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The Lasting Damage Bots & Fake Content Services Do to Business

Bots & Fake Content Services Can Harm Business

Automation is one of the biggest buzzwords in business today—but not all automation is about making life easier for the exhausted office worker. In today's digital spaces, automation can be a source of concern and even a threat to a company's investment in content services and its bottom line.

Bad bots aren't the only ones running rampant on today's web. So too are "black hat" marketers who are ready to do anything to help their clients get ahead of the curve—even if that means lying to the general public. According to one analysis by the World Economic Forum, at least 4% of all online reviews are fake, leading to more than $100 billion in spending.

It's not hard for a business to go out and find potential partners offering to create and share fake reviews for your products on popular websites. Likewise, "bots as a service" for a diverse range of anti-competitive practices are available far and wide.

Is it tempting to resort to methods that promise to give your business a quick boost at a cheap price point? Of course—but the reality makes such investments unwise. While it can seem like the easier route (and everybody's doing it, right?), bots and fake reviews are frankly harmful to business. Here's why.

Fake Reviews Undermine Consumer Confidence

Reviews are a critical part of the online buying journey for many shoppers—that's why they became such a focus for marketing. Everyone wants to do their own research before buying a product, and seeing what other people think is the easiest way to do that. Traditionally, reviews have been one of the strongest forms of social proof a business can use.

Not so much now. Based on research by Sift, 85% of surveyed users said they believed the reviews they read online weren't legitimate. Nearly half of respondents said they would abandon a brand that influenced them to purchase with a fake review.

Perpetuating fake reviews locks businesses into a vicious cycle. Not only does it become harder to be a clear signal of quality amidst the noise, but it contributes to the continuous deterioration of consumer confidence. If so many people already mistrust reviews, how much longer before they have no value?

Authenticity matters to consumers and dishonest reviews make the marketplace more challenging for everyone.

Bad Bots Pose a Real Threat to Digital Business

Think about how much time and effort it takes to craft effective SEO today so you can escape low SERP rankings. Now, imagine an unthinking robot ruining that effort—at the behest of your competitors. It's not the latest episode of a dystopian sci-fi show: it's the reality facing businesses enduring today's onslaught of bad bots.

Malicious competitors can unleash bots to employ a wide range of nefarious techniques, but price scraping and content theft are the most common. Price scraping affects ecommerce websites. Bots trawl through your entire catalog, grabbing price data and reporting it back—so your competitors can undercut you. The heavy traffic caused by automatic scraping can also impact your site’s performance.

Content theft is the bane of marketers and business owners alike. Because search engines penalize websites for hosting duplicated or plagiarized content, some may send out bots to copy your carefully-written copy. That content is republished on throwaway sites, potentially dinging your own rankings. When you invest in content services, you’re paying for originality and value—both aspects that bots can disrupt.

What the Future May Hold for Bots and Fake Content

Fighting back isn't easy, but there are tools to protect your business and rebuild consumer confidence. New services providing verified, vetted reviews have begun to impact the ecommerce space. Anti-bot techniques and software also exist to protect against content and price scraping.

Not all bots are bad. Ecommerce websites and service providers alike have already used chatbot software for years to provide a human-like customer service interface, and those applications will continue to improve. Making investments in the right bots—and reaching out to your customers to provide verifiable social proof—will pay off in the long run.

Instead of turning to techniques that ultimately harm everyone, look towards the tried-and-true solutions. Success is still possible without bending and breaking the rules, from good web design to a consistent and quality output from your content services.