• Home 
  • Blog
  • Referral Traffic Dilemmas: Spikes and Spam Uncovered

Referral Traffic Dilemmas: Spikes and Spam Uncovered

Referral Traffic Dilemmas: Spikes and Spam Uncovered

If you're a website owner, you may have noticed some unusual spikes in your referral traffic lately. An increase can be beneficial for your website, but it can also bring some dilemmas, especially when dealing with spammy referral traffic. In this blog post, we will uncover the mysteries behind referral traffic spikes and provide some tips on how to handle and prevent spam from affecting your website's performance. Let's learn how to deal with these unexpected and sometimes problematic spikes.

Where Referral Traffic Comes From

To find where your referral traffic originates, start by accessing your website's analytics tool, such as Google Analytics. Navigate to the acquisition section and select "All Traffic" followed by "Referrals." Here, you'll see a list of domains sending visitors to your site. 

Where Referral Traffic Comes From

Pay close attention to the behavior metrics of this traffic. If you notice sources leading to significantly low time on site, high bounce rates, or minimal to no engagement, these are red flags. Such patterns are indicative of ghost referral traffic, which, unlike genuine referral traffic, offers no real value and can distort your analytics.

How Spammy Referral Traffic Can Affect Your Site

Ghost referral traffic exists primarily as a nefarious technique used by spammers to draw attention to their websites. They trick analytics platforms into registering fake visits, causing traffic spikes, hoping you'll notice and visit their site.

Spammy referral traffic can seriously hinder your website's credibility and search engine rankings. When your site receives a surge of inauthentic visits, it inflates your metrics with misleading data and can also negatively impact your site's performance. 

Search engines might interpret this sudden spike in traffic as manipulative behavior, potentially leading to penalties or a drop in search rankings. Also, the quality of your user analytics becomes compromised, making it challenging to analyze real visitor behavior and preferences, which is crucial for your decision-making and optimization strategies.

How to Remove Unusual Referral Traffic

To deal with unwanted referral traffic, the first step involves setting up filters in your website analytics tool. In Google Analytics, navigate to the Admin area, select your account, and under the View section, opt for Filters. Here, you can add a new filter to exclude traffic from specific domains known for sending spam. Use the "Custom" filter type, choose "Exclude," and in the filter field, select "Campaign Source." Then, enter the domain names of the known spam sources. 

How to Remove Unusual Referral Traffic

Another step to take is to employ the .htaccess file on your server, especially if your website runs on an Apache server. By editing this file, you can deny access to your site from spam referrers. Simply add lines of code specifying the domains you wish to block. But, be careful when editing the .htaccess file. An incorrect configuration can make your site inaccessible. 

Additionally, if your website is built on a CMS like WordPress, you can use plugins or services designed to identify and block spam traffic in real-time. These tools continuously update their database of spam sources, providing an additional layer of protection. 

By taking these proactive steps, you can significantly reduce the influx of spammy referral traffic and maintain the integrity of your analytics data.

Remove Existing Ghost Referral Traffic From Reports

In addition to getting rid of this unwanted traffic, you will also want to remove the existing ghost referral traffic from your analytics reports. This way you know your data reflects true visitor behavior. 

First, create a custom segment within your analytics tool that specifically excludes the spammy referral traffic you identified. In Google Analytics, go to the “Segments” area, click on "Add Segment," and then select "New Segment." Name this segment for easy identification, such as "Exclude Spam Referrals." 

Remove Existing Ghost Referral Traffic From Reports

Under the "Conditions" tab, set the filter to exclude sessions where the source matches the spam domains you've identified. By applying this custom segment to your historical data views, you can analyze your site's performance without the skewed data caused by ghost referrals. 

This will help restore the accuracy of your analytics, which enables you for better decision-making and strategy development based on real user interactions. Remember, this segment only alters the data you view, not the data collected, so you maintain a clean and useful analytics environment without permanently altering your historical data.

Leveraging Legitimate Referral Traffic for Growth

Now that we’re rid of the spammy traffic, let’s leverage legitimate referral traffic. This can be a powerful strategy for your website's growth. 

  1. Begin by identifying your top referral sources through your analytics tool. 
  2. Look for sites that drive engaged traffic - visitors who spend time on your site, explore multiple pages, and have a low bounce rate. 
  3. Build relationships with these referral sources. Reach out to thank them and explore potential collaborations or content sharing opportunities to further boost referrals. 
  4. Ensure your site is optimized to capture and engage referral traffic. This means having clear calls-to-action, engaging content, and an easy navigation path that encourages visitors to explore deeper into your site. 
  5. Encourage social sharing and implement SEO best practices to make your content more discoverable and shareable, attracting even more legitimate referrals. 
  6. Consider setting up referral programs or incentives that encourage your existing audience to refer others to your site. 

By focusing on these strategies, you can use the power of legitimate referral traffic to enhance your website's visibility, user engagement, and overall growth.