Friday, September 16, 2016

Blogger Stats Problem: Spam

I started writing this as a response to a great blogging friend's recent post. He was getting inundated with referral spam from a bot supposedly from France, messing up Blogger Stats by overinflating supposed visitor numbers. I have been experiencing the same problem over the past few months, & this is my report on my experience & the possible solution to the problem:

I totally understand where you're coming from. I'm plagued by the same damn bot!!! It is frustrating seeing how it messes up Blogger stats. I tried going private a few times (changing my blog settings to private)--just for a few hours to a few days. It worked for a day or three before that damn bot started linking to me again!

I was getting pretty pissed off, because like you, I abhor messy chaos, especially if it's caused by something else in my space! I know I don't blog for popularity but I do like to look at stats, just to see what fascinating countries or sites visited me, & I get a kick out of the search terms that brought people to my posts.

But that damned bot messed up Blogger stats, overinflating the supposed visitor numbers. In frustration, I got on Blogger Help to see what could be or is being done to combat this damned bot!

There, I learned two very important things:

1. The bot isn't really visiting my site nor hot linking to my posts. It doesn't really affect my page ranking at all nor harm my blog in any way. I'll explain more below.

2. There is a way to combat this bot & stop it from messing up my Blogger stats. But it requires a few steps & it may possibly affect my own interaction with my blog & its spirit. I'll explain more blow.

First off, the bot DOESN'T actually visit your blog and it has NO EFFECT on page ranking. But it is a scam! So DON'T CLICK ON THE LINK!!!

What the bot does is it crawls the web the same way web search engines like Google or Explorer, looking for specific or general or in this case, all sorts of words that prove popular search terms or draws any kind of attention. It's not looking to visit your site or blog. Rather, it's looking for the location of those words in your blog, your post's or blog's URL (location). It finds that location, then it creates referral spam--a fake visit with the bot's own link back to its own malicious site.

Why? The whole point of creating referral spam is to increase the malicious website's traffic to increase its page ranking. It only works when you, the reader/blog owner clicks on the link from the bot, the link you find in the Blogger Home Section under Stats, listed under Traffic Sources, subheading Referring URLs.

DO NOT CLICK ON THE REFERRING URL FROM THE BOT SITE!!! Every time you click that link, the malicious website gets a visit from you, reaching its nefarious goal, which is to generate traffic to its malicious website to raise its ranking on Google, in order to reach more people & spread its malicious content!

But why shouldn't you worry about the messed up, inflated visits from the bot, messing up your stats? Because the bot isn't actually visiting your blog, it's just sending out a mass mailing (spam) to all the URLs the bot finds in order to trick people to click on its referral link.

So why does it show up in Blogger Stats if it's not actually visiting your blog? It's because that's the way Blogger Stats is designed! Blogger Stats basically counts everytime a website or search requests access to a site, like your blog.

When you set up your blog, you agreed to be listed & be open to search engines, especially if you set your blog to the public setting. That means all your content is listed & indexed by search engines in order for other people or sites to find your location & visit your site, your blog.

When someone requests access (the location) or your site, Blogger Stats generates a statistic of activity--that someone requested your site location/address/URL. It doesn't mean that they'll visit your site, it just means that someone did a SEARCH on the internet for something, & your blog had some relevant information related to the search.

It's kind of like how you do a search or Google a word, & the results pop up a huge list of possible relevant results. The most popular/relevant results show up first, & the really weird, nonsensical ones are found at the end. Everytime your blog ends up on that search result, a statistic is generated by Blogger Stats, & though your information may or may not be relevant, your blog is listed in the results. Your URL (address) is listed, & that's how the freakin bot generates referral spam!

It's not visiting your site/blog at all!!! It just made a search for general words & your blog got listed on the results from the search engine servers. Then the bots copy your URL to send mass fake links to your site! No one other than you is seeing these links!

The bots take advantage of Blogger Stats design & misuse it so when Blogger Stats logs an activity (a request for your location from a search engine), Blogger automatically creates a stat in Blogger Stats that records the activity (the request) & the URL of the site making the request (the bot's site!). 

