spam

Unbelievably Sneaky Website Google Analytics Referrer Spam

Blog Referrer Spam And Referrals In Google Analytics Account

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Having a blog or a website means Google analytics will become a way of life for you at some point. That also means watching referrers and casting out referrer spam too. We all like to know where our traffic is coming from and we all have our eyes on sites where we’d love to get loads of referral traffic from too. However, there are times when those referrers can come from places that we’d rather not be connected to at all. That statement brings us into the world of referral spam that invades and toxifies our Google analytics.

However, the reality is that referrer spam isn’t going to harm our blogs or websites, but what stinks about this kind of spam is that it bloats Google analytics with inaccurate data and drives up your blogs bounce rate.

In another post where I’ve addressed bounce rate, you want a low bounce rate and referrer spam is intentionally going to drive it up, up and up some more which is awful. For a blog, the typical bounce rate is going to place you in the neighborhood of 70-98 percent. This isn’t unusual, but let’s be honest, the higher the bounce rate is a bad sign in Google’s eyes that visitors aren’t sticking around very long because the content on the page your visitor is landing on isn’t compelling them to read any other content you may have on your blog.

With that said, beyond referral spam driving up your bounce rate and toxifying your Google analytics data, you may be wondering.. well what does referral spam look like.

Well we all know that most people are very familiar with these traditional domains: .com, .edu, .gov and.net. However there are many subdomains and spammier looking domains that are rising to the surface as well. You’ll see what I’m talking about in this screenshot of my Google analytics.

Referrer Spam Google Analytics

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Now at the time of writing this post, I had noticed some new blog traffic that I’d been getting from Russia. Well that didn’t make a lot of sense to me since I hadn’t received anything beyond a “trickle” of Russian traffic before so that was the red flag for me to look into the analytics data.

As you can see in the image, nothing really looks out of order other than the abc.xyz / referral right ? Well after doing some further digging, I came to find out that the lifehacker.com referral was not genuine either. As you can see from the screenshot, the “k” isn’t really a k. It’s more like a lopped off letter k which isn’t from the genuine lifehacker.com website. With that being the case, that is also a referral that is just taking up space in my analytics data.

I bet you noticed the reddit.com referral. It turns out that one is bogus too. Now I’ve seen referral traffic from Reddit, but not in the amount that it was saying I was getting. My analytics report was showing that reddit.com accounted for 20% of my overall traffic. Well as much as I would love for that to be the truth, the simple fact is I’m not that popular with Reddit “yet”.

It goes without saying that if something just doesn’t seem right about your traffic, you should investigate it. I look at my traffic daily. I would say borderline obsessive about it, but even if you don’t look at your website traffic as often as I do, the reality is that if you’re checking even once or twice a week, you should be able to spot changes that deviate from what is considered normal for your blog or website just as I did.

Nevertheless, I had performed a Google search about referrer spam specifically highlighting the lifehacker website and came across other people that were experiencing the same thing. Apparently, whomever this vagabond is has been likely preying on various websites online for some time now.

With that said, I want to readdress the traffic I was getting from Reddit. Let’s face it, we all know by now that Reddit is one of the most legit websites online with a massive following. So how can this kind of referrer spam get into my analytics data and actually look like it’s coming from Reddit when it isn’t ? Ghost traffic is the answer to that.

Ghost traffic is a “type” of referrer spam. In fact it’s one of the most common types. The interesting thing is that ghost traffic never actually visits your blog or website. That alone is enough to make you scratch your head in bewilderment because the visits data is still showing up in your Google analytics. The short of it is that the spammer is sending data to Google servers with a tracking code saying that they visited your blog without actually having visited it at all. Still not satisfied with that, then look no further than their spamming weapon of choice to accomplish this feat as seen in the screenshot below.

Measurement Protocol Google Analytics Tracking Developer Tool

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As seen in the image, by the bullet points that this tool was not intended to be used as a spamming tool but as stated before, building a tool like this can be done to fake visits and ultimately create referrer spam as well. We can facetiously thank Google for that one.

Nevertheless, you can filter out this kind of traffic. All you need to do is create a filter through your Google analytics account. If you haven’t done it before, no need to worry, it’s not that difficult.

In your Google Analytics dashboard, you’ll see at the very top left that there are 4 menu items:

(1) Home             (2) Reporting      (3) Customization             (4) Admin

Click on Reporting.

Once you’ve done that, now you need to click on Audience.

Then you’ll need to click on Technology, then go to Network. The image below highlights the steps I’ve just asked you to take.

Google Analytics Create A Referrer Spam Filter Step 1

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At this point, you need to find the hostname and click on it. If you haven’t looked for the hostname before, this may not stand out to you. The screenshot below should be helpful in helping you to find it.

