In the middle of summer this last year (2015) I was invited to a Facebook group that was curating a lot of content from news outlets. After I’d been in the group a few weeks I asked one of the admins what software he was using to automate the publishing of his content. He replied back that he was not (I later found out this was a lie). I suggested a few methods and said something like Hootsuit would be a great tool for them, and while I was not sure how they were monetizing their FB group that I’m sure they could afford it. He said they were not monetizing their group yet, and was interested in talking to me about doing it. I told him I’d be happy to talk with him more about it, and eventually he took me up on the offer.
I’ve been sick of analytic spam for some time. I first noticed in in April of 2014. At the time, but we had lots of regular traffic coming to our main site so I really didn’t look much into it. Later I noticed a large number of referrals and all were showing as a bounce. I finally started to take notice, but took no action. Recently though I’ve been doing some major research for a new project I’m working on and came across some new information on how to fight them.
As anyone with an analytics account will have noticed, there is now much more than 1 of these analytic spam bots visiting our sites. My business partner just kept telling me “build some filters in analytics”. It was the lazy way out, but he’s busy, so I didn’t press him too hard. I did build up a bunch of filters but I noticed they were still showing up even with the filters I’d made (not all of them, but some still do). I wanted a solution that would get rid of them and I was not wanting to jack up any of my sites by messing around with .htaccess. I decided to test it on some sites that never left the development phase but still had analytics on them.
Not too long ago I started really digging into learning the in’s and out’s of Google Analytics. I found something I’d never read before while doing some searching on analytic spam. I discovered Google Tag Manager (GTM). Yes, I realize I’m a bit behind the times, but one thing came up that was a way to protect my analytics ID from the spammers. What I read was that the spam bots come by, scrape your analytics ID from your site and they never have to visit your site again. They can do what is called “ghost spamming”. This is where they ping the analytics servers with your info and it registers a hit on your site. Because of this you can have your .htaccess file set up to block all traffic, and you’ll still be showing visits to your site. I’ll talk more about this in a bit.
What I found out is that by using the GTM container it “hides” your analytics ID from the spam bots. This got me excited, and I wanted to try it out. I switched over one of my sites to GTM and loaded up the analytics through it. The next day I still had spam. I remembered that they scrape my ID and can ghost spam. OK so I deleted the analytics ID I had for a site that never made it out of development. The data was useless anyways, but if you want to keep yours, you can just create a new ID for the site and keep both running if you wanted.
In addition to setting up GTM with a new analytics ID I also added an updated .htaccess file to block 22 analytic spam bots I had visiting my sites. This way no bots could access my site. Nearly an hour later I had my first spam under the new ID. I was beyond pissed. I set up another analytic ID for a website that could not possibly exist, one made just to test an idea out.
I knew at the very least it would be about an hour before I had anything to see so I started looking at other things I had. My wife has a domain that she recently renewed after she accidentally let it expire. This domain has analytic data for the time she had it expired showing about 1500 spam hits over 3 months. This is pretty much all I needed to see to know that ghost spamming was real. Below is an image of the traffic she had while her domain was expired.
I wake up today and check my analytics on my new ID that I set up, but did not put on a site. Spam. 17 different hits at noon, and 38 nearly 6 hours after. 32 are from floating-share-buttons.com. The only good news is right now I only have 4 total bots trashing my analytic data and not the 22 I’ve had to edit my .htaccess file to block. The problem is they’re still trashing my data.
I looked at the analytics dashboard next. The ID I’m given is a 8 digit number. My older sites start 37, 47, 49, and the new ones that I just set up last night start with 64. So right now based on what I’m seeing is they’re just assigning a new unique number that is likely 1 higher than whatever they have in their system. That means there are around 65 million analytic ID’s out there. I run a crawler of my own, and it is on a pretty crappy VPS and it can still crawl over 1 million url’s a day.
What I think is happening is that these spam bots don’t even need to hit up our sites. They just cycle through the analytics ID numbers and tell Google we had traffic. If my crawler on a crappy VPS can crawl 1 million a day, I’m sure that they could with a few servers that were much better run through 65 million numbers pinging Google’s servers and recording fake traffic. I’m sure with the money they’re making they could cycle through them +30 times a day like the floating buttons spammers.
I’ve tried everything I can find to beat these guys, and because of a flaw with how Google has their analytics set up, and with how they’re able to let people fake data there just is no way to beat them right now. I have done a number of searches and I’ve tried to find anything from Google on what they’re doing about it, and I don’t see anything. I see lots of people trying to work on a fix, but I’m pretty sure the only fix at this point is to switch to a different analytics provider. If these spammers are making anywhere near the money I assume they are making they’re likely looking for flaws in other analytic software they can exploit so they can make even more money with different analytic providers if people start jumping ship.
