I’ve noticed the same problem that others have been experiencing with Google Analytics lately – an influx of botnet referer spam from domains semalt.com, buttons-for-website.com, darodar.com and 7makemoneyonline.com (the list continues to grow), making their way to the top of your “Top Referrals” list. This traffic is throwing off analytics and may have long term SERP implications. From the sound of it, most users are either having a difficult time filtering (excluding) the domains and traffic through Google Analytics, and/or resorting to blocking the domains via their .htaccess file.
This is a public service announcement.
DO NOT USE THE
SEMALT OPT-OUT FORM!!!
Instead, offer them a clue about what orifice they can stuff that form in.
While I’m not the best SEO guy around, I’d have to say this looks like a traffic stealing campaign where somehow, they are using an opt-out form to phish/harvest backlinks and/or SERP rankings from your domain, or upsell you on better analytics software.
Furthermore, it seems that users are being scammed by what I would call social engineering agents who work for Semalt and lurk on public forums to point users towards an opt-out form run by them, effectively phishing users through Google Analytics. You might say that Google Analytics has been compromised. And what better way for Semalt to sell their own analytics software than to game their largest competitor’s software and lure users away from it? Semalt is literally using Google Analytics for free clicks and advertising, completely bypassing Google’s own pay-per-click advertising model. Instead of the phishing scam hitting your email inbox, it’s hitting your analytics report.
Some of the referer URLs contain my own Google Analytics ID. For example – forum.topicXXXXXXX.darodar.com – where XXX is your Google Analytics ID. I’d say they are using a script to iterate through all Google Analytics ID’s starting with 0000000, effectively generating traffic and analytics records for every site on the web that uses Google Analytics. But that’s not all, once you visit that referer URL with your Google Analytics ID in it, you’ve just told the spammers that your Google Analytics account is alive and well. It’s probably the same thing Semalt is doing with their opt-out form.
In doing so, these spammers would have the ability to sway traffic one way or another throughout the entire Google Analytics ecosystem without wasting botnet resources on inactive or retired Google Analytics accounts.
Shouldn’t Google be upset about that? This is not just a new type of spam or black hat SEO, it is a new type of marketing warfare or analytics malware. Continue reading