Plugin of the Week: WP-Ban

by | Jan 14, 2015

referral spamOne of my business growth resolutions this year is to pay more attention to my Google Analytics results. So I have been trying to look at it at least once a week and actually understand some of the awesome information that it spits out.

On a recent visit to my Analytics’ dashboard, I noticed that I was getting traffic to several sites that I had not done a lot with over the last few months. I was elated. I decided to see where all of this wonderful traffic was coming from. I eagerly clicked “Acquisition” and “Overview” on the dashboard and found that the majority of the traffic was coming from the “Referral” category. “Wow”, I thought to myself. “Someone is actually referring my site to others. How great is that!”

Eager to find out who these awesome fellow cyberbuddies were, I clicked the referral link. My new friend was named “buttons-for-website.com.”  I thought that was an interesting place to have referrals from but hey, I wasn’t about to complain. I copied the link into my browser to investigate. As the browser redirected several times I thought, “Uh oh, I better do an extra virus scan after this.”

By this time I figured I should consult my friend Google to see what buttons-for-website.com was all about. It was not good.

I found Mike Price’s post about this and learned that it was referral spam. Upon further research, I discovered that websites like this send false referral information to your domain hoping that the traffic is picked up in your log files. This will make it appear that their site is connected to yours. It will also skew your data, making you think that you have more traffic from real people that you really have.

The fix did not initially appear to be appealing. Most sites suggested that you add a few lines of code to your htaccess file. Now I don’t have a problem adding a few lines of code to a custom css spot on a WordPress Theme, but I had no desire to tinker around with the htaccess file. I thought, “There has to be a plugin for this.”

As a searched, I found reference to a plugin that I already had installed on several sites, WP-Ban. I had been using this little gem to ban the ip addresses of several spam commenters. I never paid attention to the other sections. I found that I could also ban referrers. Yippy, no messing around with the htaccess file!

So, check your analytics and see if you are getting referral spam. If so, I recommend using a plugin like WP-Ban to sever the relationship.  Happy Blogging!