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Going Gangsta on Referral Spam


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Both traditional referral spam and ghost referral spam are frustrating everyone from Small Business Owners to Internet Marketers. This presentation covers some of the filtering approaches for Google Analytics and why the cookie approach is so effective.

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Going Gangsta on Referral Spam

  1. 1. @johnpetersontx Going Gangsta on Referral Spam: The Art of the Takedown John Peterson, President Develare August 16, 2015 SearchHOU Meetup Houston, Texas
  2. 2. @johnpetersontx Existential Crisis My traffic is looking great! More sessions than ever before! Why nobody read my stuff? Why everybody leave? Why nobody call?
  3. 3. @johnpetersontx In the beginning… 1. Pretend to host referrer link. 2. SEO guys get curious about referrer. 3. SEMALT gets more traffic. 4. ??? 5. Profit
  4. 4. @johnpetersontx Here Come The Ghosts… Ghost Referral Spam can’t be blocked by server. Never visit your website. Exploit weakness in Google Analytics JavaScript code.
  5. 5. @johnpetersontx Identify the Spammers
  6. 6. @johnpetersontx Referral Spammer Tells Sessions = New Users Pages / Session = 1.00 Avg. Session Duration = 0:00:00
  7. 7. @johnpetersontx Not Perfect… This does not catch more sophisticated bots Bots can come from legit referrers Bots may not be bots… just cookie blockers
  8. 8. @johnpetersontx Disclaimer Attention SEO or Internet Marketing Expert. By proceeding, you agree to the following: • You will not laugh at John’s traffic • You will not talk about your landing page
  9. 9. @johnpetersontx It’s not me.. it’s you.
  10. 10. Common Approaches
  11. 11. Black List
  12. 12. White List
  13. 13. @johnpetersontx Segments
  14. 14. Cookies
  15. 15. @johnpetersontx Executive Summary Use Google Tag Assistant to verify what you’ve got. Create cookie in Google Tag Manager. Add Google Tag Manager snippet to website. Add Google Analytics snipper to website. Use Google Tag Assistant Extension to verify GTM.
  16. 16. @johnpetersontx Create test view in Google Analytics. Configure Google Analytics test view to read and filter by cookie. Verify results in test view. When verified copy to main view.
  17. 17. Did we block them?
  18. 18. @johnpetersontx Blocked localhost:8884
  19. 19. @johnpetersontx –Euripides “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.”
  20. 20. @johnpetersontx John Peterson Phone: 888-521-8996 Twitter: @johnpetersontx Email:
  21. 21. @johnpetersontx Resources 1. Referer spam. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 2. Semalt infecting computers to spam the web. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 3. 4G Series: The Ultimate Referrer Blacklist, Featuring Over 8000 Banned Referrers. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 4. Eupipedes. Retrieved 16 September 2015.