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Oh говно! Semalt is back

August 28, 2015

semalt-is-back-01

Well I see that the spamming Russian website Semalt has managed to sneak back into my blog traffic statistics under “Referrers” — not using its actual name, of course, but the generic alias: “video–production.com”.

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Oh yes, this one is certainly spam!

Clicking on the harmless-looking referrer link takes you to the latest incarnation of Semalt — not flogging search engine optimization this time, but rather offering cheap video production.

Money up front, of course!

How it works: first they take your money. -- Semalt

How it works: first they take your money. — Semalt

But new business model aside, it’s still the same old Semalt referrer link spam — a trick that became so much of a problem for bloggers over a year and a half ago that WordPress.com was forced to create a new feature just to block it.

The root of all evil referrer link spam

The Semalt.com website first cane to the attention of the blogging community late in December of 2013, when mysterious and provocative “referrer links” began showing up in the traffic stats of millions of blogs — all for:

semalt.com/competitors_review.php?u=http://whateveryourblogis.com

Referrer links normally show which websites your blog traffic has come from (how many visitors came to your blog from a Google search, and so on). Bloggers can also use them like a breadcrumb trail to go back to the referring website.

Inquisitive bloggers who clicked on the Semalt referrer link were taken to a sales pitch for some kind of search engine optimization — but to find out exactly what kind, they were required to sign up for a free seven day trial.

The Russian web site was offering something that frankly all bloggers wanted — improved page rankings in Google search results — and so, to  introduce itself to the most potential customers in its target market in the shortest time, Semalt resorted to a novel deception. Rather than spamming through the front door, in the form of fake comments to posts  — which blogs are good at filtering out — Semalt tried to sneak its spam advertising in through the unguarded back door, in the form of fake referrer links to its SEO sales pitch.

For two months, Semalt rained hundreds of millions of a growing variety of spam referrer links down on tens of millions of blogs (it was not unusual to receive 20 such links a day). An outcry arose. Semalt was not only annoying bloggers, it was seriously screwing up their blog traffic statistics!

Back when Semalt was a dangerous thing to refer to

referrer-madness

The parent of all spam referrer links and the feature that it spawned.

Finally, on February 23, WordPress.com introduced the option to flag a website domain as a spam referrer, which had the effect of masking the domain from ever showing up in traffic statistics.

As I discovered that day, when I tried to publish a post about the new spam referrer flag, WordPress had also set up a sensitive keyword tripwire behind the scenes.

Publishing the post, with its numerous references to “Semalt” instanly twanged this tripwire and I found my blog suspended by WordPress.com for some 13 frustrating hours.

But all that trouble is in the past now, right? I can easily banish Semalt’s (or anyone else’s) click-bait referrer spam from my traffic stats with a simple click of my cursor.

Anyway, with all these mentions of a certain spammy website, I certainly hope that it’s all in the the past. Guess I’ll know in just a moment, when I click the “Publish” button…

From → Internet

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