Ghost Spam – The Curse of yer Blog! Or is it?

RockmusicRaider - Spam Packages

If you run a website, blog, or any other operation on the web, you’ll encounter the spammers. You know, those crazies flooding your channels with weird messaging, ranging from conspiracies, to romance for dummies and other sexual atrocities, over get-rich-quick schemes, to outright fraud and extortion attempts of all sorts. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Spam or scams are – in theory – perfectly illegal in most a few countries of the world. Yet, the spam part of all this criminal activity is a bit more elusive than the already very elusive rest of them.

Because calling spam illegal is like hating the wind, even if some laws do exist. Reigning in bad practices on the global web would mean a concerted effort on a global scale. And that ain’t going to happen in our climate of power politics. In other words, as long as spammers can operate pretty much with impunity from many countries around the world, things will not change.

Blogs like RMR have really limited powers to fight spam, apart from blocklists, self-defense, using paid tools like firewalls and filters, and contacting the powers that be. Oh, and talking to authorities is – well – useless.

And then, there’s the small issue of where the focus of a music blog should be, right? We all have limited time, only two hands, and a day job. Because running a review blog is pretty much out-of-pocket, so you can’t just hire a deckhand to have a go at them. Choices, choices, all over again, I tell ya.

We may return on some of the Black Hat SEO practices later, but here we want to talk about something else.

Ghost or Referral Spam

Ghost Spam used to be that hot item for a while. Malicious sites will send traffic data directly through your Google Analytics ID to Google. Those hits will – in theory – never touch your site. So, you see statistics bloat on your Google Analytics page, but no real traffic. The purpose of its existence? To drive traffic to their site by disgruntled data managers or other curious souls for a variety of criminal enterprises.

For a while secret whispers about wrecked stats, dire punishment by Google, and what have you, abounded. Yet, Google has modernized and is more than able to understand which of those are ghostly spam, and which ones are not. In other words, your ranking is (should be) safe – and Google’s adamant confirmation can be found all over the internet. For now at least.

But who really trusts Google and the people in it, right?

However, there’s a clear danger to the way you look at data. Even if vanity traffic may be good for the soul, wrong and bloated traffic stats will lead to even worse decisions. It will thus behoove you to exclude ghost spammers from your stat data through filters

The Fake SEO Companies.

The most infamous perpetrators for massive ghost spam these days use fake SEO companies as their vectors. So have a care if you contract with them. You never know how much of your limited 21 grams of soul you will check in at the door each time you sign up with them. They’re fake and will use you and your data with disdain.

Semalt.com

If you’ve run a site for a while and SEO interests you, then you probably heard of these guys. They’re the pain in the ass of the internet. I am told, they’re Russian, so they’ll just laugh at the aforementioned anti-spam laws. But their IP resolves to Ukraine, courtesy of – wait for it – Cloudflare. The service we already called out twice allows known spamming operations to find a home on their service. Well, fits, doesn’t it?

Now, have a care, Semalt.com don’t only do Ghost Spam, they also hit your site directly numerous times. And THAT has real-life consequences because it eats up server resources and can – potentially – slow down your site.

To state one recent example, Semalt.com inserted a conspicuous-looking URL called “own-ahrefs.com” as the referrer. It sounds half-legit, but once you hit it, the link resolves to Semalt. In the meantime, they threw up yet another smokescreen. And now, it takes another detour over a fake UK address to their server through an IP in the Bahamas. So, it’s not the mighty Ahrefs, Semalt.com has got your back. So much criminal energy to do what? And the traffic is pretty considerable.

XTraffic.com

These guys come in many disguises. If you find strange referrals in your daily stats, then it’s probably them. A large gluttony of odd-looking addresses that make no sense. Fake blogs, forum pages, game sites, and fancy domain endings, it’s a pretty colorful selection. And recently XTraffic.com have taken a liking to spam bomb sites. Which will totally skew your statistics with non-sensical hits mainly from Russia and Eastern Europe.

So, who are we kidding right? They’re up to no good.

In conclusion…

As the current state of affairs goes, Ghost or Referral Spam will skew your GA dataset, but should not impair your search engine rankings. Methinks that we can believe Google on that front. After all, they have enough visibility on a site’s traffic to pull data directly without stepping into messy GA accounts.

But have a care, basing your decisions on skewed data will – without a doubt – lead to no good. And that, in turn, can have consequences on your rankings and remove you from that #1 spot on the search page.

*****

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