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removing-referral

The Beginners Guide To Removing Referral Spam In Google Analytics

Welcome to a Beginners Guide to Removing Referral Spam in Google Analytics.

In this guide, I will be teaching you how to remove or block referrer spam.
First, we will start with the basics

 

What is Referrer Spam?

Referrer spam occurs when your site gets fake referral traffic from bots and this fake traffic is then recorded by Google Analytics (GA).

 

What is a bot and What do they do?

A bot is a program called a crawler which is developed to perform repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy and speed.

Bots are used for indexing web pages mostly (reading contents of web pages).

 

Good Bots:

Google Bot is an example of a good-bot. A Googlebot is used by Google to crawl and index pages on the internet. They use their crawl bots every day to crawl web pages of all types. This is how Google has so many up to date site results across the internet.

Good bots obey a file called “robots.txt” but bad bots don’t. Bad bots can create fake user accounts, send spam emails, steal email addresses and can get around CAPTCHAs codes.

 

Bad Bots:

Bad bots are mostly used in black hat techniques such as:

 

  • artificially increase website traffic
  • click fraud
  • scrape websites
  • spread malware (virus)
  • harvest email addresses

 

Bad bots use many methods to hide so that they can’t be detected by security. They can pretend to a web browser (like chrome) or traffic coming from a legitimate website.

They send out HTTP requests to the websites with a fake referrer header and create and send fake referrer headers to avoid being detected as bots.

The fake referrer header has the website URL which the spammer wants to promote and/or build backlink to.

When they do this, it is recorded in your server logs. Google treats this referrer value as a back-link which influences the search engine ranking of the link being promoted.

They can hide from bot filtering used by Google Analytics (GA) and because of this, you can then see spam Traffic in your GA ‘Referrals’ reports.

Most bots don’t use Javascript but some do. Bots that do use Javascript show up as hits in GA reports and mess up the traffic data and any metric based on sessions like bounce and conversion rate.

Bots that don’t use Javascript

Bots that don’t use Javascript on the other hand, (like Googlebot) do not mess up your data. However, their visits are still recorded in your server logs file. They still consume your server resources and still eat your bandwidth. They can even negatively affect your website performance.

If you can’t see a problem in your GA reports but your sites still acting funny check out another article we have written on bots that don’t use javascript and how to defend from them.

 

Can It Get Any Worst? YES! It Can.

Botnets:

Botnets are a network of infected computers that come from different IPs and countries at different rates and are all being controlled by one source. The computers act like zombies if you will, to a leader computer (the spammer). The bigger the network the more IPs which means you can’t just block IPs and limit the rate.

Botnets can also create dozens of fake referrer headers and if they are using a VPN then IP blocking is useless. This means if you block a spam referral by a GA filter or by using .htaccess file there is no guarantee that you have completely blocked it.

 

Infection Bots

Botnets get new computers onto their network by infecting them with malware. They become zombies of that Botnet with the end user not even realising it most of the time.

 

Sad Truth:

If you decide to block botnets, you will most likely block the traffic coming from real people. Whatever you do, though don’t click on the links in your ‘Referrals’ reports as they might be trying to infect your computer.

 

What You Can Do About it

Check Your Reports

Go to your Referrals report and sort the report by bounce rate in descending order. You can also download it if you prefer. Look at referrers with a bounce rate of 100% and 40+ sessions. They are probably spam.

Bot Filtering

It’s definitely not foolproof but try Using GA’s “Bot filtering” feature which excludes hits from known bots.

If You Can’t Identify It

If you still can’t identify it then you might have to visit the site (to make sure it is legitimate). You must have anti-virus/malware software installed on your site and computer before you visit any website that you can’t identify.

List of Known Domains

I have put together a list of suspicious sites referred below. If it’s on the list below then chances are, it is a spam referrer and you don’t need to check the website to make sure

Click Here To View The List (LINKs on this list are updated every so often)

Block them from appearing in your reports.

You can do this by adding a custom advanced filter on GA as shown below.

Use a WAF

Web Application Firewall acts as a line of defence between your web server and the internet. This is probably the fastest way to sort the problem. Also, most services cache your site so if the site on the server goes down your site will still function and be viewable.

Use Google Chrome

The best option to surf the internet is to use Google Chrome. Chrome detects malware deploying websites faster than any other web browser.

