Referral Spam - The Best Guide I Have Found

Last Update: Nov 24, 2016


I am relatively new to Google Analytics, so I am not much of an expert on it. I do have to admit that I love checking it each morning to see how much traffic my website is getting. Like most people, I get really excited when I see a spike in traffic.

But hold on! Some of that traffic is not real. Welcome to referral spam.

What Is Referral Spam?

Referral spam is a technique used by people looking to increase their site's ranking using the deceptive technique of using bots to log fake visits to sites across the Internet with the purpose of getting their site indexed in those sites' analytics. Some sites publish their statistics data, including the referral sites, so that generates a lot of backlinks to the spammers' site, supposedly increasing their ranking. I am not sure if Google has done anything to penalize these sites, but whether they have or not, these fake visits show up in your Google Analytics reports and really screw up the results, to the point of making them almost useless. Chances are, if you see " You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!" in your language analytics (What the heck?!?), congratulations! You have been hit by one of the latest referral spam techniques.

Who Is Doing This?

Google is working behind the scenes to reduce and/or eliminate referral spam, but it is a difficult task. The spammers are smart and adapt to all the defenses. But who are these people?

The overwhelming majority of the referral spam I have been getting is from Russia. In fact, Russia surpassed the United States as my top location for visitors, but when I implemented filters to get rid of all the referral spam (see section below), there was not one legitimate hit from Russia. And believe it or not, there is one Russian in particular who has become famous as a spammer and is probably responsible for the majority of it. His name is Vitaly Popov, and he may be doing it more for the fame than for actually benefiting anything. If you Google his name, you will see all kinds of info.

What to Do about Referral Spam

I have seen guides on how to modify your .htaccess file on your website to block spammers from even visiting you site. If it works, this is better than filtering your analytics because it blocks them at the source rather than simply allowing them to visit and filtering their visits out of Google Analytics. However, when I tried blocking the spammy referrers, nothing happened. The next few days, they still showed up. As I said, I am not an expert, but I think the spammers may just be adaptable enough to get around it.

That leaves filtering the spam visits out of your Google Analytics reports. If you want to get rid of all of them, you will want to go here.

This is a comprehensive step-by-step guide that will walk you through the process of filtering out all the bad data so you can see only the legitimate data.

And make sure to bookmark this page. I think he updates it as the spammers adapt, so visit it periodically to see if he's added any more filters.

I hope this helps.

Here's to our success!


Recent Comments


I have had these happen to my website before.

I got rid of them by using filters. They eventually disappear in 1-2 days.

I suspect that Google is working to get this security issue resolved.

Thanks for sharing.


You're welcome, Jason. I'm not entirely clear what the spammers get from doing this, but it definitely skews our data.

Andy, thank you for the tip!

You're welcome.

Thanks for this info, Andy.

You're welcome.

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