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differences between bots and real browsers

Posted on 2003-11-12
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Last Modified: 2013-12-24
For the custom reports on traffic to our site, I need to be able to determine if a hit is from bots like googlebot or from real people looking at the site.  What is the best way to do this?  I'm currently using a list of useragents that I manually mark as human or bot.  Is there a better way?
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Question by:cdillon
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14 Comments
 
LVL 9

Expert Comment

by:shooksm
ID: 9732904
The hard thing is that I can write a bot that mimics a common browser.  Here are couple of suggestions for some other filters.

Bots should look for a robots.txt on the root of your server.  You could mark any IP addresses that request for a robots.txt as being a bot.

You could set a threshold of what percent of a site has been viewed.  Your average users are going to go to the page or quickly click to the piece of information they want then leave.  For a site with 100 pages, I highly doubt someone who has viewed 75 of those pages in one session is a real person.

You can cross off strange requests or vunerability checks as bots too.  For instance the common check to see if the cmd.com is accessible.

Just a couple of ideas.  Although I think your current method will work for the majority of requests.
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:cheekycj
ID: 9740328
Alot of bots/spiders will have their Identity along side the browser like this:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; FastCrawler3, support-fastcrawler3@fast.no)


A good ref:
http://www.psychedelix.com/agents1.html

How are you tracking the reports or parsing yoru logs?

CJ
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LVL 3

Author Comment

by:cdillon
ID: 9740378
We screen out bots that have their identity stated in the browser string.  The problem is that the list is changing/growing and then when a new bot finds our site, the reports suddenly show many more hits.
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:cheekycj
ID: 9740434
how are you screening them?  Is it inclusive or exclusive?

CJ
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LVL 3

Author Comment

by:cdillon
ID: 9740516
We exclude browsers which have a user_agent with the words googlebot or scooter or ask jeeves or ....
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:cheekycj
ID: 9740868
Instead of excluding those, why not have an inclusive list of tracked browsers.  New browsers can easily be added, but it allows for you to account for any of the new bots without needing to keep track of them.

CJ
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LVL 3

Author Comment

by:cdillon
ID: 9741002
Every toolbar adds it's own portion to the browser, so do site providers and others.  I started keeping track and so far we've had over 10,000 distinct browsers looking at our site.  It's not very handy to have to determine if every new browser is bot or not.
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:cheekycj
ID: 9773412
10,000 distinct browsers - does that include the bots?  Or are you saying that legit browsers have over 10K variations.

CJ
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LVL 3

Author Comment

by:cdillon
ID: 9773774
mostly legit browsers and some bots mixed in.  By distinct browsers, I mean that the cgi.user_agent string is different.
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:cheekycj
ID: 9773807
this is a tough one.  you should be able to look through history and find a robust set of CGI.user_agent strings that you want to track.  And go with that.  Being comprehensive would be very difficult.

CJ
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LVL 3

Author Comment

by:cdillon
ID: 10986176
I recommend point refund.
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modulo earned 0 total points
ID: 11052448
PAQed, with points refunded (500)

modulo
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