Spam Referrers Are The Worst

So, you’ve got your lovely new website set up, it’s doing well and everyone is happy. Then one day, you are checking your website reports in Google Analytics and you notice something odd: A huge spike in visitor numbers! What brilliant news! People have started noticing what an amazing product and website you have! Time to pop that champagne (ok, prosecco) cork, right?

Not necessarily.

Not All Visitors Are Good Visitors

If the spike in visitors has the following characteristics:

  • A 100% bounce rate - i.e. the “visitor” is landing on one page and then leaving from the same page rather than having a look around your site
  • A weird, spammy sounding URLs like seo-solutions-websites.com

Then unfortunately these are not real money-flashing humans, desperate to buy up all your stock. Instead they are... SPAM REFERRERS! And they really are the worst.

What Are Spam Referrers And Why Are They Bothering Me?

Spam referrers have one aim in life: they want their horrible piece-of-garbage website to rank well in the SERPs (that’s Search Engine Ranking Positions) in order to snag advertising revenue, and they want to do this by fooling Google into thinking they are a legitimate website.

They do this by sending spam bots out into the internet, generating traffic to websites such as yours. You then see all these new URLs in your reports and click on them - generating traffic back to their websites, and making Google think “Hey! This website is popular! Better push it up the SERPs!”

The Technical Bit…

Bots are everywhere on the internet, and they can be good news and bad news. Bots are programs that crawl the web, looking for particular information or performing simple, repetitive actions. Many bots are useful - Googlebots, for example, are sent out by the world’s most popular search engine to help decide where websites should be placed in the search results. You want Googlebots to come visiting - and I can make sure that your website is fully visible to them.

However, some bots are terrible. Spambots in particular are a threat to the integrity of your data and they are bad news for search engines as well. Their only joy in life is to manipulate search engine results, therefore compromising the integrity of the web. Spam bots crawl thousands, if not millions, of websites a day, visiting sites and making sure that their referrer header (i.e. the URL of their dodgy website) is visible in the server log of your website.

If your server log is in the public domain then you will also inadvertently be creating a link to their site, effectively telling Google “Yep, this site is fine - look, I’m linking to it!” and Google, albeit briefly, will push the spammy website up the SERPs and the website’s owner will rake in some more cash via advertising. Seriously, I cannot overstate how much I hate these guys.

So You Think You’ve Been Spammed: What Next?

Whatever you do, do not click on the dodgy sounding URL that has suddenly appeared at the top of your reports. That drives actual human traffic to the website as well as creating a link, giving Google an even clearer sign that this is a good website that should be rewarded. Repeat after me: We Do Not Reward Spam Referrers.

Not all spam referrers are the same, and different methods can be used to defeat them. Often, a simple filter in Google Analytics will work, and GA provide a simple guide on how to do this. If the spam referrer is more complicated in nature, or you would rather keep your hands clean, then get in touch and I’ll sort it out for you.

Find this useful? You’ll find tips from this article and others like it that I’ve collected into a free PDF guide to Google Analytics, which you can access right here.