Digital marketing comes with a lot of risks. One of those risks is getting attacked by a spambot. A spambot is a simple automated bot that attempts to locate your web form and fill in data. Most of the time the information that gets filled in by a bot is a bunch of garbage. If you have ever run a WordPress site, you are most likely familiar with comment spam. Usually, those comments are a few lines of text that are irrelevant. A spambot is super annoying, but can it actually destroy your marketing?
If you don’t follow email hygiene best practices, they might.
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Motivation for Spambot Creation
Before we jump into how damaging a spam bot can be, we need to understand why they are created. Often spambots are created as a way to grab attention; a method to automate the marketing process. In the digital marketing world, spambots exist to benefit the digital marketer. They are used infiltrate and wreak havoc in chat rooms, message boards, blogs and lead capture forms.
Let’s take a look at some of the purposes spambots are created, and how marketers benefit with these black-hat techniques:
- Lead Generation: Many bots are often designed to push contact data into web forms. This is often used by affiliate marketers because they are incentivized to generate leads. Typically, a scamming affiliate might use a scraper program to collect email addresses around the web. Then he’ll utilize a bot to push the collected data into forms to get paid for providing leads.
- Web Traffic and SEO Backlinks: It’s often that many of the spambots are created with the goal of getting users to click a link back over to a specific site. For example, the bot might go into a community message board, and auto reply on every comment with some canned messages and a link. The goal is to reach all active users and hope that people end up clicking the links. Using a bot is a black hat technique for gaining web traffic.
In addition to bots flooding chat rooms trying to click bait users, they also spam blog comments for the purpose of gaining backlinks. Some blogs are set up to allow immediate publishing of comments, and they attract more bots. The more high-quality sites linking back to your site helps you improve your page rank in Google. However, today many blogs are setup to with “no follow” meaning the link posted in the comments will not pass on link juice to the commenter.
- Site Takedown: Another popular type of bot is to attempt to take a site offline. Perhaps a competitor’s website, or a hacker who just wants to take down a site. They use a botnet, which is a network of bots. Then they connect to your server making so many requests that your site significantly slows down or even crashes.
Annoying or Destructive, You Decide
While much of what was just described sounds annoying, do you think it could be destructive to your marketing efforts? Consider how much money you have spent building up your reputation and earning customers. Don’t let a bot be the reason all your hard work falls into ruins.
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Here’s why you shouldn’t use spambots
Never think of a spambot as a shortcut. Using spambots will only land you in hot water. Throwing your links around chat rooms and blog comments are not the way to promote your brand. It will do the opposite and damage your brand reputation. Once you lose trust with your customers you may never be able to regain it.
Trying to utilize bots to build up rankings in Google may work in the short time but believe me that wave will crash. Google eventually catches on and can penalize you, or even worse, block you. This will result in the downfall of your organic web traffic. Customers will no longer locate your business in Google, and your revenues will take a serious hit.
How spambots can impact your business
Perhaps you would never use a bot to try to game Google, but your competitors might do it for you. When competitors use bots to place your link on thousands of spam-related sites, they pull down your reputation on Google so now they can climb up. This is called Negative SEO.
Bots are dangerous tools. Even if all a bot did was slow down your site, that could result in a loss of leads. According to stats posted by WebsiteBuilderExpert, 25% of consumers highly value website load time, and would abandon sites that take more than 4 seconds to load.
If you are a digital marketer, it’s likely that a lot of your business stems from email marketing. When a spam bot pushes fictitious leads to your form, it’s easy for those to fly under the radar un-noticed until it is too late. This is because the email addresses they send to you look very genuine, although they aren’t truly registered accounts. Fake data will result in hard bounces when you send out your email campaign, which can impact your IP reputation and damage your inbox deliverability.
Bots are also becoming more intelligent. They are trying to adapt to appear more human, so they can go undetected. Some bots are also designed to open and click emails, throwing off your reporting. This appears to you like your engagement rates are going up, but your sales are not increasing. The more your marketing list is saturated with bot data, the more problems you will encounter.
Ways to Prevent a Spambot attack
- CAPTCHA – one method that you can do is to using CAPTCHA on your forms. When the user goes through the registration process they will have to input a series of alphanumeric characters displayed in an image. This is a great way to by-pass bots, however, it can prove difficult for humans as well. The letters and numbers are typically hard to read because they are skewed. They are designed this way to combat bots, yet they end up frustrating users. As a digital marketer, the drawback with this method is that you could lose a lot of leads.
- Honeypots – This is a method in which you use a hidden field as bait for bots. Bots simply look for empty fields and plug-in data. However, if you use a hidden field, it is not visible to humans, yet bots are still highly likely to input data. This is a better option than CAPTCHA because it does not frustrate your users and can give you a heads up if you encounter a bot. It’s recommended that you set this up in such a way that if a hidden field is detected you do not allow your submit button to get pressed.
- Email Verification – Using email verification is another way to add a layer of security to your site. No, we’re not talking about a basic syntax check of the email address. Email validation tools such as XVerify sit on top of your form and validate the contact data during the registration process. It makes sure that the data you are collecting is legitimate by ensuring the username of an email address is a real mailbox. Because most spam bots provide you with fake data this will add a layer of protection to your forms and eliminate issues of a high hard bounce rate.
In addition to simply validating data, email verification methods check for suspicious activity, and suppress email addresses known to be high risk. If one is provided, you can then prompt a CAPTCHA request, adding a dual layer of security to prevent bots.
The Bottom Line to Bots
The bottom line is that you have the means to place up methods of defense. Bots are constantly becoming more prevalent but there are multiple ways to secure your site. If you’re still thinking whether a bot can harm your marketing, then the answer is “definitely”. Getting hit with a bot can burn up your emailing reputation and force you to rebuild it. One attack can bring down your business for hours, days, or even weeks. Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure you get your site secure.
XVerify specializes in real time email verification to eliminate hard bounces, reduce spam complaints, and prevent fraud. Don’t allow invalid data to damage your email campaign, get Xverify today.