What is... Referrer spam

May 28, 2015 · 3 min read

What is... Referrer spam -- Made In Helmikuu

Have you noticed odd sites appearing in the Referral Traffic section of your site analytics? These referrals are usually something like best-seo-offer.com, buttons-for-your-site.com, ilovevitaly.com or theguardlan.com. If you happen to visit the referring urls, they often redirect you to such sites as Semalt, AliExpress or ShareButtons. Where ever the link sends you, there's usually no link to your site to be seen. These referrals are actually so called referrer spam. Referrer spam is on a notable rise and you can see new sites bombing your analytics all the time.

Referrals are the kind of traffic that comes to your site through a link on another site. This means that someone has somewhere shared a link to your site or a certain page on your site. And usually these referrals are a good thing. They increase the traffic to your site and helps search engines to determine if your site is relevant and interesting. Referrer spam takes advantage of this. In referrer spam your site is bombed with requests by a fake referer URL. The main reason of referrer spam is link building. The spamming site tries to build inbound links by spamming your analytics in a hope that the analytics referrals are published somewhere. Either they are published by you or by different public website ranking and analysing services. This way the spamming site gains referrals, which help it to rank higher on searches. In some cases referrer spammers also try to get you to visit their site, in order to spread malware, or even get you to buy their services or products.

The most apparent harm referrer spam causes it skews your statistics. Referrer spam appears on your analytics as bounces, which will make your bounce rate higher. This is mainly annoying. And no, bounce rate doesn't affect your search ranking. Most of referrer spam are "ghost referrals", which don't really access your site, so they don't use your website hosting bandwidth. Only the referrer spam which crawls your site will consume your bandwidth, which can then create you extra costs. However if your website's referral stats are published anywhere, your site then becomes a sort of a promoter of this spam site. There are different theories if this can affect the search ranking of your site, but I wouldn't get too obsessed or worried about that.

There are different ways to fight referrer spam. You can filter the spam from your Analytics or, in the case of crawler spam, you can block it through .htaccess. There are also different plugins and modules for your CMS, which can help with blocking referrer spam. Unfortunately the spammers keep registering new domains to spam your site, which makes blocking and filtering it quite a taunting task.

Some ways to block or filter referrer spam and a list of known spammers: What is Referrer Spam and How to stop it on Ohow

What is... is a series of short overviews of web (and, more widely, Internet) related terminology and phenomenons.


Multitalented Boost

With this free email training, you'll learn how to define and communicate your value, when you have multiple interests and skills.

Start now

Free training

Support Mervi and this blog

Become a Patron!

Thank you for reading What is... Referrer spam. Did you like it?

What is... Referrer spam Tweet this

I have closed the comments for now, but I welcome you to write your response to your own blog, or at Twitter or Facebook. In case you wrote your response on your blog, do let me know so that I can read it and possibly link to it from this post.

I will gloriously ignore (and, where possible, report) any responses which contain personal attacks, aim to troll or provoke for the sake of provocation, or seek to promote unrelated business or scams.