Monday, June 13, 2016

Increasing referral spam on my blog is annoying me

Introduction

The last couple of months I noticed an increasing number of strange referrals on my blog from websites like keywords-monitoring-succes and buttons-for-website. Finally it got me so curious that I visited these sites just to see what it was. These links lead me to a website from a company named Semalt that apparently provides SEO services. With a little research I discovered that this company is engaging in a activity named referral spam. Referral spam is a black hat activity to attract traffic to a certain website or to improve their ranking in Google search. Referral spam is a problem when you're analyzing the traffic on the blog because the numbers are obscured by (in my case) a high percentage of spam.

All the indicated url's are from fix-website-errors.com. Clicking on the link took me to the website of Semalt, a firm that apparently provides SEO services.

Installing Google Analytics

Blogger doesn't offer any option to fight referral spam but it is possible to install Google Analytics on Blogger (a tip that I got from David Kutchner). Google Analytics offers way more options than Stats, that is provided by Blogger. More importantly Google Analytics also offers bot filtering. The option to install Google Analytics is somewhat hidden within Blogger. After creating a Google Analytics account, an Analytics Web Property ID is provided that can be entered in the Settings/Other area of Blogger. Within Google Analytics bot filtering can be enabled under Admin/View Settings.

Analyzing the results

After using Google Analytics a week with bot filtering enabled I noticed that referral spam hasn't been blocked. In fact I now have spam that targets Google Analytics and doesn't even visit the blog.  In the image below a referral law-enforcement-bot shows up that accounts for 35% of the traffic but isn't visible in Blogger's Stats. This leads me to conclude that Google Analytics with bot filtering on isn't effective against spam. In fact it attracts spam. This makes me wonder if I'm even worse off. On the plus side Google Analytics did help me to understand the traffic to my blog better. Something that just wasn't possible with Stats from Blogger. In the weeks to come I'll decide whether I keep Google Analytics installed or just look for another solution against referral spam (e.g. Statcounter).

Traffic and its source visiting my site. Image taken from Google Analytics. Note the law-enforcement-bot that doesn't even visit my blog but targets Google Analytics.


Back to DIY everything.

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