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Fake referral traffic … what to look for and what to do

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Natalie Weaving

Fake referral traffic … what to look for and what to do

You’re spending time building up your brand’s online presence, doing everything that Google asks you to do to achieve higher rankings. You’re blogging and alt tagging your heart out. Traffic to your website is growing but you’re not seeing an increase in sales or business enquiries. So, what’s happening?

Spam the man

Here comes our old friend – spam! Referrer spam sends irrelevant and fake traffic to your website, which wreaks havoc with the analytic data.

What does this mean?

This means that, potentially, your total web traffic numbers are wrong. Your seemingly high bounce rate is not realistic and each session time spent on the website is not indicative of what your credible visitors are doing.

Beware the botnets!

A botnet is a collection of internet-connected programs communicating with other similar programs in order to perform tasks. They eat away at resources, tinker with your user accounts and try every password they can think of to infiltrate your site.

The main culprits

If you go into your Google Analytics and look under ‘acquisitions’ and then ‘referrals’ you will see a number of websites with similar names ‘referring’ traffic to your site – but they aren’t really doing that with legitimate human traffic.

These fake referrals are usually web addresses that look out of place, are from random countries and/or have nothing to do with your area of business.

Where can I find out if I have fake referral traffic?

Your analytics is the first place to see where your website traffic comes from and whether any of it is made up of fake referral traffic. Log into your analytics and, in Google Analytics, you will find this information under Acquisitions – All Traffic – Referrals. Here you will find a list of website URLs that have sent traffic to your website. Some will be genuine, some will be unwanted, some will, sadly, be fake.

How to stop them

The short answer is that you can’t. Botnets are constantly changing and will evolve before you know it. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to limit any potential damage:

1). Make sure your WordPress plugins are up to date so that at least they can’t infiltrate your site and do any extensive – and expensive – damage.

2). Add a piece of code to your website to block the botnets. Be warned though, this has varying results.

3). Prevent your Google Analytics from giving bogus information by adding the rouge web referrals. To do this, click on ‘admin’, then ‘tracking info’ and go into ‘referral exclusions list.’ From here, simply copy and paste the fake referral traffic you want Google to exclude from your analytics data going forward.

Contact us

If you want help keeping your website secure from botnets, or to learn how to exclude them from your web traffic, please call The Typeface Group Ltd on 01256 614921.

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