Referrer Spam Can Skew SEO Analytics

Author: Jennifer | Date: November 30, 2015 | Categories:

Referrer Spam can undermine analytics accuracy.

Without a robust SEO program in place, are your search engine rankings being degraded?

Both concepts are important considerations for any company that is using the internet and a website to expand the reach and exposure of its business. But, if the concepts of Referrer Spam and SEO are new to you, you may be wondering what it is, am I affected, and (if so), how do I fix it?

What is Referrer Spam?

A comparison from the natural world, that mirrors the insidious function of Referrer Spam, is that of the relationship between a parasite and its host. This connection exists when one organism (a parasite) sustains its existence from another organism (a host), often without the permission or knowledge of the host. At a minimum, the parasite will irritate its host; at worst, it will seriously damage the health of the host, even to the point of death. In the cyber realm, Referrer Spam is the parasite, and a website is the unwitting host.

Referrer Spam is spam that uses a counterfeit referrer URL to make numerous requests of an established website in order to drive web traffic to a spammer’s site. This is a negative for any business, as a steady stream of fraudulent referral links can skew the accuracy of a company’s website traffic data reports or analytics. Bad data can ultimately affect a company’s bottom line, as it can cause misguided financial and human resource decisions. Even more nefarious is that undetected Referrer Spam can seek out the weaknesses of a website, making it more vulnerable to attack.

Types of Spam

Google Analytics categorizes Referrer Spam into two types: crawlers and ghosts.


Crawlers have the ability to access your site, crawl your page and ignore rules found in robots.txt. Crawlers are hard to identify because they use real data and know their targets.


The majority of Referrer Spam falls in this category.  Unlike crawlers, ghosts never access your site.  This type of spam does not have any interaction with your site. Instead, they use the Measurement Protocol which allows people to send data directly to Google Analytics servers.

Reasons to Block and Filter Referrer Spam

  • Corrupt Analytics Data
    Referrer Spam can suffocate legitimate traffic and make marketing analysis a frustrating effort for any website owner.
  • Server Load and Security
    Referrer Spam can overload a website server resulting in slower load times, higher bounce rates, and lower rankings.

The solution to halt parasitic Referrer Spam for a website is to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A two-part SEO Evaluation by CourseVector uncovers and halts current fake URL requests impacting a website, and implements a system to prevent future malicious referrals. Secondly, CourseVector SEO considers the origins of traffic to a website and then creates a client-specific strategy to optimize a website’s visibility and search engine rankings.

A Free SEO Marketing Report from CourseVector is not only the ideal starting point to determine if your website’s analytics are being skewed by undetected Referrer Spam, but is also the first step to repair and prepare your site for better SEO.

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