The bot NEVER visited your site. It took advantage of Blogger Stats design to get free advertising! Blogger Stats list the bot's own link/url, so that when you see it in Stats, you get curious, you mistakenly click on the link, & that damned malicious website gets an actual visit from you, increasing its own page rankings! Every time you click on those fake referral spam links, the malicious websites get a real visit from you, increasing their page rankings & encouraging them to keep up their referral spam con! DON'T CLICK ON THE LINKS!!!

Now you know that the referral spam is NOT VISITING your site and IT DOESN'T AFFECT YOUR PAGE RANKING NOR REPUTATION. As long as you don't click on it, it's just mass mailing junk! Still, you can't help but get annoyed!

And by the way, the bots aren't actually from France. It's being routed through France from its actual location, most likely other countries with technology. For a while, they routed through Germany til the authorities shut them down. Now, they're going through France, & will reroute again once France & the authorities root them out.

Even though you know the bot doesn't affect your ranking & the stats are misrepresenting the actual visitors, you are still annoyed because you actually hate the messy stats & you're genuinely curious, how many actual people are really visiting your blog. Well, there are two basic solutions: Third party software & Google Analytics.

What is third party software? Products that don't belong to Google or Blogger but are compatible with use on your blogs. StatCounter or SiteMeter are two examples of third party software that actually uses JavaScript that counts actual visits to your blog & how much time was spent on those posts the visitor saw. It's a very useful tool to filter out actual visits from nonexistent, fake, referral spam bot scams.

The problem is, it takes the page a little more time to load, to run the proper codes, so there might be a short delay in loading the page. And for some readers, any delay, however short, is considered cumbersome & may leave your site. So you may lose visitors.

People want easy, even when it's bad for them. Ask anyone who's ended up with a Venereal Disease or worse, children!, after a night of heavy alcoholic drinking & poor procreation/recreational choices while under the influence.

Furthermore, there's a limit to how much activity/visitor log entries are available to the free versions of third party software. Some limit logs to 500 visits daily, & your blog may be popular enough to exceed the daily visitors, so you may have to decide on whether paying for premium service is worth it.

But you also have another solution: Sign up for Google Analytics. The free version actually blocks referral spam effectively like third party software, & it contains many useful tools that do a better job than Blogger Stats in keeping track of actual visitors, popular posts, trends, & other relevant information. If you are interested in growing your blog, I say, sign up for Google Analytics.

My personal problem is that I can be a total nerd sometimes & geek out on the actual stats. I fear I may end up worrying more about my actual stats & change my blogging from pure hobby & entertainment to actual work, changing the spirit & very nature of my blog. And I'm not ready to face that challenge.

So I'll ignore the bots for now. And when it finally drives me nuts, even when I know the bots aren't messing with my blog ranking & reputation, I know I have alternatives. And you have those alternatives, too.

Please feel free to share with us any relevant info! It's much appreciated & welcomed!

See this link for further information:!topic/blogger/xozQJV1No0Y

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reading List for September

My reading list for September is late. I am currently working my way through a large history book, but I don't mind taking long breaks from it in order to absorb & ponder the information & interpretation of the writer. I know it's going to take me months to finish this book, but that's okay. I wouldn't enjoy it any other way.

In the meantime, I tried reading other smaller novels in July, but I lost interest. Time is short. So I moved on. August was completely taken up by the Rio Olympics, my guilty pleasure, where I drop everything & focus (waste) my time & energy cheering on the various athletes & marvel at the wonders of the human body & spirit.

The weekend after the Olympics was over, I spent reorganizing & lining my kitchen cabinets. I need to sort through & organize the stuff I tend to accumulate. Otherwise, it just piles up & starts taking up space. I'm a packrat by nature, always trying to store extra things, afraid to toss junk away for fear of needing them some time later down the line.

But the truth is, a lot of it is stuff I don't use or need, so every couple of months, I sort through the accumulation to recycle & sort out the materials. It keeps me from becoming a hoarder, & it keeps the place clean & open. I like open spaces. And I like the feeling of accomplishment & lightness that comes from thinning out the piles of stuff that start to collect & take up space ever few months.