I hit up @googleanalytics a few hours ago on twitter and I reminded them:
At this point I think all we can do is bug them about it until they respond to it and tell us they’re going to fix it. We know that having a horrible bounce rate can hurt our sites rankings in the search results. We have no idea if these fake bounces are having the same effect. We need a fix for this. Please email or tweet them and use #analyticspam
I’ve been reading some SEO forums of people wanting to improve their money sites, not just in rank, but converting its traffic. One of the main things many website owners overlook is site speed, because of that I’ll be going over how to optimize your website and possibly shave seconds off your load times. We all know that slow sites frustrate us, but there are studies you can find out there that show that slow sites lead to higher bounce rates, and lower conversions.
I’m going to assume that most people are using WordPress just because it is easy. Even if you are not using WordPress you will be able to use most of what I have to say, and will likely find it easier to do the tips that I offer that are not related to WordPress.
Plugins are killing WordPress sites. First off, if you don’t use it, delete it. You don’t want your websites resources going to plugins that you are not using. Next, if you are using the plugin, make sure you keep them up to date. You want the bug fixes, you also hope they reduce the bloat and make it faster. At the very least it should make your site more secure in the long term.
WordPress and Themes. For the same reason you want to update the plugins you want to update WordPress and our theme. Security is the main reason. Who wants to spend days or weeks fixing what a hacker did? Often the newer version of WordPress or your theme will be faster or more stable than the earlier version.
With themes you want to use a theme that does what you want it to do without hacking it or editing it. A theme that does what it needs to do should be faster than forcing one to work in a way it was not designed to.
Something most people overlook is their host. Most people go with a cheap host and only focus on the cost, and not anything
else. Better hosts will cost more, but you can usually depend on them for better security on their servers as well as being
considerablly faster than discount hosts.
W3 Cache is a great tool to optimize your site and reduce load time. The problem with W3 Cache is that it is another plugin. There are other ways to do what W3 Cache does without using a plugin. It becomes an issue of cost vs hiring a developer that can optimize how your site is now, and in the future. If you are on the cheap and have never used anything similar to W3 Cache you should use it to speed things up.
There are other tools you can use to optimize your graphics. Images should be high quality, and the right size for your site. Unless you run a photo blog where you are showing off your skills, you will want smaller sized images, in both visual size and file size. Most images on the web are around the 100kb mark. If the images on your site are far larger, or well above the 1mb size mark you will want to find some image tools to optimize your graphics. This can really increase site time by having huge file size images load up.
The last thing is how you manage the traffic to your site. Spyder Spanker is an easy way, but as you already know, it is a plugin, and it is going to add some bloat to your site. It an easy to use way to block people or unwanted crawlers from your sites. If you know what you are doing you can do all of this without using a plugin if you edit your .htaccess file. Before I go any further editing this file the wrong way could kill your site (so back up everything BEFORE YOU TOUCH IT). The information you need to edit this file is easily found in several places. It is a great way to reduce bounce rates by blocking crawlers that visit and bounce 100% of the time. Semalt is the crawler that comes to mind.
Also regarding the post I am working on where a company has made their PBN public, I am still working on digging up some info for that post. Sorry I couldn’t get it done for this months post.
So what do you think? Does this help? Can you think of something I missed? Let me know if I missed anything obvious in the comments below and help out the other readers of this site.
First off major apologies for my long absence. I recently got over a massive headache that lasted nearly a month and my doctor advised me to scale back my time in front of a computer screen to only what was absolutely necessary to get my work done. Because of that I neglected this site.
Now my headache is gone (still not clear what the cause was) and I’m ready to start adding content again. So in the last article I wrote about tools you can use to cut down on your work load and be just as productive with less time. This one will be about different services you can use do get different SEO tasks done by other people for as cheaply as possible. Obviously there is more to this, but I’m going to try and stay specific to SEO related things.
The first thing is big, content. Content is always a pain, and anyone that is trying to promote stuff on the internet knows, you NEED content. You can’t just get any content. The stuff you want on your site needs to be original content that is free from most spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing I hate more than trying to find writers for my content. This “content” below is something from a job I just posted this week. This is from a 4.5 star (out of 5) writer.
The job was specific in that it was for people that can write on intermediate to advanced SEO, and ABSOLUTELY NO SPUN CONTENT. To put it mildly getting this really ticked me off. Enough so that I finally broke down and decided to take my own advice and find a service that I can use to save me this headache. Now anyone that knows me in person knows just how cheap I am. The service not only has to be good, but cheap too. This is when a friend suggested www.qualitywritingsolutions.com I’m not a huge fan of the way the site is laid out, but it was easy to find out their pricing and lists exactly what I was getting.
I decided to give them a shot. In just under 48 hours I had my articles back. Considering they said their average turn around is 72 hours I was happy getting them in early. Much better quality than the crap the first guy tried to pass off to me.
