Category Archives: reporting services

Beware of Ghost Referral Spam!

Recently I noticed a small web  site I manage was showing an unusual amount of traffic…far more than expected. Upon checking Google Analytics under Acquisition/Channels/Referrals here’s what I found.


Over 80% of the traffic was being referred from the domain,!

After a few minutes researching this domain I found a relatively new issue has emerged known as ghost referral spam. They leave a trail in your analytics reports to entice you to click through to their spam-ridden websites while screwing up your analytics reporting and SEO analysis.

They are called ghost referrals because they NEVER visit your site. They are able to post fake pageviews to Google’s tracking service using a random series of tracking IDs. So when they happen across a series that includes your tracking ID, Google will record a referral visit from that source in your analytics reports.

Since they never actually visit your site they can’t be blocked at the server using traditional blocking techniques like IP excludes or .htaccess methods. So what to do?

There seems to be several main ideas floating around about how to most effectively handle this new threat.

The most common recommendation is to simply create a filter in Google Analytics to block them from showing up in reporting. Here’s a good article with detail step-by-step instructions and screen shots on how to setup these filters in Google Analytics.

Since the spammer hostnames can change frequently, thus rendering your exclude filters useless, another approach is to only INCLUDE valid hostnames by creating filters based on a hostname INCLUSION lists. Here’s an article,  Definitive Guide to Removing Referral Spam, with the details of this approach.

Yet another approach, which claims a “surefire” method using a combination of tracking changes, cookies, and filters can be found here:

Why are Ghost spammers doing this in the first place? It seems no one is really sure. Speculation is they want to entice website owners to out of curiosity  visit their site for some nefarious purpose.  Perhaps it’s a shady SEO service promising to get thousands of people to look at a site? Or perhaps they are infecting visitors with malware?

Hopefully Google will take action against this and provide some additional security in Google Analytics but in the meantime this is something we’ll just have to deal with.

Sharepoint Saturday was a hit

On Saturday I attended a great event, Sharepoint Saturday, at Microsoft‘s offices located in Alpharetta, Ga. The weather was perfect yet the event was packed which I think says something positive about the growing popularity of Sharepoint. The event was free of charge with a number of sponsors paying the costs and top notch speakers many of whom flew or drove from out of town on their own dime to present sessions. There were so many great sessions going on simultaneously I had a difficult time choosing which to attend. The first one I attended had a long title, “Building the next Generation of Sharepoint Web Parts – how to leverage JQuery and Silverlight” presented by Phil Wicklund. Phil gave an easy to understand overview of JQuery along with some great tips for getting started…and demonstrated how to easily include JQuery in sharepoint web parts. Phil stressed checking out existing plugins first at before writing anything from scratch in JQuery….good tip.

I actually didn’t stay for the 2nd half of Phil’s presentation on Silverlight instead I moved over to Dux Raymond’s talk on “5 Ways to Enhance Sharepoing Site Usability” where I caught 3 out of the 5 ways.  Sorry I didn’t write them down I’m waiting on the slide deck.
For the next set of sessions I split my time between Jason Storey “Building a Data Centric Portal in Sharepoint” where Jason demonstrated using the data view web part in Sharepoint Designer and “Integrating SQL Server 2005  Reporting Services with Sharepoint” where Chris Regan walked us through step by step the ardious task of installing and configuring reporting services and sharepoint to work together. Interesting that the reporting services configuration wizard sometimes “lies” to you and other times simply doesn’t work without manual intervention…whew…it’s going to be much tougher than I thought getting reporting services working with my sharepoint server but at least now I know.
A nice deli box lunch was provided by one of the sponsors and I made the mistake of finding a shady spot in the beautiful outdoors to enjoy it. Which started me thinking what a great day it is and how much I would like to attend the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. I resolve to attend one more session before heading home and to the festival.
For my last session I picked “Business Intelligence – Build a Dashboard with Excel Services and KPIs” by Jeremy Minich. In the past I’ve built a BI dashboard in Sharepoint without really understanding all of the steps and have struggled getting a couple of things to work so I thought I would benefit from seeing an expert walk through the process. And I was correct as Jeremy did an outstanding job explaining the various BI features in Sharepoint and demonstrated how to setup dashboards and KPI’s step by step exactly what I needed to see.
I missed a couple of sessions and the give-a-ways at the end of the day by leaving early but I still had a great time at Sharepoint Saturday and accomplished what I needed…a new burst of sharepoint inspiration as well as specific “how to” knowledge of new technologies and techniques.
Thanks to Microsoft and all the other sponsors,  speakers,  and volunteer’s who made Sharepoint Saturday a success. I’m looking forward to the next one….and hoping for bad weather on event day.