I barely had enough time to start reading last week, but it was worth it. I indulged myself & went for something fun. I like SciFi & Fantasy stories, especially when they are creative & entertaining. And one of my fave writers of the genre is Neil Gaiman.

The very first work of Neil Gaiman that I read was the amazing & magnificent comic book The Sandman. I had never read a comic book (or any other book) like that before. It was totally creative, original, & highly imaginative & thoroughly entertaining. The artwork was fantastic & absolutely stunning. I was flabbergasted & pleasantly surprised that a comic book could be so rich, engaging, & sophisticated. It was art, pure & simple & so spectacular.

As I was pondering what book I ought to read to pass the time, for some reason, Neil Gaiman popped into my mind. And seeing as I remembered how much I enjoyed his previous work, I sought out more of his creations. I found one, but I was so impressed & intrigued with his marvelous tale that I went on a binge these past few days & ended up reading three of his works. And I thoroughly enjoyed them all.

American Gods (American Gods #1)

The first book that read at the end of August was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I was so hooked on the story that I read half of it long into the night, passed out on the chair, woke up a few hours later & read several more chapters til obligations forced me to put the book down & do what needed to be done. Even when I was away, the story stayed in my mind, & as soon as I got home, I sat down & read the rest of the book to the end.

It's been a while since a book has grabbed my attention this way, making me eager to read all the way through to the end without stopping. But this story of a man caught up in this surreal world of gods & intrigue & conflict in middle America was so fascinating. The characters & situations were so unique & exotic & familiar at the same time. It seemed so natural to believe that there were/are gods in America, & our lives are intertwined with theirs, for better or for worse.

There were some surprising & shocking scenes in this book, but it made sense in this fascinating world the book portrayed. The ending left me wanting more. And that's a good thing, because it makes it seem like the characters go on to do other things & live their lives, while the reader/audience must depart. I highly recommend this book. Check it out in your local library or do an online search for a digital option for your electronic device. It's a great entertaining read.

Anansi Boys (American Gods #2)

I was so entertained by Neil Gaiman's American Gods that I immediately sought out this book. It's not a sequel to the first, but could definitely fit into the world of the first book or stand on its own. It starts off kind of slow in the first chapters, but it's important because those chapters set out the themes of family ties & troubles, trust issues, & the dynamic relationship between families & the ties we share with other people through our history, interactions, & changing perspectives.

The story kept getting more interesting & exciting as the chapters went on. Mysteries & adventures made for a thoroughly entertaining read. What started out as a story about a beaten down man with a complex & conflicted relationship to his father developed into this riveting tale of action, intrigue, & revelations. The ending was totally satisfying & left me smiling, because the whole story surprised me & engaged me & left me identifying with the characters, cheering them on. I highly recommend this book, too.

The Graveyard Book

Of all the Neil Gaiman works I've read so far, The Graveyard Book is by far the most heartfelt for me. Yes, there is action & adventure & that touch of magic & mystery. But for me, this book had a lot of heart, & I honestly felt so much sympathy & hope for the characters & their lives. The ending left me feeling bereft, because although there was a sense of inevitability & some hope, I honestly didn't want the story to end. I felt that the main character needed to remain, even though the best thing (& most natural) was for him to go.

It's that feeling you get when the little ones you raised are suddenly poised to take those first steps into independence & make their way into the world. You've prepared them as best you can, you know that they are smart enough to survive, but still, you aren't ready to let go, you still want to hold them close & protect them forever. And this story made me feel very protective of the characters, whose stories & actions raised my sympathies & concern for their well being. Their world was so believable & fascinating, & I found myself wanting more. That's what makes this story so good & amazing. I highly recommend this book.

And there you have it, my reading list for September. It's late, & it's all the work of one author. But these three books captivated me with their stories & made me connect & identify with the characters. I highly recommend checking these out at your local library or searching online for digital versions/access. I have enjoyed reading Neil Gaiman's works so much that I'm actually continuing to search for & read the rest of his works.

Whatever you decide to read, I hope it's something that you enjoy. Good stories are like good people--they provide great company, good fun, & make for a great time. Good stories & good people should be shared, because they make the world & life a much happier, more wonderful, & more enjoyable experience.