So content is the big one, what else can we hire out to other people or websites? Link building is a good one. Lots of people make 2.0 sites to help diversify their backlink profile to their money site, but you can also give these sites some link juice power by linking to them. For 30$ I will scrape a bunch of content and use software to create 100k links to your 2.0 sites. If used on 10 or so sites it can provide a decent SEO boost to your money site. Because of negative SEO concerns I refuse to do this to anyone’s money site, as I will not be responsible for destroying anyone’s site.
If you are doing local SEO you can use Fiverr to hire people to create citation’s for you. Citations are the name, address and phone number of your site. It is the modern equivalent of the yellow pages. These links help diversify your backlink profile, and these links like the 2.0’s can be hit with link blasts to give extra SEO power. Most Fiverr gigs will run you $5, but depending on some extra’s you might want it could cost you $10-$15.
Not only is Fiverr great for citations, but you can find voice actors or even spokes people that will make videos for you or your site. I do need to say that even though these are on Fiverr, the vast majority of the gigs will run you well over $5. I was just looking into a spokes person to do videos for one of my sites, and its $5 for the first 30 words, $5 for each 30 words past it, if you want the resolution to not suck, add $20. If you want it filmed somewhere professional, and not in what looks like someones house, add $20. If you want them to dress a specific way, add $20. By the time you are done you are in for $130 for a video.
The voice over people are not nearly as bad. They do charge you based on the amount of words, but because it is audio there is not nearly the amount of ways to price gouge you. I hate hiring voice actors, but I know that I don’t sound anywhere near as nice on the ears as many of them do, so its worth the price in the end. Just make sure you have a script written ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is have the voice actor do their part and change things and need to rehire them. I have a few more things that I’ll cover in the next posting. Love to know what your thoughts are on the tools and services I’ve written up so far.
This week has been a nightmare dealing with different technical problems, and other personal stuff. My email is off line, so anything you send to me I will not be able to access until this is resolved. If there is something you want to message me about please post your message as a reply to this post.
Most people that get into SEO hear about something that is called the “SEO Lifestyle”. It is this mindset that in a short amount of time you can outsource everything you do to someone living in a 3rd world country somewhere and they will be off on an epic vacation that lets them travel the world 10 months out of the year.
When I think “SEO Lifestyle”, 2 things come to mind. The first is the song by Lord with how they expect all these amazing things, and the 2nd is this video, because they are all so impatient. Most seem to want everything now, and can’t handle waiting 10 minutes for anything.
The sad reality is that for most of us SEO takes work, takes a long time to learn, and is something you need to spend a lot of time keeping up with the latest tricks and trends in the industry. You not only need to know where the industry is going, but you need to know where it was, and why the past does not work anymore. Many people have sites now that can’t rank because of something that was done in the past. If you cannot identify the problem and remove it, there is no reason for them to hire you.
Like many new businesses, it took 18 months for me to get to a point where my business was profitable. I’m very lucky with how it worked out where I had a lot of that 18 months I was working for a company that let me learn SEO while working, and even after they laid off my department I had unemployment money coming in to cover me until I had enough momentum to earn a living from it.
Now, while I’m not living the “SEO Lifestyle” by any means. I am building up momentum still earning more each month than the month before (most months). I will openly admit that I love my job a ton more working for myself, and not working for anyone else. I am building towards the “SEO Lifestyle”, I mean who does not want to make it that far, but I realize I have a good deal more work ahead of me before I can get there.
If you are looking into doing SEO, it can be a lot of fun, it can be really rewarding and satisfying seeing domains you rank hit the #1 spot. It can also feel like you were kicked in the junk when Google does an algorithm update and all the hard work you did, all the careful planning you put into a domain and you watch it fall from the first page to page 18.
If all this does sound like something interesting, dig in. There is a mountain of free information out there to learn from. There are even some decent books. Start with the basics, learn what SEO is, learn the history, and what people have been doing for years, and read up on other trends going on now.
School can help with marketing ideas, but its not at all required. What you need to realize is that SEO is so much more than ranking websites. It is about marketing, and selling a product or service, getting conversions. If you can’t get people to your site, you’ll never make any money. If you can’t write a compelling call to action to get them to give you money or sign up for something, you’ll never make any money.
This site is a good site to get the basics down. I cover a lot of different things that someone learning SEO will want to know, tips, tricks and short cuts. However to grow you will need to join some forums and private Facebook or Skype groups with people that either are already doing SEO or learning it like you are. These groups will help take what you are learning and speed up everything. One of the greatest things I ever did was join a Skype group with other marketers and shared what we all knew. Several people from that group were not much further along than some people that read this. Several of them are making 5 figures a month. Others decided it was not worth the effort and have moved on.
If you do decide to do SEO, there will be countless opportunities out there for you as the internet is still growing, and new companies are going online all the time. Most will need someone to manage their online presence. That someone could be you.