Looking at your Referral traffic in Google Analytics is a great way to see which sites are bringing you traffic and the value of that traffic.  However, lately business owners are seeing a number of spammy Referral sites creeping through Google’s Bot FIltering barriers.  Google are aware of this issue and have vowed to do something about it in a recent Google+ post.

If you don’t have Google Bot Filtering set up in your Analytics account, then we suggest you add it now, as it will block some spammy sites from hitting you.  Simply go to Admin > View Settings and tick the box ‘Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders’.
How To Filter Bots

Why do I need to worry about blocking and filtering these referral sites?

It corrupts Analytics Data

This spam referral traffic gives 100’s or even 1,000’s of sessions per month and usually disrupts your Google Analytics account, especially if you are operating from a smaller site and can make your marketing analysis a troublesome task to carry out

Disrupts your server load and security

These unwanted visits to your site actually can overload your server and could result in slower loading times, which ultimately means their is going to be higher bounce rates and lower rankings for you. Whilst this spam is crawling your site it could easily be invading your sites security and looking for WordPress, plugin and server vulnerabilities.

What sites class as Referral spam?

These can be visible in many formats, but what many websites are being affected by recently are sites including:

Semalt.net (Formally.com)

Semalt is an SEO product, which gives on- and off-page analysis, for example: keyword usage and link metrics and their business practices are unacceptable. They use a bot to crawl the web and index web page data, although they won’t disable analytics tracking, unlike the majority of bots. Their recently changed homepage now provides a form, for you to remove your site from being crawled. Despite you filling in the form, it may not resolve this issue for a long time and it has been reported that months pass and your site will be crawled by this site.
SEMalt remove site

ilovevitaly.com,Darodar.com and econom.co

These sites try to appear/exist for the sole purpose of directing affiliate traffic to shopping sites like eBay.com, but they are just frauds. The site doesn’t pay out to the affiliate, unless the traffic results in a purchase, which by looking at the site seems very unlikely. Many of these pages create landing pages, which actually “lands” no where near where you are searching for:

See-your-website-here.com

One of the most common cases of referral spam, which you are more than likely to see in your Analytics account. Their product is essentially web spam, but they like to refer themselves as a form of lead generation – which companies actually pay for.

But recently we discovered this, when we decided to have a look at their site……
see-your-website-here closed

How to stop Referral Spam Traffic

Blocking Referral Spam Through a .HTaccess file

To do this all you need to is copy and paste the following code into your .htaccess file, as long as you are on an Apache server. This is an alternative method from using Google Analytics and can blocks these crawlers/spam bots from hitting your server altogether:

# Block (NAME OF SPAM) Referrer Spam
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly.\.ru/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly\.org/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly\.info/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*iloveitaly\.ru/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*econom\.co/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*savetubevideo\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*kambasoft\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*buttons\-for\-website\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*semalt\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*darodar\.com/ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ – [F,L]

Warning! Don’t be fooled by how easy this may look, .htaccess is a very powerful file and determines how your server behaves. You need to be very careful when creating and uploading .htaccess file, just one character out of place will more than likely take down the whole site. So, we strongly advise you that before you make any changes to the file, you create a backup file to be safe.

If you don’t feel comfortable in editing the htaccess file of your site, then there are some steps you can take in Google Analytics.  Unfortunately these won’t stop the referral spam sites from hitting your site, but they will enable to you see an unskewed version of your data.

Blocking Referral Spam With Google Analytics filters

.htaccess won’t always solve these issues, as they will only protect you from future sessions and won’t affect the sessions that have already occurred. One method you can use is filtering by country in Google Analytics. This won’t just remove the historical data it will also help you filter out any other bots, which we may find from select countries in the future. The following procedure will help you through the stages to create these filters:

N.B – This tactic is not suggested if your site is International.

1) Click on the “Admin” tab at the top of the page.
Select Admin

2) On the view column you will need to create a “new” view.
Create a new view

This is undertaken so you still have an unadulterated report of all traffic in Google Analytics.

3) After you have your new view selected, then click  the “Filters” section and then select the “+New Filter Button.”
Create a new filter

The process of setting up filters is rather basic, but only if you know what setting to use.

Depending on the countries which you have been receiving issues from, we strongly advise you to filter the ones, which are currently causing the issue. If you wish to add extra filters, then you can do this later on in the process, by following the same procedure.

4) Choose the filter type “custom” and “country” from the “Filter Field” drop down menu.
Create A Filter to stop referral spam

The “Filter Pattern Field” is where you define and decide which countries you are choosing to filter. MAKE SURE you spell them correctly, otherwise it will not filter out your chosen country. To ensure you don’t make this mistake all you need to is double check your filters by using the “Verify This Filter” button.

Then before you know a graph will pop-up and show you how many sessions will be removed from the last seven days.

 

Removing Referral Spam With Google Analytics Segments

Using a segment in Google Analytics will allow you to view your data without the Referral spam site visits, but it won’t stop them from accessing your site.

The positive thing about using a segment is that you can specify the exact sites you want to exclude data from.  This does mean you’ll need to edit the Segment when a new Referral Spam site appears, but with the exception of the .htaccess file, it’s probably the most accurate way to remove the sessions from your data.

To create your Segment select Add Segment > New Segment.
Add A Segment

You then want to title your segment and select Conditions.  Make sure your filters are set to Sessions, Exclude, Source & Contains.  Then input the domains of the Referral Spam sites you want to exclude from your traffic.  You’ll need to add a new filter for each one by clicked +Add Filter.  Once you’ve added all the sites you want to exclude hit Save.  Your Segment can then be applied to any data set with your Analytics Profile.
Create your exclusion segment

N.B. If more than one user has access to your Google Analytics, then you’ll need to Share the Segment with them so that they can apply it to the data set they see.  To do this, go to Add Segment > Select the Actions arrow next to the Segment you wish to share > Select Share.  You’ll then be given a link you can share with other users of the account: once they click it they’ll be able to add your Segment in seconds.
Share Your Segment
 

How to Remove Referral Spam on A WordPress Site

If you’re using WordPress then you could use the Wp-Ban plugin, as this makes it easy to block unwanted visitors. Wp-ban gives you the ability to ban/block users by IP, IP range, host name, user agent and referrer URL from visiting your WordPress blog. Amazingly this can all be accessed within the WordPress admin panel. This a great alternative for WordPress users who do not wish to edit their .htaccess file or don’t feel comfortable doing so.

 

What can we take from this? We now know how harmful referral traffic can be to your site and your business, but with theses solutions there are ways to stop them from impacting your data set.

If you still feel uncertain regarding any of the points made in this post, please feel free to get in touch with Sam today as he is happy to answer any questions you may have.