 

Block referrer used by a bot

Go to your .htaccess file and add the following:

Example Below:

 

"RewriteEngine On Options +FollowSymlinks RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^https?://([^.]+\.)*luxup\.ru\ [NC,OR] RewriteRule .* – [F]"

 

This will block the HTTP and HTTPS referrals from luxup.ru and subdomains.

 

Block the IP address used by the spam bot

 

To block IPs in your .htaccess file and add write code below:

 

CODE:
"RewriteEngine On Options +FollowSymlinks Order Deny,Allow Deny from 234.45.12.33"
CODE END:

 

Block the IP address range

 

If you are sure that a range of IPs is bad, then you can block the whole IP range.

 

CODE:
"RewriteEngine On Options +FollowSymlinks Deny from 86.239.34.0/44 Allow from all"
CODE END

 

CIDR is a method for representing a range of IPs.

 

Blocking by CIDR better than blocking individual IP and it takes less space on a server.

 

86.239.34.0/44 is the CIDR range.

 

Use custom alerts to monitor unusual spikes.

If you are using GA, you can use custom alerts this way you can quickly detect and fix issues and minimise their impact.

 

Little Tips:

 

  • Do not exclude the referrer spam from the referral traffic using the ‘Referral exclusion list’ this will not do anything.
  • Create a note/annotation on your charts in G.A and explain what the unusual spike is for.

 

Important Note For PC’s

Without the right protection (anti-virus/anti-malware) your machine could be in danger.

Important Note For Mac’s

Bots are less likely to happen on Macs but you will still need to be aware as there are a few emerging (i-warm)

 

Keep updated with latest OS X and maybe invest in some protection (anti-virus/anti-malware) to be safe.

 

the art of

5 Beginner Tips On How To Use Data As Your Secret Weapon

Analysis The Data & If It’s Not Working Ditch It.

 

Whether you’re a small business or new to blogging, trying to work out what content has the most positive impact and engagement on your target audience is the most important goal. When working with social media it can be time-consuming so you want to make sure your efforts aren’t wasted. To do this you must always test the content and if after testing it’s not effective, don’t waste time, trash it and move on. Your time is important and forcing an idea you think is great but is simply not ticking the boxes with your market, can often deter businesses from trying again.

 

Best practice is to collect social data about how your users is interacting with your content and over a 1-3 month period make an analysis on whether this is resonating with your target market, or not.

 

Below are some tips on how to test your social content:

1. Track Your Engagement

Nice and simple, test your engagement. It might sound easy, but it can be hard to see if something is wrong if you don’t read the data right the first time. By using insight tools you can see what engagement you received and what kind of reaction you’re getting from your targets, allowing you to make smarter decisions on what you post next. Every social network has their own metrics and it’s important to analyse them individually. This helps to see if you’ve made a connection in some way with your post and if you should stick with it or not. In some cases, the key metric will be obvious.

 

For example: If you change an element of your profile page, you’re hoping for a likely boost in followers. Like on Twitter, you could track the Impressions, new followers, or even the Likes, Mentions, Retweets and Favourites that the post got.

 

Other Social Media tests may call for another defined metric.

 

2. Content Order Mix Up

We all agree that it’s often surprising what goes viral. One day it’s a cat playing the piano and the next it’s a touching advert for chewing gum. Therefore it is important to vary for strategy with different approaches.

 

Below is an example test plan on Twitter for a consecutive number of weeks.

 

Times: Week 1: Week 2: Week 3:
9am Tweet a humorous picture Tweet about your business Tweet about your business
12 Noon Tweet a quote Tweet a quote Tweet a quote
5pm Tweet about your business 2nd Tweet about your business Tweet a story you like

 

At the end of each weeks, see if the tweets from your different types of content helped or hurt your social media and from this you can drill down what your market is responding to, humor, inspiring quotes, information about your business etc.

 

3. Repeat a Tweet

I know it sounds strange, but consider repeating your important tweets, links or posts at least three times. The trick is to use different headlines with each post, keeping the links the same. This will increase your chance of being seen by your prospects. Research has found that you can get up to 56% more visitors from Twitter by tweeting a post a second time.

