A week after we launched Paula Gould’s new website for her photography business that involves children and babies, she called in a panicky voice. Why was she getting referrals from a porn site?
Paula was right where spammers wanted her. In her panic, she would click the link to see what this was about. There wouldn’t be an answer, though. No reference to her site or any of her photos. Another case of web crawler referrer spam!
In the past year or so, we have seen a big increase in this annoying trend, also known as referrer bombing or spamdexing (spam aimed at search engines). Pay attention, because this trend will throw off your Google Analytics results, and I’ll share some ways to keep that from happening.
You’ve Got Referrer Spam
A spammer makes repeated automated requests to thousands of websites, leaving a fake referring URL that leads to a site that the spammer wants to advertise. The spammer wants curious site owners like Paula to visit the site. It’s all about building traffic numbers back to their sites, or selling something, or referring to yet another site where any purchase is credited to the spammer. Wherever you end up when you click, an actual reference to your website doesn’t exist. The whole thing is a ploy.
Because each fake referral counts as a visit to your site, your site visits inflate. Your time on site lowers artificially, and your bounce rate gets higher because fake referrers don’t stay on your site. They’re gone before visiting any of your other pages.
Luckily, new methods block these referrers at the level of the servers. Unluckily, spammers can dodge this with another sneaky tool. They simply hijack your analytics code so that a hit goes right to your Google results. These stealthy spam hits are called ghost referrers because you won’t see their URLs on your site. The crawler referrer visits the site; the ghost referrer does not.
What to do about all of this?
Two simple responses will thwart most of these fakers.
First, block the major offender URLs of the crawler referrers from ever referring to your website. You can do this by adding code to your .htaccess file. If you are not comfortable with changing code on your website—or don’t want to have to continually go in and update spam URLs—use my friend Mickey Mellen’s WordPress plugin called GM Block Bots. Simply upload and activate, and you’re good to go.
GM Block Bots blocks these URLs:
100dollars-seo.com, 4webmasters.org, 7makemoneyonline.com, adviceforum.info, aliexpress.com, anticrawler.org, avtlg.ru, bashtel.ru, best-seo-offer.com, best-seo-solution.com, bestsub.com, bestwebsitesawards.com, blackhatworth.com, buttons-for-website.com, buttons-for-your-website.com, buy-cheap-online.info, chinese-amezon.com, clicksor.com, corbina.ru, darodar.com, depositfiles-porn.ga, domination.ml, e-buyeasy.com, econom.co, erot.co, ertelecom.ru, event-tracking.com, floating-share-buttons.com, free-share-buttons.com, free-social-buttons.com, get-free-social-traffic.com, get-free-traffic-now.com, googlsucks.com, guardlink.com, guardlink.org, hol.es, hongfanji.com, howtostopreferralspam.eu, hulfingtonpost.com, ilovevitaly.co/com, is74.ru, kabbalah-red-bracelets.com, kambasoft.com, kes.ru, makemoneyonline.com, mts.ru, mts-nn.ru, nationalcablenetworks.ru, netbynet.ru, o-o-6-o-o.com, pornhub-forum.ga, priceg.com, ranksonic.org/info, sanjosestartups.com, sashagreyblog.ga, savetubevideo.com, search.myway.com, search.tb.ask.com, semalt.com, sexyali.com, simple-share-buttons.com, sitequest.ru, social-buttons.com, success-seo.com, theguardlan.com, torture.ml, traffic2money.com, trafficmonetizer.net, uni.me, videos-for-your-business.com, webmonetizer.net, wow.com, youporn-forum.ga
Tackling ghost referrers involves setting up filters on your Google Analytics account so that your results are from legitimate URLs. With a valid hostname filter, fakers cannot provide stats to your account. To learn how to set up these important and helpful filters, check out Mickey’s video on his site. He walks you through the process to stop all of the ghost spam, whatever form it takes.
What to expect
Be prepared for a drop in your web traffic. Sad but true. If you were getting a lot of referrer spam, your visits will plummet. On the bright side, your bounce rate will go up, as will time on your site. Go ahead and bite the bullet and take care of these fakers.
Spammers will always be looking for new a creative ways to get traffic back to their sites. This is a fact of life. By staying vigilant and keeping up with the best ways of thwarting them, you will preserve your most accurate stat results.