NOTE: (Just click on the image to enlarge it. This applies to every image).

Google Analytics Create A Referrer Spam Filter Step 2 Find Hostname

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In this window, you’ll see a bunch of hostnames that should also include your blog or websites host name too with some others added to the list.

In order for you to add a filter, go to the admin panel as seen in the following screenshot and then click on “add filter”.

Google Analytics Create A Referrer Spam Filter Step 3 Admin Filter Panel

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Once you click on add filter, you’ll see another window where you’ll be adding additional information and setting options too as seen in the image screenshot below.

Google Analytics Create A Referrer Spam Filter Step 4 Admin Filter Panel Window

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Click on “custom”. Exclude will be checked automatically, but you should be sure to click on “include” instead.

Click on your filter field and click on “hostname”. Once you’ve done that, make sure that your filter pattern is your domain. It should read yourdomain\.com|anyotherdomains or subdomains in your hostname list. Where I’ve stated “yourdomain” this should be the website address of your domain without the http:// in it. For the illustrative purposes as seen in the image below I just stated my main domain.

Google Analytics Create A Referrer Spam Filter Step 5 Final Details

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Make sure you add the [all web site data] in the bottom window where it says “available view” to selected views box and then click save.

Voila, now you have created a filter for your referrer spam which if all went well should stop all the toxification coming from fake visits and traffic ruining your Google analytics data.  

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Spam Messages - The Comment Spam Stop Spam Post

Blog Comment Spam

Stop Spammers

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So in my last post, I had to get something off my chest about spam messages and spam itself. I wrote a short blurb about how spamming damages the integrity of the internet and that it's a practice that needs to stop. Someone that had viewed the blog post had remarked that spammers should go for it and SPAM, SPAM, SPAM away because it means less websites and less competition in the larger scheme of things. It means less websites to try to outrank since spammers are basically eliminating themselves from the competition. That comment led me to want to write a blog post about spam and Google since that topic alone is always worth the conversation. So with that said, I want to thank Bill for the comment that has sparked this post.

Spam Messages Comment Spam

Comment Spam Messages

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The most common type of spam is... as most of you may have guessed, blog comment spam or otherwise known as comment spam. If you've ever visited a blog that has allowed comments and I'm sure that if you're reading this and have done any surfing or browsing online, at one point or another you have come across a post that had a very thin comment (e.g. Hey, I love your website... great site... wish I would have thought of that... hey, I wrote about the same thing on my blog etc.. and the list goes on and on.. yuck !) with a very general phrase with a website link attached to it. It kind of reminds me of this joke I heard once..

OMG More Blog Comment Spam

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If someone would have served me this at dinner, I woulda sent it back !

As a blog owner, when you get these thin comments that are blatantly self serving and solely focused on getting a "backlink", that's how you feel.. it's one of those:

What the "_____".. well you can fill in the blank kind of moments.

I'm sure most bloggers feel, myself included.. that if you're going to leave a comment, at least "try" to put some effort into it. Knowing that blogs are a heavily targeted arena for backlink spamming, spammers invest time and energy into trying to infiltrate blogs for the sake of getting backlinks and the last thing they are thinking about is leaving a comment that adds value to the content that you've created on your blog.

Our only defense against this is to "moderate".

Moderation sucks for lack of a better word and it doesn't exactly excite anyone either, but it is what it is. The alternative.. that being that you would keep an "unmoderated" blog just leaves you highly vulnerable to a host of issues that you likely wouldn't run into if you're tending to the blog and filtering what is getting in. It's work, but when you invest passion, time, love and hard work into a product that means something to you, moderation doesn't seem so tedious because the benefit of such effort certainly outweighs the time that you have to invest into doing it to protect what you're building.

Comment Spam And Google

See Ya Later Blog Comment Spam

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Additionally, lets face facts.. You have a love/hate relationship with Google like the rest of us, but you'd rather have Google love you than feel any other way about you right ? None of us want any association with comment spam, because it's like being in a bad neighborhood. The fact that Google considers these links, bottom of the barrel type links means we don't want to touch these links with a 10 foot pole and as soon as we see them in our comment queues, we're quick to kill them and mark them as spam and let Google do the dirty work of hopefully and eventually de-indexing the domains from which they came for their attempts at such meaningless information degradation.

Comment Spam And Backlinks

Now I don't want to give the impression that all comments are bad either. Yes comment spam is rampant, it's all over the place and if you have a blog, popular or not, you are going to run into comment spam, but for those that are reading this and wondering how do I avoid being labeled a spammer if commenting is something that you are interested in doing regularly I would review this video question answered by Matt Cutts of the Google Webspam Team: 

The overall point that Matt is making is that if it's organic, you probably don't have anything to worry about. When it's not organic, there's probably going to be some rise for concern. We've seen this over the years, that yes, the commenting spam tactic of leaving comments on several websites through comment automation tools proved to be very effective for spammers but the golden era of comment spam, the way it has been done in the past is certainly over thanks to a more intentional focus on ridding the internet of these thin spam messages and this type of spam as well.