 

For example, a post title could change like this:

  • SEO shortcut in 5 easy steps
  • Need help with SEO here’s a helping hand

4. Frequency

 

One of the most common questions in social marketing is “how often should I post?” or “how many times should I posts on said social media site?”. This very much depends on you target market and user activity. If you post to often you might scare some away, if you post to little you look inactive and lose followers anyway, so you must be careful. This is why it’s important to test your posts frequency and analyse their engagement to make informed decisions on when next to post.

 

Twitter

 

  • Start by tweeting 1- 4 times a day
  • Then for another week try tweeting 1- 4 times in an hour for the whole day

 

Facebook

 

  • Start by posting once every 2 days
  • Then for another week try posting once everyday

 

Test this for a period of 2 weeks and check your results. Over the time analysed you will be able to see which post frequency suits your target market.  

5. Profile Changes:

If you’re getting lots of views to your profile and not much growth in following, it maybe time to change up your profile page. On social media, our profiles tend to get updated/revamped every year or so. Changing your profile keeps it fresh and exciting for your followers, so they will know you are active on this network which will encourage them to revisit and see what’s changed. If you add hashtags and change your bio, it can help you be found by other prospect followers when they search or use hashtags. The way your profile is displayed is another way the customer can explore your brand and as we have limited control over social networks as a whole we need to use whatever we have.

 

Try making these simple changes to your profiles and check the results.

  • Change your location
  • Change your cover photo
  • Include @-mentions in your bio – Add a @ and the username to tag a person or brand this can help to get your brand out there.
  • Change your profile picture
  • Include hashtags in your bio – hashtags are an easy way to organise your tweet in the Twitterverse, just add # followed by the word of choice for example #pizza
  • Vary the length of your bio
  • Add a call-to-action and link to a landing page in your bio
  • Change the text of your bio

 

Keep it fresh and try to change it at least twice a month and always check the results to see what worked best.

 

Now we’ve gone through some of the methods, let’s look at some of the tools available.

   

Tools I Recommend:

 

Do a side by side comparison:

 

Fanpage Karma will analyse you and your competitors’ accounts across

 

Facebook

Twitter

Google+

Instagram

YouTube

Pinterest

 

They have a free plan that offers a 90-day analysis for a page and a dashboard for any number of competitors.

 

Klear serves as an influencer-identification platform. Search for influencers by skill and/or location and Klear will generate 10 influencers in multiple categories (celebrities, power users, casual, etc.).

 

Sign in through your Twitter account, and then on the right side, you can opt to see the analysis for your account or any Twitter handle you choose.

 

The tool will determine how many tweets to analyse. It’s usually a high number, often in the thousands, though the account’s activity level will determine how far back in time it goes. If the account doesn’t tweet very often, the analysis will cover a longer time frame, sometimes up to a few years.

 

  • Facebook Insights:

Available for all users, Facebook Insights show you the full stats behind your posts, your fans, and your reach. You can click on the “people reached” text at the bottom of any individual post in your timeline to see the full stats.

 

To get to Insights, click the Insights tab in the menu bar at the top the page.

 

The main reason for Google Analytics is for analysing website traffic data. You can dig into the referral stats on your social media marketing as well.

 

Click through to Acquisition > Social, and you can check out how many visits your site receives from each social network. If you’ve added goals to your Google Analytics you can see the direct impact of social on the goals.

 

  • Twitter analytics:

Twitter gives a 28-day overview of how your tweets have performed. You can export all the data and run reports. Clicking on any individual tweet in your list will show a complete breakdown of every element of engagement on the tweet, including clicks on URLs, clicks on your username, clicks on images, expanded details, and a bar chart for engagement over the first 24 hours and the past 24 hours.

 

  • Pinterest analytics:

On the Pinterest analytics dashboard, you can see insights into everything. The dashboard shows growth in impressions and followers, audience stats, and website engagement.

 

To access Pinterest analytics, log in to Pinterest and go to analytics.pinterest.com.

 

Social Report has an overview of all of your activity on 19 supported social networks, you can also track new topics, ROI, and export the data into a report.

Free 30-day trial and plans starting at $9/month.

 

The popular Moz comes with a built-in social media analytics tool. Their social dashboard tracks network size, engagement. Free 30-day trial and plans starting at $99/month.

 

Let us know how these tests work for you or leave a comment on any other tests methods you’ve tried in the past.