Bot visits to websites were up 21 percent in 2013 and accounted for 61.5 percent of all Web traffic. It's an alarming statistic as bot fraud not only costs marketers billions of dollars annually, it can create trust issues between shoppers and e-commerce sites.
Specifically, 31 percent of those non-human visits came from search engines while more than 20 percent came from other impersonators.
The current findings were an update from the "Bot Traffic Report 2013," released by Incapsula last fall which stated 51 percent of all website traffic was generated by non-human entities. The report gathered data from 1.45 billion visits and 20,000 sites over a 90 day period.
A bulk of the growth in bot visits was attributed to good bots—certified agents of legitimate software—which increased from 20 percent to 31 percent in 2013. The emergence of new online services introduced new bot types into the pool. For instance, newly established SEO oriented services that crawl a site at a rate of 30 to 50 daily visits. Other good bot visits have increased because the visitation patterns of some good bots consist of reoccurring cycles.
The other 31 percent of bot traffic, not from search engines and other good bots, was generated from malicious bots including 0.5 percent spammers, 4.5 percent hacking tools, 5 percent scrapers and 20.5 percent other impersonators. These malicious bots could mean anything from the theft of content and email addresses to marketing intelligence gathering. However, spam bot activity decreased from 2 to 0.5 percent from 2012 to 2013.
"Spam comments are often interpreted by visitors in a negative manner, influencing their perception about the site, its quality and trustworthiness. This is a big problem for e-commerce websites, because trust is a major component of any business transaction. Moreover, some spam links can be used to inject malware and also expose the visitors to questionable material. In both cases, the site owner could be held responsible. Now, with much less automated spam, the e-retailers have one less thing to worry about," Igal Zeifman, product evangelist for Incapsula, told Integrated Solutions for Retailers.
So while spam activity has decreased, fraud continues to plague digital advertising. So much so that the Association of National Advertisers has begun a month-long study on tracking the campaigns of 30 advertisers with the hopes of providing data and insights so marketers can reduce bot fraud and improve ROI.
It is estimated that anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the money spent on digital advertising is wasted through bot fraud.
"Bot fraud costs marketers billions of dollars annually. Marketers must be proactive to fully understand the issue and identify solutions," Bill Duggan, ANA, group executive VP, told Integrated Solutions for Retailers. "These results will create urgency for all legitimate players in the ecosystem to work together to eliminate bots and botnets that target unsuspecting advertisers."
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