We all know how annoying spam can be. But it goes further than getting irritating emails. Referral spam uses the same principle, but instead of targeting email accounts, it targets the search engines. The idea is that someone uses fake referrals to hijack your Google Analytics account and send lots of traffic to their site (or sites) instead.
Now, you probably check the information gleaned from your analytics quite regularly. So, if you’re being targeted by referral spam, you’ll see lots of requests from the same referrer. And you may just click on that to see where someone is coming from.
And that is what these people are hoping for – lots of visits to their site, generated by a bot that can target thousands of sites at once. Even a few clicks could help them earn money from their site if a handful of people make purchases.
Why is referral spamming a major problem?
This fake traffic can cause you a real headache, because it makes it harder to see where your real traffic is coming from. It can mess with any plans you have for increasing traffic, and it can even lead to longer load times for people who are genuinely visiting your website. Suffice to say, it’s not a good thing.
How can you tackle it?
Firstly, you need to identify it. You can do this by accessing the referrals report in Google Analytics. Once there, check the data for the last three months and see which sites have the highest bounce rate. You’re looking for sites that visit often, and that have a 100% bounce rate. Conversely, anything with a 0% bounce rate might also be a spam referrer. By checking over a period of several months, you’ll find it easier to look for the obvious bots, and you won’t accidentally include any that look suspicious, but are fine.
Now, you must block the domains that are visiting, so you are no longer hassled by them. Obviously, you will need to check your referrals report often, to ensure no sites are missed.
Are there other options?
There are products on the market that aim to solve the problem for you, but do your research before investing in one to make sure it works. Some experts in the field also offer a personalised service that does all the hard work for you. For a monthly fee, they will check your Google Analytics and block any domains that are likely to be bots triggering referral spam.
It’s not just a question of going through your data once and stopping there. Regular checks and maintenance are required to ensure you get rid of the hassle of referral spam altogether. Additionally, you will find other sites that have other solutions, so you can read through several options and choose the one that suits you. Some are more complex than others, which is why some choose to hire an expert to help.