Strange irrelevant referring sites to my web page.
June 18, 2016 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I have a web page for my music store and I get the normal google and forum site referrals, but I also get a bunch from Russia ,dozens of them and they are really random and have nothing to do with music. Often it is some sort of dating ,or information site of questionable value, often sex related. Why is this happening?

It is enough to skew my results that it makes it harder to tell what really works on my site and what does not.

Can they be blocked by country? Would this help or hurt my site? I only sell in the US with occasional sales to Mexico and Canada and the UK.
posted by boilermonster to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
in referrer logs? i've not looked at mine for years, but back in the day i had these and, as far as i could tell, they were either spam (perhaps some referral logs are published online and end up referring back to these sites), or just sites that linked to crawler generated content.

as someone who lives outside of the usa, i find american sites that block other countries to be somewhat insular, but its your choice...
posted by andrewcooke at 9:52 AM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

There could be one or two things going on. If you're seeing these results in Google Analytics, it's probably someone borrowing your Google Analytics tracking code, in which case you either need to generate a new ID, or use the tools that Google has supplied to filter them out. This is because they're not actually visiting your site, they're just tricking GA into thinking they did. Doing a search for "google analytics referrer spam" will give you tons more info and possible solutions.

If you're seeing them in your server's referrer logs, there might be something else going on. Sites like you describe are typically part of networks, tens (or thousands) of different sites run by the same people that all refer to each other with the hopes that once a visitor gets in the circle, they can't escape since all "outside" links to go another site in the network. Search engines know about this and lower a sites ranking because they're clearly trying to game the system.

The reason they might link to an unrelated site like yours is to try to make a search engine think the site isn't part of the network. (Because, look at all of our links to unrelated sites!) A programmer on their end pulled your site's name out of a hat and plugged it into the system that generates random external links. (Note that this strategy doesn't work on the big American engines any more, but it might on whatever's popular in Russia. Or the site owners just haven't updated their SEO in a dozen years.)

If this is what's going on, you can deny visitors based on what site they're visiting from. Your web host might provide tools, or you can do it manually. That way you're not blocking any legitimate customers, which there is no reason to. (And blocking visitors by country wouldn't work anyway since people in America might visit your site by clicking on a link on the Russian site.)
posted by Ookseer at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're not the first person to have owned your domain, they could still be leftover links to the previous site. If that's the case, there's not much you can do except to contact the linkers, let them know you are the new owner and your content is different, and ask them to remove the links.
posted by Woodroar at 12:55 PM on June 18, 2016

I think Andrew Cooke has it: it's referrer spam. They do it because they know people check their referrers. It's been going on since the 1990s, in fact. All of the sites I manage get these sorts of fake referrers.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:02 PM on June 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

(btw, in case it's not clear from a technical pov, this information comes from a header in the http request and can be trivially faked. it's possible to spam a lot of people's logs with data for little cost.)
posted by andrewcooke at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

It is on my server logs I believe, I use weebly and I noticed all these refers, and wondered what was up.
posted by boilermonster at 11:30 PM on June 19, 2016

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