Saturday, May 11, 2013

Referral Spam - The Worst Way To Get Unqualified Traffic and Bad Links?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: absolutely.

If you don't know what referral spam is I'll give a brief overview. Whenever you click a link on a web page to visit another page, your browser tells that page the URL of the one that linked to it. This is stored in the web server's logs and is used in many analytics programs. This helps webmasters see what pages bring them traffic. Referral spam is when the referring web page is spoofed, usually by an automated program that takes a list of URLs and spams them all in a row. One of the most popular programs that does this is call PRStorm. I have used this app before and I talk about my experiences with it at the end of this article.

This spoofing shows up in logs, it usually is only visible to the webmasters themselves, but some sites make their analytics stats visible to the public on the web. This is what the spammers hope for because these pages contain links to the top referring sites, and since they are visible to the public they are therefore crawlable by the spiders of search engines. Other sites that do not display their stats online do not provide links to the spamming sites - the only person that will see the URL of the spammer is the webmaster who views the logs. Sometimes the webmasters will go through the logs and be curious about the sites that are referring traffic to their pages and visit the URLs that they find in the logs. This gives the spammers views to their sites, increasing their stats. And since many webmasters have the Alexa toolbar installed in their browsers, this helps increase their Alexa ranking as well. However most webmasters visiting sites that have spammed their own site do not like the fact that they have been spammed and obviously they are not interested in the spamming site so they are about as untargeted as traffic can get. So basically the spammers hope that every one in a million sites that they spam has a curious webmaster and that every one in a thousand has public stats visible online so that they can get a backlink. However I am sure that Google, Bing, Yahoo, and any other search engine knows about this little trick and they probably don't give much weight to links that are on analytic pages. Especially since there is no real content on these pages since it is just a bunch of numbers and other statistics. So even if the links do get counted, they are not good links. Pretty much all webmasters know that one good link is better than a whole slew of bad links. Some even claim that bad links harm their search engine standings more than they help.

So basically the whole process of spamming is a waste of time in hopes that they might get a few bad links and a few unqualified visits. I have tried this in the past on a few various sites and I know that I got few visits and I'm sure that all of them were just trying to find why my page referred visitors to them and once they realized it was fake they left immediately. And I never found any pages that actually included my site in their public analytic pages so I never even got any backlinks, whether they were good, bad, or indifferent. So I know that this is a waste of time from firsthand experience. So if you are wondering about referral spamming with PRStorm or another similar program, and whether it works or not, don't. It is a waste of time, bandwidth, and CPU power. I don't want to knock PRStorm or its developers, it works as advertised. It is just that the whole act of referral spamming is a waste of time and energy that is best spent elsewhere getting worthwhile links and visitors that actually want to visit your site. If I have learned anything about SEO in the past few years that I have been learning about it, it is that quality trumps quantity. So don't spend time getting thousands of worthless links. At best it will barely help your rankings. At worst it will get your site sandboxed. Try to create content that people want to link to because of its quality. Try to get visitors that want to visit your site. You want visitors but untargeted traffic is about as good as no traffic. They will not click your ads or buy your products, they will just visit and leave within seconds. Spam may work for some, but most spammers make users mad. So be a good webmaster and netizen and don't spam. Like they taught you in school - just say no!