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Blocking AI Bots: Drawbacks & Benefits

Nov. 02, 2023 | Dwight Zahringer


Dual-Edged Sword of AI Bots

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, AI bots have become ubiquitous website visitors. These bots, while often beneficial, can sometimes pose threats, making it essential for website administrators to understand their roles and implications. In our latest podcast episode, we speak deeper into this topic, offering insights and recommendations on managing AI bots effectively.

Artificial Intelligence

In today’s digital age, websites are frequently visited not just by humans but also by AI bots. While these bots can serve various purposes, from indexing web content for search engines to monitoring website health, not all come with good intentions. As SEO professionals, we are cognizant and love to watch and sculpt how any Bot crawls and indexes pages on our client’s websites. It’s fascinating and full of frustrations doing SEO for businesses, as there is only so much we can actually control.

Blocking malicious AI bots from your website can significantly enhance security, reduce unwanted traffic, and prevent potential data breaches. However, it’s essential to approach this with caution. Blocking bots indiscriminately might prevent essential services like search engines (they can communicate with one another or share reference data) from accessing your site, adversely affecting your online visibility and user experience.

Balancing security with accessibility is crucial when deciding which bots to allow and which to block.

AI Bots IP Legal

What are AI Bots?

AI bots, or artificial intelligence bots, are software programs designed to perform tasks autonomously on the internet, often mimicking human behaviors. They can execute various functions, from indexing web content for search engines to engaging in customer service interactions, and can also be programmed for more complex tasks like data analysis and decision-making.

AI bots might visit your website to index content for search engines, monitor site performance, gather data, or engage in automated interactions with web features or users.

The advantages of blocking malicious AI bots

AI bots can be both a boon and a bane. On the positive side, they help in indexing content for search engines, monitoring website performance, and automating repetitive tasks. However, malicious bots can exploit vulnerabilities, scrape content, and launch DDoS attacks. Blocking these harmful bots can offer several advantages:

  1. Enhanced Security: By preventing bots designed to find and exploit vulnerabilities, you can significantly reduce the risk of cyberattacks and unauthorized data access.
  2. Optimized Website Performance: Malicious bots can consume bandwidth and server resources. By blocking them, you ensure genuine users experience faster load times and smoother site navigation.
  3. Accurate Analytics: Bots can skew website traffic analytics. By filtering them out, you get a clearer picture of actual human engagement, helping in better decision-making.
  4. Protecting IP: unchecked indexing of a company by AI can lead to potential issues such as misrepresentation of information, data privacy breaches, and unintended exposure of sensitive content to the public.
  5. Accuracy & Changed Content: AI’s indiscriminate indexing of content can amplify and spread inaccurate or potentially defamatory information, leading to misinformation and potential harm to individuals or organizations.
Can AI Bots crawl my website?

Now for the defamation. If AI systems crawl and repurpose content from a website as answers elsewhere, there’s a risk of perpetuating defamatory or inaccurate information. Website owners must exercise caution, as disseminating incorrect content could lead to legal repercussions. The extent of the content’s reach, measured by impressions, could factor into determining potential damages, especially if the spread of such information causes irreparable harm.

Remember, you can’t control if the AI Bot will re-crawl and decide to replace or update content elsewhere if it finds it on your website.

I am sure in a few boardrooms somewhere, a group of attorneys is looking at ways to capitalize on this very thing. Makes my stomach churn.

The potential pitfalls of indiscriminate bot blocking

While blocking malicious bots is beneficial, it’s crucial to be discerning. Indiscriminate blocking can lead to unintended consequences:

  1. Reduced Online Visibility: Search engine bots, like those from Google or Bing, help index your website. Blocking them can lead to reduced or no visibility on search engine results pages, impacting organic traffic.
  2. Missed Opportunities: Some bots are designed to monitor sites for updates, like price-tracking bots or news aggregators. Blocking these can mean missing out on potential audiences or customers.
  3. New SEO Opportunities: AI search engine features, like Google BERT, can open your website’s content to new placement in Bert results, which can mean new traffic, leads, and sales.
  4. Maintenance Overhead: Continually updating and managing bot-blocking rules can become a tedious task, especially if done without a clear strategy.
AI Bots & IP Info

Google’s AI BARD

BARD (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing pre-training. Introduced by Google, BARD aims to understand the context of words in search queries better. With BARD, Google Search can better comprehend the intent behind a user’s search, allowing for more accurate search results. Google feeds BARD with vast amounts of textual data to enhance its understanding of language nuances.

From a business perspective, BARD presents an opportunity. Since it focuses on understanding search queries better, businesses that have clear, well-structured, and contextually relevant content on their websites might see improved organic traffic. It emphasizes the importance of quality content that genuinely addresses user queries and needs.

All things AI to consider

So IMO, AI bots present challenges, but they also offer opportunities. The key lies in understanding their roles, discerning the beneficial from the malicious, and implementing a balanced approach. Our recent podcast provides a more in-depth exploration of this topic, offering practical advice for website administrators.

Primary Image Source: AI Creation with deep thinking and descriptive commands.