What is Referrer spam

You’re monitoring the traffic to your blog daily and you’re starting to think it’s gaining traction.  You may even noticed in your Google Analytics that you seem to getting more inbound links, which appears to be adding to the traffic.

what is a referrer ?

A referrer is a web page that links to your site, sending traffic. So anything like a search engine, links on other websites, banner adverts, emails or anything else that redirects users to your website are referrers.

How this works at a technical level, is within the HTTP request object there is a property, referrer, which is sent by the browser to a web server identifying either the URL, IP Address or name of the Web link used to direct users to a Web page. Referrers are useful in statistical Web analysis in determining which sites provides generate the most traffic, and are key when formulate effective marketing strategies and even effective security processes.

How can it be used by spammers

HTTP referrer is open to modification and is easy to do, which opens it up to abuse by nefarious individuals, who are able to change Referrer property to any web page they choose to promote. There are two reasons why they would choose to do this.

Increase traffic

They develop an automated script which generates visits to thousands of websites with a fake referrer URL, usually more than 3 visits a day. The website owner will notice an increase in traffic being generated from the fake url in their analytics or log files and choose to visit the site to find out more. This generates more traffic for the promoted URL. Usually this practice is employed by dodgy SEO companies, who tell customers they can increase traffic for their customers.

Increase external links

Some websites may publish a list of highest number of recent referrers and include a back link to the referring page. This would enable the spammer to generate an increase in back links for their website, which potentially improve it’s search engine ranking.

How does this affect my website

Referrer spam has the potential to damage your websites Search Engine performance by increasing your websites Bounce Rate . A domain’s bounce rate plays a very important role in search engine ranking. When the bounce rate of your domain is quite high compared to the number of traffics received, your domain’s ranking will gradually drop no matter how perfect is your SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Besides disrupting your website analytics and obscuring bounce rate. Referrer spam will impact your server resources and bandwidth. Your server will respond to requests of very little value, which impact on your sites speed. An Increase in bandwidth could also increase your hosting bills for no valid reasons.

How to stop referer spam

If you use WordPress to run your website then stopping referrer spam is as easy installing our easy to use plug-in Stop Web Crawlers . The plugin either downloaded and installed from the WordPress.org plug-in directory or free download of Stop Web Crawlers.

I have previously written a post explaining how to block referrer spam using apache .htaccess file  which includes instructions on how to remove Ghost referrer spam from your Google Analytics reports.