Friday, July 22, 2011

Referer Spam Is Annoying - And, It's Persistent

Recently, we've seen a few blog owners who are curious about odd trends in their Stats displays.
My numbers seem to go up steadily for a while, then drop. Then, they go up again, for a while, then drop again.
Rises and falls in traffic are normal. You'll never have the same number of people, viewing your blog, constantly. During some days and some hours, our readers are going to be elsewhere, and not viewing our blogs.


Any blog that doesn't have a completely homogenous audience worldwide will have obvious ups and downs in its statistics. At any time of the day, people are more likely to be elsewhere, maybe sleeping or working, and not viewing your blog. Some fluctuation in the numbers is normal.

If you're seeing a repeated gradual up trend followed by a sudden down trend, though, you may be seeing the effect of another problem - Referer Spam. Google periodically finds a way to remove numbers from specific referer spam techniques from our Stats logs.

Unfortunately, the numbers cannot be removed immediately - because referer spam cannot be blocked. Referer spam can only be detected, over time, by looking for suspicious numbers reported by multiple blogs, simultaneously, as part of a long term trend.

Unfortunately, the spammers who produce referer spam, like every other type of spam, are resilient, and resourceful. As they see their traffic, from abused Stats logs, drop, they can tell that Google is blocking them. So, they periodically change their technique, to make their activity less obvious. As they change technique, Google can't block them, so their abuse gets into our Stats logs again - and their numbers go up, again.

As the spammers are more successful, we see our Stats displays show a gradual up trend, in pageview counts. As Google detects and blocks them, we see our Stats displays show a sudden down trend, as the numbers are removed for all time ranges. Again, a normal rise and fall - just in a different pattern.

As long as we keep clicking on the links, we'll keep encouraging the spammers to abuse us. And they will keep changing technique, to keep from being blocked. Don't encourage the spammers.
  1. Don't click on the links, that you don't recognise.
  2. Don't publish the contents of your traffic logs.
  3. Be patient, and let Google block the spam.

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9 comments:

David Mark said...

nite -

Love your explanations. I do not click on referrer spam. I do not post a list of URL or websites that visit my blog.

My question: Since referrer spam started showing up in my STATS about six weeks, ago, I think I see a trend for a decrease in other, i.e., likely legitimate, visits to my blog (as in anything in the US rather than the Ukraine). Is being touched by referrer spam possibly pushing me lower in the search rankings?

I am not a big traffic site and do not do AdSense, so nothing financial at risk.

Chuck said...

David,

I don't think you're actually seeing a decrease in normal traffic. In fact, I am pretty certain that the spam traffic has no way of affecting your non spam traffic - and again what you think is traffic is really fraudulent server access, that Stats thinks is traffic.

My guess is, with countries like Bulgaria, Rumania, and Russia at the top of the 10 country list, that pushes the countries where the genuine traffic originates in, down the list. Ditto for the other lists.

As your blog gets more genuine traffic, the spam will be less noticeable. You have to just work on getting to that state, in blog popularity, and ignore what you can't change.

Admin said...

will this pose a risk to adsense account. since google adsense policy says that blog should not drive traffic from ads or traffic exchange...though we know that thats spam, does google adsense knows about that?

Chuck said...

Admin,

There is no component of referer spam that should trip any AdSense detection. Excepting for the server activity logs, referer spam does not imply any traffic to your blog - and is a long way from generating any Ad Traffic (which is what AdSense guards against).

Admin said...

That means my adsense account is safe..;)
Thankyou for your reply.

Yogi said...

I did click on the referer-spam. Yes I was that stupid. Virus-alert followed from my virus-program. Just hope it got it all!!

Sarah Lizzie said...

Thank you so much for your comments re my enquiry, it was very informative.

PigTail Leo said...

I recently got many of page views from current.com. Then I realize it's a referral from flf-course.com. (<- hey, don't go there!) Current.com actually comes out a warning for the coming redirection. Thank them. But why don't they just block that domain?

Vruta Gupte said...

Referer spam from current.com stopped when I stopped clicking on that site--it didn't show up with the most pageviews.