Should You Block AI Bots?

亨利·達爾齊爾 | SEO香港專業人士

As a professional SEO in Hong Kong, I have to make a lot of decisions on clients’ websites that can have a lot of implications for the bottom line. One of the concerns I often hear relates to whether we, as SEOs, should be blocking AI Bots (and AI Crawlers) from scraping content that can be used without us benefitting.

In this post, let us take a look at the pros and cons of bot-blocking.

Quick Overview

It is commonplace for AI bots to be crawling websites in search of data in this age of digital technology.

To train artificial intelligence models, these bots, which include GPTBot, CCBot,Google-Extended, are extremely helpful because they collect large volumes of information from the internet.

On the other hand, the topic of whether or not to prevent these artificial intelligence bots from accessing the content of websites has caused a substantial dispute among website owners and digital marketing specialists.

The advantages and disadvantages of bot blocking are discussed in depth in this article, which also includes supplementary observations and data to provide a full picture.

Pros of Blocking AI Bots

  1. Protection of Intellectual Property: One of the primary advantages of blocking AI bots is the safeguarding of intellectual property. Unauthorized scraping of website content can lead to the misuse of proprietary information. A study by Distil Networks revealed that web scraping costs businesses approximately $3.6 billion annually, highlighting the financial impact of not protecting content.
  2. Server Load Optimization: AI bots can significantly increase server load, leading to slower website performance and a degraded user experience. By blocking unnecessary bots, websites can ensure more resources are available for real user traffic, thus improving site speed and performance metrics.
  3. Enhanced Content Control: Blocking bots allows website owners to maintain complete control over their content, deciding who can access and use their information. This control is crucial for businesses that rely on unique content to stand out in their industry.
  4. Prevention of Misleading Associations: AI models can sometimes misinterpret or misuse content, leading to unwanted associations. Blocking bots reduces the risk of a brand’s content being associated with inappropriate or misleading information.

Cons of Blocking AI Bots

  1. Limitations on AI Model Training: AI models require vast amounts of data to learn and improve. Blocking bots can limit the availability of data, potentially hindering the development of more sophisticated and accurate AI technologies. This limitation can have a ripple effect, slowing progress in AI research and applications.
  2. Impact on Website Visibility and SEO: Search engine bots, which are a type of AI bot, play a crucial role in indexing and ranking websites. Blocking these bots can negatively affect a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), leading to decreased traffic and potential revenue loss. Crawlability is a fundamental aspect of a website’s SEO performance, emphasizing the importance of allowing search engine bots to access site content.
  3. Reduced Opportunities for Collaboration: AI research and development often rely on access to diverse data sets. By blocking bots, websites may miss out on potential collaborations with AI researchers or institutions, which could lead to innovations or improvements in AI technologies that benefit the broader community.
  4. Unintentional Blocking of Beneficial Bots: The process of blocking bots can sometimes lead to the accidental exclusion of beneficial bots, such as those used for analytics or market research. This unintended consequence can deprive website owners of valuable insights into user behavior and market trends.

Conclusion: An SEO Perspective

From an SEO perspective, the choice to prohibit or enable AI bots should be taken after careful assessment of the website’s objectives and the potential influence on search visibility. While protecting intellectual property and reducing server load are legitimate considerations, the detrimental effects of bot blocking on SEO should not be underestimated. Search engines rely on bots to crawl and index information, which is required for it to appear in search results and draw organic visitors.

How To Block ChatGPT, i.e. GPTBot?

Here’s how. Simply copy and paste this into your robots.txt file. This will prevent ChatGPT, OpenAI from crawling your site.

User-agent: GPTBot
Disallow: /

Furthermore, as search algorithms evolve to incorporate AI and machine learning, collaboration with AI technology becomes increasingly important for SEO success. Websites that strike a balance between preserving their content and enabling useful bots to visit their site are more likely to succeed in the long term.

Finally, while there are advantages and disadvantages to restricting AI bots, the decision should be based on a strategic approach to SEO. Protecting content and preserving website performance are vital, but so is maintaining presence and relevance in a constantly evolving search engine market. Balancing these characteristics will be critical to long-term success in the digital space.