Barricade the Bot: Should you Block AI bots from your website?

Trappe Digital LLC may earn commission from product clicks and purchases. Rest assured, opinions are mine or of the article’s author.

The rise of large language models like ChatGPT has sparked an important debate about whether websites should block AI access to their content.

This article discusses the pros and cons of restricting AI, with the key tension being whether restricting access limits the visibility and reach of your content or protects your business from AI that repurposes content without attribution.

Should you restrict access proactively or wait? Does blocking AI hurt or help your brand? Are attribution-providing AI models a solution?

In reality, with the AI field rapidly evolving, websites must weigh risks versus rewards regarding AI access on a case-by-case basis. Testing different approaches while monitoring AI developments can inform future decisions.

Key factors to consider include:

  • Your business model: if you get a lot of high-quality traffic from your content initiatives AI just using it without attribution is a concern. If you don’t have much content that drives anything yet the topic of blocking AI probably shouldn’t be a top priority right this second.
  • Type of content: is it easily summarized without value lost or complex expertise? This is another reason why high-quality unique thought leadership content is so important for organizations.
  • Competitive landscape: are rivals restricting AI access or are they doing something else?
  • Visibility goals: if AI scraping your content hurts your visibility blocking might be the answer. But if AI models link to you, it can also be an advantage.
  • AI landscape: are new attribution models emerging?

Many AI models don’t link

Unlike search engines which return results and links, AI models like ChatGPT generate text summaries without attribution. This means websites can lose out on backlinks, referral traffic, and branding if AI uses their content. If you don’t get the credit, what’s the point?

Read next: How technology helps business growth

Original, high-quality content remains crucial for SEO

Google’s updates reward websites with helpful, human-focused content. So, while AI poses a threat, producing great content should still be the priority. Blocking AI access could limit visibility, so websites want exposure, but not at the expense of conversions and traffic.

The AI landscape is evolving rapidly

New models launch constantly, so no single technique seems to be able to restrict them all. Consider taking a wait-and-see approach before blocking just a handful of AI models while others can still access your site.

Some AI does attribute sources

Some AI models like Perplexity and Microsoft Co-pilot do link, and I have started to see those inbound visitors tick up. Here’s how Perplexity links and credits:

how AI perplexity links

AI search on Google is also evolving quickly and links as well.

Blocking AI may become necessary over time

Websites may need to discourage AI access to protect their business if content continues being repurposed without links or credit. But for now, monitoring and waiting is what I’m going to do.

And if you drive business through your content, blocking AI is likely unwise. 

Most of the content I produce is intended to drive awareness and conversions toward selling something else. The content isn’t usually the product.

You might also consider a nuanced, tailored approach and block some pages with highly unique research or content, instead of blocking everything.

Unfortunately, to block or not to block doesn’t seem like an easy yes or no answer out of the gate. Remember when AI first came out? Some companies fired their writers because they thought AI could do all the writing. Well, that was discovered to be not the case in no time. Knee-jerk reactions can sometimes lead to much bigger mistakes down the road.

It certainly is a complex balancing act around AI and content visibility. While challenges exist, opportunity does as well if AI models properly attribute sources.

This can enhance brand exposure, not just divert traffic away.

Until consensus best practices emerge, custom AI management strategies and continued content development seem the wisest path forward for websites navigating this new landscape. Testing and adapting as the technology progresses can help strike the right balance for any given business between AI visibility benefits and attribution concerns.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Listen to my podcast