Noticed a Spike in Website Visits Recently?

referral spam

Have you looked at your Google Analytics reports lately?

If not – I suggest you do so, because they contain a wealth of useful information about your website and website visitors. You can use this information to plan content, traffic strategies, reveal visitor demographics, track conversions, see keywords, conduct experiments and track which sites are referring traffic to your site – to name just a few of the great things you can do.

If you have – and you’ve noticed a jump in traffic, don’t get excited. It’s probably spam. And it’s very annoying and hard to get rid of.

What is Referral Spam?

Over the last months, thousands of Google Analytics accounts had been hit by a massive wave of spam, affecting the quality of the data and in some cases leaving the reports useless for any analysis. Spam referrals have actually been around for a couple of years, but only reached epidemic levels in 2015.

Referrer spam is a way to pass fake referrer information to websites. As far as I can determine – there’s two reasons why these spammers are doing this:

  1. To attract visits to their websites –These spammy links appear in your analytics reports and can lead you to click on them to see what they are. You will more than likely be bombarded by ads or worse: malware, sneaky affiliate redirects, etc.  Some of them will try to sell you their crappy online marketing services.
  2. Improve their SEO. Sites that publish their access logs, including referrer statistics, will inadvertently link back to the spammer’s site. These links will be indexed by search engines as they crawl the access logs. This benefits the spammer because the free link improves the spammer site’s search engine (SEO) ranking owing to link-counting algorithms that search engines use.

How Does it Affect You?

Because the referral visits are actually fake – they’re showing up in Google Analytics but are not actually visiting your website – they are not harming your website or your SEO ranking. But, it is a problem for these reasons:

  • It wastes your time and is very annoying, just like email spam.
  • It pollutes your Google Analytics stats and skews your metrics and makes it hard to analyse true results
  • See benefits for spammers and potential harm for you, above.
Google anlaytics screenshot of spam referrals

On this website – 37% of top 10 traffic sources are from spam referrers, pushing the bounce rate up high and skewing the stats. Spam traffic is shown on lines 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9.

How to Get Rid of Spam Referrers?

There’s no easy one answer. We’ve done a lot of research into this, and there’s many “expert” remedies provided on technical forums and blogposts. Some do not work at all.

Because these spammers employ several types of spam traffic systems, the solution lies in using several blocking techniques, including hostname and other types of filters, altering the .htaccess file and using the right security plugins.

Referrer spam is getting worse day by day and Google has not yet come up with a way to stop it. Until they do website owners are forced to manage this avalanche themselves.

Our Spam Referral Blocking Service

We provide an ongoing spam referral blocking service for our hosting customers. It involves keeping up to date with the latest list of spammer, monitoring your Google Analytics account twice a month, and updating your filters and .htaccess file to block the latest spammers.

You don’t need to be a current hosting customer to use our service, but it’s better value for you if you do transfer your hosting to us because we also include a full website backup and full wordpress plugin updates in the low monthly fee. Additional email database marketing bundling options available too. Check out our Referral Blocking and hosting service here or click below.

spam referral blocking service

If you have any questions about referral spam or hosting in general – please don’t hesitate to drop us a line or pick up the phone – 1300 554 495. We’re here to help.

Annette Welsford

Hi there. My passion is to mentor business owners on how to think differently, how to create helpful and effective marketing, and how to build a tribe of loyal customers and advocates. I'm privileged to have a wonderfully talented team at Commonsense Marketing who create and execute beautiful websites, engaging social media campaigns, and fantastic email campaigns that deliver great results for our clients. And it's wonderful that many of them have said lots of nice things about the work we’ve done (see our case studies). We love to work with the owners and teams of small to medium sized business who are motivated to become the best in their niche and achieve more than they ever thought possible.

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