Search Engine Optimization in Hong Kong – Analytics & Referral Spam

Google Analytics has taken a hit lately in the form of referral spamming, or spoofing. I started to notice it in my own reports, then came across this article.

We manage search engine optimization and search marketing for a number of our clients. Some are SMEs with local markets that have naturally small amounts of traffic. This month I started preparing the report for one client and my jaw dropped: a 500% increase in traffic:

Search Engine Optimization is doomed

However a quick filter by country showed that 90% of the new traffic is from Russia. Not their market by any stretch.

RIP analytics and SEO reporting?

Welcome to Referral Spam. Some bright spark has written code to spoof the Analytics JS code to appear like traffic. It seems that this is for the sole reason that eager marketers will follow the resulting URL to see who is sending traffic, and registering a hit on that link. Semalt. Darodar. Iloveitaly. I would love to see their analytics reports!

It’s clearly an issue that Google needs to address quickly. This isn’t just a new item on the list of referrers that you can conveniently ignore; this affects all your website metrics! Bounce rate, time on site, pageviews, everything.

Search Engine Optimization for the future

Some have discussed the difficulty in fixing the problem, but in the meantime a simple blacklist would seem to suffice. Until then, we will need to filter our reports. This is far from simple, probably not future-proof, and ultimately far more work than we should be expected to do for a Google Analytics vulnerability that is going to affect everyone involved.

Here is a detailed explanation on how to create filters for the various types of unfriendly items showing up in your analytics:

Best of luck out there. On another note, if your SEO is not talking about this, maybe it it time to talk to us.

* Note: we usually spell it ‘optimisation’, not ‘optimization’, but in the very spirit of SEO we need to follow the behaviour of searchers. Sorry dad.