If you already know what referral spam is and just want the domain list, then go here…
Referral spam – what is it and why?
Google Analytics data is one of the key performance indicators for websites, and by trickle-down affect a good way of Internet Marketing professionals to gauge campaign success. But GA (Google Analytics) isn’t just a tool used to pat ourselves on the back – by trawling through the remarkable amount of data GA gathers we can identify problems in user experience, niches that can be exploited and oh-so-many other things. One most interesting parts of the information gathered by Google Analytics is the referral data. Referral statistics show us where our visitors are coming from, so naturally it’s at the very heart of a lot of Internet Marketing.
Instead of explaining referral spam I’m going to show you an example:
The above screenshot shows the acquisition report from one of my micro-niche sites that I chose at random. On first glance a referral number that high would have me reaching for the party-poppers. Over two thousand people visited my site after clicking a link on someone elses’ site? Oh happy days! Until we drill down further into the stats:
I’ll be honest, I LOVE looking at referral data. I love clicking the domains and finding the link to my site on the referrer site. Time spend contacting site owners thanking them for the link is a great way to develop relationships with influencers. I like fun like this. But that’s why referral spam exists. Have a look at the domain list above. Apart from the one site I blurred out all the rest are put in that list by spammers. There are no links from these sites to my site. There were not 2,000 happy, information-seeking potential customers beating a path to my door. Nada.
So why can’t we just ignore spam referrals? Because they seriously bias the stats, making it really difficult to get a handle on exactly how a site is performing.
Referral spam pisses in the pot we drink from.
How to block sites
At the moment the methods fall into two main categories:
- Blocking by .htaccess
I’m not convinced by this method at all. These domains shown in Google Analytics haven’t been anywhere near your site. They appear to be placed there via an exploited weakness somewhere in GA. Because all GA accounts have a numeric identifier (UA-XXXXXXX-X or whatever) several sources are claiming that the people behind this annoyance are hitting sites by guessing at profile identifiers. So this is a bit like dictionary spamming, which I had hoped we’d left behind some time around 2003.
- Filtering Analytics data
This is probably the best stab at statistical sanity we have available to us at the moment. We can’t stop referral spam, but we can try to ignore it.
Google Analytics spam domain list
I’m not going to tell you exactly how to filter out spam domains from your analytics; there are many good guides you’ll find at the end of a Google search. But what I am going to do is try and help you out by giving you a huge list of spamming domains. No matter what method you use to do battle referral spam you’ll need a big list of domains. The problem is that the domains being used to target one of your sites are unlikely to be the same as the ones hammering your other sites. So having a huge list of crappy domains is probably quite a good starting point for your defence.
I have created a Google Sheet to try and keep track of the fast growing list of domains that are showing up in Google Analytics. Please get in touch if you have a list of domains that you have been adding to, I’ll add it to my list and between us we’ll conquer the world! Well, maybe not, but we will have a nice big list of spam referrer domains.