How to Block Referrer Spam in WordPress and Google Analytics

All types of spam are bad – that’s a basic fact anyone can tell you. They all have a negative impact on your WordPress website and its performance. One type of spam you always need to be wary of is referrer spam. It can get into your Google Analytics and have a negative impact on your ranking which we all know is very important for the overall wellbeing of your business. You can clearly see just how important it is to block referrer spam in WordPress and Google Analytics. But let’s find out something more about the matter, shall we?

What exactly is referrer spam and what does it entail?

There is one main purpose of this type of spam and that is to affect the search engines, making them turn against your website. Let’s say a person wants to improve his or her website rankings without doing any of the actual work that would lead to a better position. That person will send out many requests with fake URLs that will link back to the website they want to promote. What that means is that you can unintentionally link back to this site which would improve their rankings but poorly affect yours.

A woman getting ready to Google how to block referrer spam.
Good rankings bring you more than just bragging rights.

Even though Google and other search engines have really put in the effort of preventing spam of any kind, you can never be in the clear. And if you happen to link back to dozens of spam sites, Google might think you are past the point of doing it unintentionally.

Finally, if you are putting in a lot of work in creating quality content, the last thing you want is to see it go down the drain. And if you link back to a suspicious site and some of your viewers follow the link, it could lead them to a site with harmful materials. For that reason, you have to work hard on maintaining your website’s security and blocking any referrer spam.

How does referral spam affect your Google Analytics?

All website owners love to keep close tabs of their website – that’s just common sense. It only makes sense that you would want to see which sites are referring traffic to your platform. That’s something you can see in the referral report in Google Analytics. And this is where the name for this type of spam comes from. So what happens when you check out your referral report in Google Analytics? You may accidentally click on a harmful link, and so could other users that have access to your logs. It really doesn’t matter who makes the mistake and clicks on it, it will still have the same negative effect.

A person looking at some statistical data.
Google Analytics is a very handy tool for any website owner.

Steps that will help you block referrer spam in WordPress and Google Analytics

It all begins with a plugin – but doesn’t it always? To start the process and ensure your website remains safe, go to the Block Referrer Spam plugin page and install and activate the plugin. Of course, you don’t have to use this particular plugin – you have other options.

  • WP Block Referrer Spam
  • Sucuri
  • SpamReferrerBlock

But let’s say you stick with the Block Referrer Spam like a lot of people do. The next step would be to go to the Referrer Spam tab which you can find on your dashboard. The goal is to check the Auto Update area with which you will ensure that the list is updated on a daily basis. Now, do you see the Block Mode title below the Auto Update area? By default, it should be set on the Rewrite Block section. If it isn’t, make sure you do it manually.

 Check how the plugin is working

On the Referrer Spam page, you will be able to see a field named the Last Update. It will show you when the list was last updated, as well as provide you with a link of all the blocked sites. This is a pretty handy tool as it will help you keep track of the referrer spam, as well as show you how well the plugin is working. We all know the importance of timely updates, and here you will be able to see how often they are done, as well as their accuracy.

The word update written on a blackboard.
The list of blocked websites will be frequently updated..

It could happen that the plugin doesn’t block all sites with spam links. If your Google Analytics report shows you some questionable links, you can block them manually. Just copy the website URL and paste it into the box. Plugins are great and functional in 98% of times, but even they aren’t without flaws.

Getting rid of referrer spam in Google Analytics

If the plugin is working properly, it should be blocking any referring spam websites. But what it may miss are the so-called ‘ghost referrals.’ What makes them invisible for the plugin is the fact that they aren’t visiting your website, so they are undetectable. And since your goal is to prevent any referrer spam showing up on your referral report, you should start by opening your Google Analytics account. Follow the Audience > Technology > Network path.

When you take a look at the list of hostnames (and make sure they are shown by month), you should be able to recognize the legitimate ones. Think of your goal as trying to create a list of the acceptable hostnames so that you can filter through the unacceptable ones more easily. It will help you to know that there is a list of ghost websites circulating the Internet, so you could look it up for future reference.

The bottom line

At WP Full Care, we put a major focus on safety, and we think that you should do the same. All of your efforts to block referrer spam in WordPress and Google Analytics will never be in vain. Especially when you take into account the fact that the plugin will do most of the work for you. Your job is to supervise!

Stay Informed