Forex Ninjas in your Analytics? – You have Referrer Spam!

Have you checked your Google Analytics traffic stats recently and noticed a bit of traffic from some unlikely sources? When checking your referrers (which sites have sent you traffic) have you spotted sites such as www.forex-ninjas.com and www.rock.to? If so, then you have had some referrer spam.

This traffic is no good at all to you, and isn't actually the result of them visiting your site at all. Confused? Read on...

13 Jan, 2012
Referrer spam in your Analytics reports

This is Referrer Spam

Have you checked your Google Analytics traffic sats recently and noticed a bit of traffic from some unlikely sources?

When checking your referrers (which sites have sent you traffic) have you spotted sites such as www.forex-ninjas.com and secret.google.com?

If so, then you have had some referrer spam. This traffic is no good at all to you, and isn’t actually the result of them visiting your site at all. Confused?

What is referrer spam?

When you add Google Analytics (or indeed any public facing analytics code) to your website you are placing a small script on your web pages. When someone visits your pages the script tells Google about the visit and Google then show it on your Analytics report.

However, as the script is visible in your page source (try navigating to your web page, then click ‘View Source’ in your web browser tools and find ‘analytics’) it can be used in a bad way too. Here’s what happens…

If I had a website whose traffic I wanted to artificially boost, I would copy the analytics code form your web page and paste it (along with the code from thousands of other websites) into my own web page. Then I would navigate to my web page. This would immediate execute all of the analytics code scripts in the page, making it appear to Google that I had visited each of these pages.

That’s rubbish, I hear you say. Why would I want to waste my time doing that?

What benefit does referrer spam have for the perpetrator?

Well. When you see these sites appear in your Google Analytics reports what do you do?

I have actually visited a few to see where my link appears on their site.

So, if I have visited their sites to have a look, then I’m sure that you have too. That’s what they are after – traffic, which delivers impressions for their advertisers, and which looks good to site owners if they have employed a rather shady web company to help build their traffic.

Can I do anything about it?

Filtering Google Analytics Traffic

Google Analytics Profile Filter

I’m guessing that Google will eventually get on top of this and stop these referrals appearing in your analytics reports, but unfortunately as soon as one route is shut down another will open up.

You could play around with the filters on your analytics profile (excluding specific domains), but that’s probably a little too much effort – especially if you have multiple sites and lots of different spam referrers.

Is Referrer Spam a risk to me?

Probably not if you ignore it.

However, if the site was malicious in some way (for example, by automatically downloading something nasty to the computers of anyone who visited it), that might be different.

It distorts your Google Analytics stats too, making it difficult to see real traffic progress.

So, my recommendation is not to visit any of these sites at all – even if you have spam and virus protections running on your computer or built into your web browsers.

Can referrer spam represent real visits to my site too?

Yes. I have described a way that spammers can trick Google Analytics users into thinking that they have had a visit, but of course they can pay real visits to your site too. This may have the added complication if you display a list of referrers on your site – some people do, and this can give good search engine link juice to the spamming site!

11 Comments

  1. Martin Jarvis

    Here’s another site generating referrer spam :

    slowfoodottawagatineau.org

    I wonder how much money has been paid by the owners of this site to an SEO company. Wonder if they know that what looks like good traffic may end up penalising their SEO value. The winners here are the company that did this for them – not the owners of slowfoodottawagatineau.org

    Reply
  2. John Lorince

    Excellent Article! I was really wondering who these sites where showing up in my analytic reports. Thank You DMJ!

    Reply
  3. Anne Lyken-Garner

    This happened to me on all my sites. Google responded by banning my Adsense account.

    Reply
  4. Website Design

    This same thing has also been happening to all of our sites and our clients. Thanks for the detailed explanation!

    Reply
  5. Jack

    I get traffic from forex ninjas on SEVERAL of my sites. So annoying.

    Reply
  6. MitchellT

    Thanks for this excellent writeup of the problem, and for the writeup about honeypots as an alternative to CAPTCHAs.

    Reply
  7. Drew Harding | Eclipse Creative

    Great article Martin, I was just in the process of setting up some advanced segments in analytics and notices Forex Ninjas and instantly google’d the domain to see what the site was all about and found your blog… Sneaky buggers eh!

    Cheers for sharing your experience with us.
    Regards, Drew

    Reply
  8. Charles Ward

    Hi Martin

    There is a filter that could help with this – it effectively restricts data to that to your site only.

    You need to add a custom filter with the following properties.

    Filter type – custom
    Pick ‘Include’
    Filter Field – Hostname
    Filter pattern YourSite\.co\.uk
    case sensitive – no

    Once you add this you should exclude anyone who hijacks your CA code from appearing on your site.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards

    Charles

    Reply
  9. Daniel Clements

    Thanks. That explains something that has puzzled me for awhile.

    Reply
  10. Jon Roach

    Very helpful thank you!

    Reply

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