It’s exciting when your web site traffic gets a boost, isn’t it? And it’s especially thrilling when you realize the new traffic is coming from referrals – someone important has noticed your work and is sending you traffic! Yay! But then you get curious about who’s sending you traffic…and you realize that your new traffic isn’t coming from sites you recognize. “What are all these sites?” you begin to wonder, as you sift through the data. Bad news: somehow you’ve ended up with referrer spam, and you may not have ever even heard of it, but it’s probably impacting your web site right now.
What Is Referrer Spam?
Referrer spam happens when your web site gets fake traffic from a ‘bot’ (a little program designed to ‘crawl’ your web site), and the traffic is recorded by your analytics. The traffic shows up in your account, often logging many times more traffic than you got legitimately. There are several different kinds of referrer spam, but they all pretty much do the same thing – they hit or crawl your site with nefarious intentions.
What Are the Consequences of Referrer Spam?
“So what?” you might be thinking, “Why does this concern me?”
There are a few consequences of referrer spam. The first is that, if you use your analytics and traffic reports to make any decisions about content (as in, “Hey, this blog post got a ton of traffic! I’ll write more about that topic!”) or advertising (as in, “Say, we got a nice bump in traffic this past week; that ad sure seems to be working!”), then referrer spam is almost certainly costing you money by muddying up your analytics with fake traffic.
Additionally, some referrer spam can be dangerous, spreading malware (which is a virus that, at a minimum, will take down your site, and if it doesn’t, your web host will) and grabbing all of your site content, including your email addresses.
Referrer spam, in short, is nasty business.
How Likely Is It That I’m Getting Referrer Spam?
It’s pretty likely. These days referrer spam is commonplace. If it’s not happening now, it probably will soon. If you want to know if you’re getting referrer spam, go to your analytics account and look to see if you have traffic from sites that you don’t recognize. Common spam sites include:
- buttons-for-website.com (or some variation)
- darodar.com (and various subdomains)
- ilovevitaly.co (and other TLD variations)
Essentially, you probably recognize the sites that are sending you traffic; if you don’t, they’re most likely spam referrers and you need to get rid of them.