Spam Messages And Wordpress

WP Wordpress Stop Blog Comment Spam

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In this conversation, I didn't feel it would make any sense to not mention Wordpress since it's used so widely by a large number of bloggers. With that said, for Wordpress users, at least there is some automated relief for you. The popular Akismet spam filter can catch a lot of useless comments that frees the administrator from ever having to see it or address it with features that give you control over whether you want to automatically publish (terrible idea) or manually review comments. Manual review is always best so that you as the owner knows what is getting through and being published on your website that other visitors and fans of your content may see. However, one of the more interesting features is the ability to establish rules for comment moderation and for the blacklisting section too. Needless to say, other platforms are waiting for or should develop comment spam filtration and embed them into their respective programs as there are countless bloggers that are not hosted on Wordpress that would like to benefit from something similar too.

Spam Messages And Red Flags

Red Flag Stop Blog Comment Spam

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So in light of that, I would like to close in saying that here are some things that you should watch out for with respect to spam messages and comment spam. There is typically one theme in mind with blog spammers. That theme is typically, I'm here to get a backlink. You are not typically going to see comment spam without a link. So a good rule of thumb is to pay attention to those comments that you are getting with links.

Links that are left from places that aren't .com's. The .info website links are enough to raise suspicion for me and while there may be many of these websites that are indeed credible, I would still advise that you check them out a bit more closely to ensure their validity. Be sure to look into those posts that are "over the top" about being nice to you and then just dropping their link but haven't added anything of value to your post.

No one reads a post just to be nice and says all kinds of warm and fuzzy things and then ultimately says "nothing" about your post and then leaves a link. That screams spam to me and it should to you too. Lastly, if the comment just doesn't make any sense, chances are it was automated and that's a huge red flag too.

There are times when it's very easy to spot spam and there are times where you've got to do a little digging. This process is tedious, very effective when done manually and totally worthwhile for the healthy life of your blog and your content and certainly a headache too.

While these bad neighborhoods, comments and spammers do get penalized eventually, in the meantime, for the integrity of the web and in defense of the good credible and worthwhile information that many of us work tediously to produce, be diligent and invest the time to continue to stop spam messages and comment spam in hopes that individual efforts will lead to a better internet and web free of spam someday.

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Dr Phil Test - Can Blogs and Spam Survive Their Turbulent Marriage

Blog Comment Spam   Source

Blog Comment Spam

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None of us like SPAM ! It's akin to a bad dream or in referencing my headline.. maybe more accurately depicted.. a turbulent marriage that only the famous Dr. Phil could fix but alas the truth is the truth.. spam is just bad news. Blog and spam share a love hate relationship. Spam loves a meaningful, high traffic and decent pagerank blog and as blog owners we hate it the moment it comes into our lives for all the time, misery and headache that it creates because typically there is no easy solution to rid ourselves of it.

I read a post that suggests that blog spamming is coming to an end. Hmmmm... I'm pretty skeptical about those kind of claims. There are a fair share of individuals out there peddling these services. They sell these services for good reason.. quite simply they still work. Bear in mind that while spam is like the dirt on a boot, it can provide short term wins for the blog spammer. With this reality standing true.. the love hate relationship continues.

Granted that since the Panda algorithm update from Google back in 2011, blog spamming is not nearly as easy as it used to be with Google penalizing websites and businesses that are both  branded and unbranded. This even extended itself to so called SEO'ers that would link build using blog comment spam techniques that led to angry website owners calling them out on such tactics and even going so far as to sue such companies providing search engine optimization services.

Comments that are clearly automated.. comments that are thoughtless.. comments that ooze that who cares attitude, at least I got the link... has left a pretty nasty taste in the mouths of many. It's one of these things that you define it in more of a visual way than a literal way and when you see it... wow, does it tend to stand out like a sore thumb. Bloggers love having their own corner of the world online. Bloggers love being able to interact with a faithful base and new readers that actually read their posts and think enough of it to leave a "meaningful" comment. That's a big part of the reason why bloggers blog in the first place. Its truly a sad reality that the only reason why blog spam even became what it is was purely for the sake of a "link" via comments.

So whether or not this love hate relationship will continue and even more questionably for how much longer.. to my fellow blogger I will say this... Continue to blog and continue to add value to the audiences that come back for the answers and meaningful interactions you provide. Blog comment spam is losing the battle. Relevant and steady persistence in what we do with each post we make is winning the war.

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#candidwriter #blog #spam