How to spot Google Referral Spam

October 4, 2018Blog

What is Google referral spam?

Google referral spam is when someone uses bots (automated programs) or hacked devices to create fake website referral traffic (website visits via a link from someone else’s website). This then makes it appear as though your website is receiving a lot of visits from more than one source. This can create mis-leading traffic reports and give the appearance that a website isn’t converting users into customers.

How is referral spam created?

Google referral spam can be created in a number of different ways, however the three common ways are:

  • Running bots (automated programs) to several different websites, automatically causing analytics software to falsely register that a user is looking at the website.
  • Using hacked computers on a network to repeatedly load the website, thus making user numbers rise.
  • Pinging the analytics tracker to trick it into thinking someone has visited the website.

The method of using bots and hacked computers can also increase the server load causing website load times to increase. In some cases, extremely large waves of spam can cause servers to crash.

Why do people create referral spam?

The main reason referral spam is created is to raise the profile of the spam-generating source and to entice people to visit. It is a blatant attempt to increase its own website traffic and hopefully gain a few new customers in the process. Referral spam can also be used to send people to sites containing viruses, malware and phishing scams to dupe unsuspecting users.

How can I spot referral spam?

A few indicators that a referral source might be spam are:

  • The domain the referral is coming from has little or nothing to do with your business.
  • The geographical location of the referral source is unknown and is coming from one organisation.
  • There is a sudden, unexpected spike in traffic.
  • There is an unusually high bounce rate.