach, customer information being leaked or servers being hacked.
Historically, these cyber threats were handled exclusively by the chief information security officer or the IT department. However, in recent years search marketers have begun to notice how bots and fake users harm their efforts. When fake traffic makes its way to a company’s website, it can damage a brand’s online reputation and ultimately hinder the effectiveness of paid and non-paid marketing campaigns. Throughout this article, we will cover three specific ways search marketers are impacted.
1. Page rank is penalized.
Malicious scrapers frequently arrive on websites to scan for information and extract data or content to use elsewhere. Because of this, the way they navigate throughout a website appears more erratic than typical human behavior. Bots tend to jump from page to page, rapidly click on various modules, and exit quickly once they have stolen the information they were looking for. Because of the nature of these actions, these harmful automation tools can have much higher bounce rates and shorter time on each page than a standard user. Furthermore, because the end-game of a scraper is often to duplicate content or data somewhere else on the internet, they can also lead search engines to believe that the original content is actually duplicate content. When this type of activity is factored into the overall user behavior on a given website, it can reduce page rank and leave search marketers frustrated and confused.
2. Site speed slows down.
Site speed is also largely impacted by various types of bots and fake users. When malicious bots arrive on a website, they often preoccupy servers with high volumes of requests within short periods. This can overwhelm a website and make the experience slower and more difficult for legitimate human users. Slow website speeds then also harm the website’s ability to rank highly on SERPs, which can be devastating for search marketing key metrics. Additionally, when search rankings drop, the website becomes more difficult for potential customers to find and businesses may begin to lose those customers to competitors and alternative solutions.
3. Keyword strategy is misinformed.
Both SEO and PPC marketers habitually perform keyword research before launching a new initiative or campaign. However, since bots and malicious human users frequently click on both paid and organic links at a large scale, marketers might misunderstand which keywords are actually the best performing. For example, high click-through rates on a given keyword are typically seen as a positive indicator – but if a high percentage of those clicks came from bad actors, the marketer should probably avoid that keyword. The presence of malicious traffic can cause implementation of misguided strategies, which will continue to harm the business’s overall ability to drive quality traffic to the site.
Trying to run an effective marketing operation in the era of the Fake Web can be intimidating at times. Still, the good news is that many organizations are beginning to fight back against malicious traffic. Today, more businesses are starting to implement go-to-market Security technology which can help mitigate these risks and allow marketers to focus on what they do best.