Block Semalt and Other Analytics-Skewing Referrers

Black hat SEO practices

Beware black-hat referrers who can skew your site data.

Your site statistics are a critical part of your marketing strategy. If they’re not accurate, how will you be able to tell if your efforts are working?

Stat-savvy website owners have been up in arms lately about unusual traffic spikes and unknown referrers showing up in their data. The biggest culprit by far is Semalt.com, who many web sources have identified as a foreign company using black-hat practices in order to hawk their social media and SEO services.

Semalt’s robots have skewed site statistics to the point where many website owners can’t trust what they’re seeing. There are, however, a few precautions you can take to prevent this from happening:

  • You can filter out traffic coming from a specific domain in your Google Analytics data.
  • You can deny traffic to your website by a specific domain or IP address. Two options to do this are listed below.

Time required: Five minutes or less if you take the Google Analytics route, 15 minutes to update your .htaccess file. (Both estimates assume advanced knowledge of these areas.)

Exclude Traffic From Specific Domains in Google Analytics

Any hostname that contains the string you add will be excluded. For example, if you add example.com to the list of referral exclusions, another-example.com will also be excluded from your referral traffic.

  1. Log in to Google Analytics.
  2. Navigate to a property and click Admin.
  3. Click Tracking Info, then Referral Exclusion List.
  4. Enter the domain.
  5. Click Apply to save.

If you want to take additional precautions, you can also make changes to your website code and deny traffic to your site by blocking the referring domain from accessing your site. On WordPress, there are two ways to block a referring domain:

  1. Use the Wordfence Security plugin.
  2. From the Wordfence plugin, go to Blocked IPs.
  3. Enter the IP address of the URL you wish to block. If you do not know the IP address, you can find it here at the internic.net website
  4. Click on the “Manually block IP” button when you have finished entering the IP address.

Clear blocked IP addresses

If you don’t want to use the Wordfence plugin, you can modify your .htaccess file, which is located in the root directory of your website. If you don’t feel comfortable enough with this option, any web developer can make the changes for you, as can many hosting companies.

Deny Access to Your Site in Root Directory

Here are the steps to take for denying access to your site by a specific domain by modifying the .htaccess file:

  1. Access the root directory of your site using a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) application, such as Filezilla.
  2. Log into the root of your website.
  3. Download a copy of your .htaccess file to your own computer.
  4. Add the following lines of code to the file:

RewriteEngine on
# Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} otherdomain\.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} anotherdomain\.com
RewriteRule .* – [F]

Replace “otherdomain\.com” in the text above with the domain name you wish to block from your website.

Siteseeing Media can help you fix the Semalt issue, either through Google Analytics or the .htaccess file. Contact us for more info.

Written by

Alex Ashline is an SEO professional who consults with Siteseeing Media.

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