You’re stoked – Google Analytics is reporting your traffic is UP! Hooray, you’re doing something right and getting the attention of web searchers! Then you discover that most of the reported referrals in your Google Analytics report are from pages called Semalt, Buttons For Website, I Love Vitality, Darodar, See Your Website Here and others like them. Something doesn’t quite add up. So, you go to these sites to see what fabulous mentions have been made of your brand and products – but all you find is an SEO company. What is going on? What do referrals from Semalt and sites like Buttons For Website mean for your business?
What is Semalt and why are they coming to your website?
Semalt is an (unspectacular) SEO tool that crawls websites and analyses data. It’s nothing special, there are a million similar tools around. The difference with Semalt is that it’s using a cutting edge way to attract customers and traffic – crawl spam. By clicking through to Semalt to see where your Google Analytics referrals are coming from, you see their product. It’s the worst kind of advertising and it’s rife online right now.
Buttons For Website, Darodar, See Your Website Here and other
Darodar, Econom, IloveVitality, See Your Website Here, Buttons For Website – these are all referral spam domains like Semalt but they operate without the hassle of creating a tool to sell. They use the traffic coming through to act as an affiliate for other websites; click a link on the Buttons For Website page and they get a ‘kickback’ from the advertiser. You make them money by visiting and then hunting around for your referring link.
The sites mentioned here are just a few of the worst offenders; there are thousands of these spam crawlers popping up. Just as Google shoots one down, another one emerges. If you’re seeing a spike in referral traffic in your Google Analytics Acquisition Report from places you don’t recognise, you may be a victim of these spammers.
Why do I need to care about these referrals?
The biggest issue with spammy referral traffic is that it distorts your actual Google Analytics data. You will find it much harder to understand and analyse your Google Analytics acquisitions if you have to fight data from spammers. They also use up your server resources, slowing down your website. This will, in turn, negatively affect your overall SEO performance. If you’re on a shared server and all sites on the server are being hit, it could create big problems for all the hosted websites. Finally, there is the issue of malice. With this ‘strategy’ exploding, there’s plenty of room for coders to build in mechanisms that check your website for vulnerabilities. Hackers could be using this technology to gather massive lists of vulnerable websites for hacking.
How do I stop the flood of spam referrals?
How do I stop spam is a question for the digital ages! Google’s Matt Cutts spends every moment of his career pondering this question. The depressing truth of it is that you can’t actually STOP it. You can take steps to hold back the tsunami of spam, but it will still keep trickling through the cracks!
How to block .hta access
The most effective way to stop this type of spam is to block the crawlers from your website or server. This can be fiddly work (one misplaced character could cause your massive headaches) and poses some real risks to your site. It’s one of those things that’s best left to a web developer. Give us a call if you are seeing these issues arise.
Addressing the problem using Google Analytics Filters
Google Analytics filters give you a cleaner version of web stats. You should be using a few standard filters, starting with the one that blocks your own IP (therefore ignoring your activity on your website), and replacing filters for standard variations on your website. You can also ‘override mixed case’ to ignore people who use capitals when entering your site. You will be able to see the different versions of your traffic reports in different views. Be careful adding filters though – different views are vital as you don’t want to lose any information, especially if you make a mistake!
To exclude referrals, you can follow these steps:
- 1. Create a new view in the admin tab of your Google Analytics account.
- 2. Select the ‘admin’ tab on the top right of your account view. Make sure you’re in the right view – don’t apply filters to your basic data.
- 3. Click All Filters.
- 4. Click New Filter/Create New Filter.
- 5. Name the filter so you can remember what it’s about.
- 6. Select predefined filter types.
- 7. Select construct a custom filter.
- 8. Select and ‘exclude’ filter and then enter the information for your crawl spammer.
- 9. Confirm you’re applying it to the correct view and save.
For more information, check out the filters section in Analytics Help. Sound way too complicated and risky? That’s OK. If you’re a Media Heroes client, just get in touch.
Why Google Analytics referral blocking is never ‘set and forget’
Like all things spam on the internet, blocking Semalt, Buttons For Website, Darodar, Econom, IloveVitality, SeeYourWebsiteHere and all the rest of these nuisance spam sites from accessing your website will only work for a short time. Next month, you may just find they’re all back under a different name and you need to start blocking all over again. These seem mostly to be Russian spammers right now, with Russia fast becoming the leader in spam technology. They can create new spamming set ups faster than Google can stamp them out. It’s a never ending battle and you’re now on the front lines.