What Are Bots? How to Protect Your Hospital Website Against Malicious Intruders

Internet bots. Bot traffic. Web bots… or simply “bots.” You’ve seen these words in articles and heard these terms used by web professionals in relation to your hospital’s website. But, realistically, you’re probably unclear how they relate to you. Are they good? Bad? Do they help or hurt you? And how do you keep them off your website if they’re hurting you?

Sorting out the truth from the never-ending list of myths might be a challenge! But understanding how bots impact your hospital’s website is essential to your digital marketing strategy. So, today we’ll answer the question “What are bots?” and discuss steps you can take to protect your website

What Are Bots?

Basically, bots are virtual applications that carry out automated tasks, like crawling web pages and gathering information from across the internet. Bots and bot traffic get a bad rap when used to cause damage, but search engines wouldn’t work at all without using bots. In reality, bots themselves are neither good nor bad. The intention behind their use is the real issue.

Google uses bots to retrieve data from websites and accurately rank them on the search engine results page (SERP). So sometimes, bots are good. But when they’re not, bots can wreak havoc on your site. Welcoming the good and deterring the bad bots from running amok on your hospital’s website is a must in today’s digital world. 

What Dangers Do Bots Create?

Like any other piece of code, bots are created to carry out functions specified by the programmer. And what we call “bad” bots are created for malicious reasons and can perform harmful functions. They harvest data, steal content, or get users to visit sites infected with malware. Bots work in different ways and pose different kinds of threats to your website based on their programmed purpose. Knowing what to be aware of is essential. 

Scraper bots, one of the most common types of bad bots, compromise your hospital website privacy by scanning your site to harvest, or “scrape,” information. Some scraper bots look for email addresses to send spam mail to. Others download your website’s content so bad actors can use it for themselves. 

Comment spam bots mainly lure visitors from your website to their own (often dangerous) site. They accomplish this by posting ads or links anywhere they can on your website or social media pages. 

Botnets, meanwhile, are used to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against a site. These attacks flood a site with artificial traffic, which can cause the site to slow down or even crash.1 Although this strategy is typically only deployed against well-known sites that will generate media coverage, protecting your health system website against DDoS attacks is crucial to creating positive experiences for your real visitors. 

How To Protect Your Hospital’s Website From Bots

As you can see, bad bots are bad news. With such a range of bots out there trying to do your site harm, what can you do? The good news is that while there are plenty of unscrupulous people using bots, there are also security experts designing powerful tools to keep your website safe and running smoothly. With these tools and a few precautions, you can defend your site—and provide users a safe and satisfactory experience

1. Use Google Analytics to Track Bots

The first line of defense against bots is identifying when your site is receiving bot traffic. Google Analytics is a great tool for this task, because bots try to imitate human traffic. By analyzing your hospital website’s traffic patterns, Google Analytics spots suspicious patterns, like sudden spikes in visits or repetitive actions. Monitoring metrics like bounce rates, session duration, and the source of traffic also helps differentiate human visitors from bots.

2. Block Bots with Plugins

Plugins can play a crucial role in safeguarding your hospital’s site from bot traffic. Specialized security plugins actively identify and block suspicious IP addresses or known bot patterns, preventing them from accessing your site. 

Some plugins automatically block bad bots while others offer customizable settings. You control the parameters of the plugin by setting rules and filters tailored to your specific needs. Some plugins integrate with databases of known bots and are maintained by security experts to keep you safe from emerging threats. This type of plugin fortifies your hospital’ website’s defenses and provides a positive user experience for genuine visitors.2

3. Keep Your Website Up to Date

One more important protection for your hospital’s site is to frequently update your plugins. Outdated software lacks the newest security features, exposing your site as a prime target for bot attacks. Staying current with updates ensures your website remains resilient, reducing the risk of unauthorized bot access and potential damage to your hospital’s online presence.3

An experienced hospital digital marketing agency can help you protect your website from bad bots. Call us at 888.307.7304 to schedule a discovery call and learn more about how our hospital digital marketing services can help you keep your website safe.



For a list of references, please contact us.