Friday, February 04, 2011

Referer Spam Is Needlessly Alarming Blog Owners

Many blog owners, who spend time perusing the Stats "Traffic Sources" display, are finding odd entries there, and are becoming needlessly alarmed. We are seeing several discussions this week, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken about mysterious traffic sources.
What is "goo.gl", and why are they surfing my blog?
and
When I clicked on a log entry for "bit.ly", I got linked to a porn site. I don't want my blog associated with porn!

This misuse of our blogs is not new - spammers have been doing this for years, to trick us into surfing to their websites.

Originally, blog owners who scan their access logs, such as Stats "Traffic Sources", would see an unknown URL, would click on it, would find themselves on a new website - and might become the website's newest customer. Owners of new websites learned that one way to get initial traffic was to surf to every blog and website that they could find, in hopes that the blog / website owner would check their logs, and would return click to their blog / website. Spammers learned this trick too.

Some blog owners, who proudly display the URLs of their referring sources, contributed to the problem which we see now. The search engines index the access logs published by the blog owners, which contain the compressed URLs such as "bit.ly" and "goo.gl", and link to the actual website published by the porn spammer in question. This leads to search engine indexing of the spammers website.

Recently, spammers developed techniques for automating the surfing. Instead of actually loading even the main page of our blogs, they simply generate a script which simulates contact with the Blogger servers, and run it from their server, in quantity. Stats records the initial hits, and saves the referer URLs. We look at the Stats displays, and wonder.

It's even possible that the computers that we see reflected in our logs - Latvia, Poland, and Russia - are being controlled by porn spammers who live in England, Germany, or even the USA. Even spammers don't crap where they live. Referer spamming involves massive amounts of fake page accesses, against multiple websites. A botnet would be a natural tool, for a project like Referer Spamming.

If you use a product like Google Analytics, you can write a script to filter the odd URLs out of the Analytics displays. You can get the same results with Stats, by ignoring the spam, and working on publicising your blog. People with blogs with low volume activity will notice the mysterious URLs more, and will worry. People with blogs with high volume activity will recognise the mysterious URLs, will know what they are about, and will go about their business.

If the volume causes unwanted traffic to the Blogger servers, Google Engineers will block what they can. Other than that, don't click on the links, don't publish your access logs or statistics, and get back to work.

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62 comments:

Leon Smith said...

Thanks, good to know!

Joy said...

Thankyou very much!

Jen said...

Thanks for posting. I recently noticed it, too, and I was wondering what was happening.

jayasree said...

Thanks for this post. I recently noticed it in my blog stats and was wondering could it link to my food blog. Now that I know its a spam, I can push it aside and move on.

Peter F. Black said...

Hey, thanks for this info! I was just perusing my Traffic Sources and had this same issue. Just wanted to make sure nothing was wrong with my site.

Thanks!

Donna, Doni, Lady D said...

Agreed. Thanks for the information. It alarmed me.

Kiki said...

thanks! this is a huge relief for me!

Wini said...

Thanks for the info, this happened and shocked the heck out of me. This was really helpful!

Eri said...

Dammit, wish I'd done a little more research before I clicked on the stupid referring site urls. Thanks for the article!

erinjade said...

Thank you! This calmed me down a lot. I was afraid my blog had been hacked.

Two questions:
- how do I know if I am publishing my access logs?
- is the "error on page" message i'm getting at the bottom left of my screen at all related to the referer spam?

Thanks again

Mama G said...

Thank you for this post. I was worried that some pervs in the Ukraine were trolling my pregnancy belly photos :)

otto von raven said...

Much obliged. I have consigned my Ukranian traffic to the rubbish tip.

Jerry M Malloy said...

This is all well and good, I'm glad it's harmless security wise, but it is screwing up my stats making them useless. At first they were targeting one post, so I deleted it. That helped for a couple of days. Now they are all over many different posts. Have no idea what my true traffic is. Google shouldn't wait till it eventually bothers THEM, it's a problem now and they should deal with it.

Nancy Dalva said...

Thank you, very helpful. I logged into my blog from Russia and now an deluged with Russian porn referer spam...quite strange.

Holly M said...

So helpful -- as usual!

April said...

Well I did a dumb thing and clicked the link before I saw not to! The name of the site it came from didn't look strange and I clicked to see where they came from. What happens by clicking them?????

Ashley said...

How do you get a blogger engineer to block a URL?

avatara said...

Thanks for such a comprehensive and sensible explanation. I'm usually weary of clicking on strange links so hadn't clicked the referring site - traficfaker.com - the name itself is worrying and pretty self explanatory. Still I was curious, so I googled the domain name and went to a couple forums (one linked to here). thanks again ;)

Healthier And Wealthier said...

Actually I was initially so excited! Finally I had hit on content people just couldn't live without. Now my bubble is burst! Wah!

JK! Thanks, Sandra

Effie said...

Thanks, I was worried about porn sites finding my blog attractive as I am a mom blogger. It's creepy.

Diane said...

Thankyou! I was afraid my Blog might disappear if they hacked it

a female Faust said...

wouldn't it be silly to throw away all visits from one region just because the evil pretends to originate from there as well?

dona said...

Thank you so much, you've been so helpful.

charmine. said...

Thanks a heap! Good you let us know this.

Alex said...

Thanks for this! I was very upset when I saw some strange links on my traffic sources.

DragonLady said...

That is good to know. I have been getting a lot of traffic from referring URLs ending with .tk but not very many page views on any of my posts. Why would they view my blog all it is food recipes. I've only had this blog for about 2 months.
http://videogameinspiredfood.blogspot.com/

Sonya said...

