We’ve been experiencing a social bot pandemic for at least a decade, according to the Association for Computing Machinery. Every popular social media network is flooded with automated bots spreading questionable information of all kind.
We don’t yet have a reliable measurement of exactly how widespread of an issue it is, but experts agree that it’s a major issue. Analysts determined that social bots made up between 9 and 15% of all Twitter users in 2017, however. That means that slightly more than one out of every 10 people you interact with online could be a bot.
Which is why bot detection is so important.
As marketers, we need to figure out a way to eliminate all this line noise if we want our marketing materials to be able to function. Marketing bots mess with our marketing metrics, making it impossible to get real, actionable marketing data.
The marketing information we infer from this marketing data is then inaccurate. It also messes up our marketing ROI and engagement statistics.
If you’re using social media for marketing, it’s imperative that you have a bot detection solution in place. To help you get started and find the right solution, here’s what you need to know about bot detection.
What Is A Bot?
Let’s start with the basic. Understanding what a bot is goes a long way towards understanding how to detect them.
A bot is a nickname for an automated program that performs a specific function. These can often be powered by sophisticated AI, making them surprisingly difficult to discern from real people.
This is made even trickier by the reality that we interact with bots every day. They’re everywhere. Chatbots are virtually omnipresent on websites and eCommerce platforms. They’re probably even maintaining and monitoring plenty of social media accounts.
This is something else that makes bot detection such a delicate science. You need to figure out how to differentiate between good bots and bad bots, or risk setting off false positives and skewing your marketing data even further.
Identifying Invalid Traffic
The concept of “invalid traffic” lays the question of what’s a good bot and what’s a bad bot to rest. It’s a marketing term that means a lead that can’t be converted from leads to customers. Invalid traffic generally falls into two main categories.
General invalid traffic (GIVT) is generally considered the simplest bots which are easy to detect. GIVT isn’t meant to try and evade bot detection, as they’re just simple programs that are cheap and easy to produce. They’re still prevalent on all walks of the internet, though.
Sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) is meant to evade bot detection. It employs more advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning to evade simplistic bot detection efforts. They might emulate the way a human interacts with a website, for instance, thus throwing off its metrics.
Any marketing data produced out of such an interaction would be rendered useless, as well.
There can be botnets, as well, which are networks of bots run towards a specific purpose. Botnets are often rolled out during election cycles or during cybercriminal activities like DDoS attacks.
The Basics of Bot Detection
Bots have become quite advanced in the last decade. We could fill volumes talking about all the different kind of bots that exist and some of their common behavior. Instead, we’ll focus on a few things you can do to help make your marketing channels bot-proof.
Identify Common Bot Behavior
No matter how sophisticated they are, bots tend to leave tell-tale signs. Learning how to identify these signs is a major part of bot detection.
One example of common bot behavior is a spike in clicks on a marketing link without a corresponding uptick in conversions or leads. Another is a rash of comments on your blog posts or social media content, often advertising spammy links.
A drop in traffic to your website is another sign you’re being targeted by bots, as well, especially if there haven’t been any major Google updates. This could be a sign that your website is being targeted by low-quality backlinks and your search engine rankings are taking a hit, as a result.
A surge in identical content is another sign you’re being targeted by bots.
Computers don’t see websites the way that people do. Computers see the code while people see what’s displayed on the page.
This means you can hide forms on your website that people can’t see but bots will. Any bot that fills out one of these forms can be added to your bot detection list.
Use CAPCHA and ReCAPCHA
CAPCHA and ReCAPCHA are two of the most common and long-standing bot detection tools out there. Unfortunately, since they’ve been around for so long, there are plenty of ways to get around them at this point.
CAPCHA and ReCAPCHA can safeguard your system against the most rudimentary bots, though. It’s a good idea to have these tools as part of your bot detection network.
Use Verification Emails to Validate New Leads
This is a good idea to have in place, anyway. Sending a verification email to ensure that someone signed up to receive communication from you is one of the simplest ways to deter bots. It’s also just good customer service.
Bot detection is only going to keep getting more difficult – and more sophisticated. It’s absolutely imperative you put a bot detection system in place now before AI and ML gets any more advanced. That way you can make sure you can trust your marketing data.
Looking for Verified Leads?
Getting real, actionable leads that result in actual conversions on the internet is challenging. It’s a challenge worth taking, though, as it opens you up to a massive global audience of potential new customers and clients.
If you’re ready to find out how modern tools like bot detection and lead generation on demand can take your business to the next level, contact us today with any questions or to set up a consultation!