The B2B SaaS Marketing Blog

    Why Your Site’s Jump in Traffic Referrals May Be Spam


    Last updated: May 3rd, 2023

    Bad news. Your Google Analytics Traffic Referrals report may be useless. Right now we’re seeing a rise in traffic referral spam attacks, which is frustrating business owners and webmasters.

    While some hackers find this hilarious, the rest of us just aren’t laughing. Referrer spam is falsifying sales leads, spreading malware, and creating phishing sites.

    What is Referrer Spam?

    This happens when a spammer makes repeated web site requests using a fake referrer URL to the site the spammer wishes to advertise, which bombs your report with a malicious URL.

    Like all spam attack, they’re hoping that someone out of the thousands they’re attacking will click on the link out of curiosity or naivety, and fall for their scam.

    How to Recognize Referrer Spam

    It’s important to first understand how referrer SPAM happens. Every account associated with google analytics can have up to 50 properties and each individual property has a specific serial number that begins with two letters – UA and a series of numbers. The middle numbers are the account number and are therefore associated with every property. The final numbers in the serial code are the property numbers, now here’s where things get interesting!

    The property numbers are being attacked by the referrer bots and typically target lower numbers because not all accounts utilize all 50 available properties. So the simple solution seems to be to simply change the property numbers to higher digits, but it’s never that simple. We all want the tracking information attached to each property and if we change the numbers then we lose the data! The second reason we shouldn’t simply change the data is because hackers are smart and would catch on quite quickly to the mass property adjustment and in turn change their tactics.

    So How Can Businesses Combat This Issue?

    Google Analytics offers some helpful filters that are built like those in our emails and can combat the issue, to an extent. But it’s important to note that with filters come the need for consistent updating.

    Furthermore, these filters can cause data loss because they are quite complex and require constant attention. It’s also worth noting that .htaccess file rules and their associated filters can also lead to data loss. Remember, once traffic data is lost, it’s gone. There are no avenues to regain those statistics so it is very important that your filters and .htaccess agree with one another, especially if your business relies on accuracy in these reports.

    There are No Easy Workarounds

    With this particular struggle, it’s worth consulting an expert regarding referrer SPAM, because there are no simple answers and all the current solutions are costly in money and more time and attention.

    Google needs to create universal spam filters that can eliminate the issue of referrer spam at the source so there is no harm in reporting the problem to Google. The more they hear of an issue, the faster they are to solve it.

    But in the meantime, consult an expert for support. It seems costly now, but in the long run, it can save major headaches and will ensure you don’t lose any traffic data that can offer clear insight into your business growth. Powered By Search is one of the most respected inbound marketing agencies in Canada, and we recently made PROFIT Magazine’s list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

    To learn more, click here to download our SEO playbook.

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