I've had several hits from an address with a .tk ending. Anyone have any feedback on those? I clicked on one by error and it was a bit hard to get rid of it. I ran a full virus scan on my computer which came up clean, but this stuff is worrisome to a small time blogger like me!

Georgia said...

Thanks for this info--was really helpful--I was quite annoyed seeing these in my referring sites log-unfortunately I clicked on the link--I know better now thanks to your article..will just ignore them in future.

QT (Cutie) said...

Thank you very much for the insight!

Pravin said...

Thanks a lot for this post. I was also find such stat for my blog. Now i come to know the real thing. Though i already have clicked on such referrals, onwards i will be cautious.

Jeroen Rommelaars said...

Ah, I just got hit by these guys. Good to know there is basically nothing to worry about and from now on I will ignore these referers. Thanks!

Andy O. said...

Nice to finally stumble across a page devoted to this, and its comforting to know that I'm not the only blogger who's delt with these clowns. Very glad that is harmless, seeing that I had over 30+ views from Russia in a little over 24 hrs!

AirRaidPatrol said...

This is a good article and very reassuring.

Tor Ince said...

Thank you for this post - I was starting to wonder about these, since I recently got quite a lot. I'll just need to ignore them completely!

Ruth said...

Thanks, a real interesting insight. I was wondering where all those unknown URLs were coming from in such bulk.

Paul Bibeau said...

That is the textbook definition of a useful post. Thanks so much for writing this.

Pearl said...

Thanks so much !!

Jenn said...

Good to know, but a little depressing to learn that my traffic wasn't as high as I thought! :(

Chuck Croll said...

Jenn,

It is that. And watching the numbers fluctuate, because Google blocks and corrects retroactively, is also depressing. But, everybody has to learn to deal with it - like death and taxes.

http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2011/09/referer-spam-war-leads-to-fluctuations.html

Emelie said...

Thank you so much for this. I've only just created my blog and when I first saw I had people actually "visiting" it, I couldn't believe my eyes and thought myself really lucky! But then I realised that I was dealing with the kind of spam you are describing. Thanks for clearing this up!

Renee Liverpool said...

I agree with many on here. I finally thought that my new blog was starting to build some decent traffic. Now I don't know what my real traffic is and wonder if this will eventually become a problem for Google. My blog is on graphic design and it is being visited by a bunch or porn sites.

Thank you for your info! :(

Kizami's Noodle Shop said...

My eyes burned off when I accidently clicked the link xD porn is something that makes my insides turn upside down and then all around :0
but luckily I found this, This is really helpful and without it I wouldn't have re-grown my eyes! :3

httpb said...

Thank you for this article.

I just received few traffic sources from strange URLs and was wondering if there is a reason to worry.

I will try to filter them using Google Analytics as you suggested.

SaraLucette said...

Thank you! I was wondering!

Esther Shaindel said...

Well, that's reassuring and disappointing at the same time. At least now I know what those strange links mean (I did click through to a few at some points, though I never got porn sites, thank goodness, just weird travel sites and a few sites my malware protection blocked). But that means that my traffic volume has gone down by more than half. Very disappointing - I thought I was growing a silent following!

Katesews said...

Thank you so much for clearing this up! I have had quite a few "referrals" from sites ending in .ru lately and I was worried that maybe someone had hacked into my account ... Unfortunately I did click on one link but now know to ignore them!

Melissa Ryan said...

Yep I clicked on a few before I realized what they were. I am going to try clearing my cookies on my home computer and just ignore them in the future. Hopefully my traffic regulates to its normal level soon.

curator said...

Wow. Thank you so much. I was concerned those stats reflected on me somehow. I'll just get back to work on getting proper traffic!

Rite Domains said...



I still think there should be a script somehow to block it after you know it is not natural traffic.

Chuck Croll said...

Rite,

There are scripts to block it - they are at the Google level, not the individual blog level.

You have to be patient - Google will detect it, and they will block it - one spammy domain at a time - and for all Blogger blogs.

http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2012/04/referer-spam-cannot-be-blocked.html

Di said...

It's so annoying that traffic stats are messed up. Are the hits that show up on individual posts real? I just checked the 'now' stats and found Filmhill 3, but only one named post shown as being read. If the hits beside individual posts are OK, then I can put up with that. By checking on the Blogger totals in the posts list and deleting the dodgy hits in the overall totals at the end of the month I will arrive at a more or less real set of figures. Does this make sense, or are individual posts sometimes targeted?

Chuck Croll said...

Di,

Yes, it's annoying. Just try to not blame the victims of the referer spam attacks. Blogger / Google is as much a victim as you are.

http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2011/07/referer-spam-is-annoying-and-its.html

http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2012/04/referer-spam-cannot-be-blocked.html

Eyal Morag said...

2013 and still relevant.
If everyone will use the Send feedback option it may help

P said...

Thank you for this post. I have recently noticed many pageviews with no referral urls showing up in the log.

Jefferson Aleman said...

Ukraine and Russia, 30 to 50 hits a day during the last few weeks...

Scotts Contracting said...

I've been thinking about how to block them from even reaching the site. Would this be possible with the search engine block or allow option?

Chuck Croll said...

Scott,

You can "block" them - but since they never reach the site in the first place, the block will make no difference.

Jeffrey O'Hara said...

I have a Google Blogger page that I have a "goo.gl" link, but it goes to a Google map not porn. This page get a highly disproportionate amount of hits. After reading this I replaced it with the Long URL. I will see of it calms down

Attention of a gnat said...

Thanks

prakrtivizva said...

Now I understand why I have so much access from Russia. Thanx for the informative article!

Jarrett said...

Thank you for the info. I have a lot of traffic from .ru sites recently and was curious why. Now I know and I know not to click the links.

YU said...

Informative and helpful. I was getting lots of little sites that end in .ru.