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What Exactly Is "url Harvesting"?


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9 replies to this topic

#1 Mikl

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 06:53 AM

My web stats have recently started to show visits from a site called Traffic Faker. Out of curiosity, I visited the site, and saw that it claims to "harvest thousands of URLs fast, easy and efficiently" and "drive relevant traffic to your website".

This sounds very dubious to me (and not just because of their lousy grammar). But I am curiuous to know what exactly it is. In particular, what do they do with all the URLs that they harvest? How do they use them to generate traffic?

I repeat: I am only asking out of curiosity. I've no intention of using the service.

#2 Jill

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 08:38 AM

It's probably like how they got you to visit their site. They put fake referrers in your stats.

#3 Michael Martinez

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 12:38 PM

Traffic Faker and other programs like it trick Webmasters into visiting other Websites. It's a "black hat" marketing tactic that uses deception to draw people to Websites.

The program emulates a user clicking on a link on the other Website so as to leave an record of a "referred visit" in your server logs (and these clicks will be recorded by Javascript applications like Google Analytics).

In reality, there was no user making a click and there is no link on the other Website. But if you "see" traffic "coming" from that Website in your analytics, you may be curious enough to visit the site.

These programs may be violating U.S. Federal Law, which prohibits what is considered to be "material falsification". I would not advise anyone to use a program like this to build traffic for their Website. While no one may ever be prosecuted for using this kind of software, you don't want to be the first person in line for being prosecuted.

The "URL harvesting" is the process of collecting URLs from Websites that you want to send fake traffic to.

#4 Jill

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 12:44 PM

QUOTE
The program emulates a user clicking on a link on the other Website so as to leave an record of a "referred visit" in your server logs (and these clicks will be recorded by Javascript applications like Google Analytics).


I'm pretty sure they don't show up in Google Analytics. They used to show up in older web stats programs though.

Mikl, did you see it in GA?

#5 cfreek

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 01:01 PM

I have seen them in Google Analytics; I believe what they do is directly call the tracking URL.
I don't know for sure though, as investigating SPAM techniques is not an efficient use of my time smile.gif

#6 Michael Martinez

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 05:10 PM

They definitely show up in Google Analytics. I wouldn't have said as much if I hadn't found them there. It's probably not very difficult to fire off the Javascript code for an analytics program.

#7 Mikl

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 03:24 AM

QUOTE(Michael Martinez @ Aug 1 2011, 12:38 PM) View Post
Traffic Faker and other programs like it trick Webmasters into visiting other Websites.

.......

The "URL harvesting" is the process of collecting URLs from Websites that you want to send fake traffic to.


Michael, thanks for that very clear explanation.

To summarise, the extra traffic is made up of webmasters visiting your site, simply because they see a referral from it. There's no question of the visitor being interested in the site, or likely to buy your products - and certainly not become regular visitors. All you get is another tick of the visitor counter.

Frankly, I'm amazed that anyone would fall for such a thing. But obviously they do.

#8 Mikl

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 03:26 AM

QUOTE(Jill @ Aug 1 2011, 12:44 PM) View Post
Mikl, did you see it in GA?


No, I don't recall seeing it in GA.

I noticed if first about a week ago in the stats for a Blogger blog. Since then, I've seen it a couple of times in AWStats, in two different sites.

#9 Jill

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 07:32 AM

I've only seen them in log file analytics like awstats. I've reviewed hundreds of google analytics for sites and never once noticed those types of referrers. (Granted I wasn't looking for them either. )

#10 Michael Martinez

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Posted 02 August 2011 - 11:02 AM

QUOTE(Mikl @ Aug 2 2011, 01:24 AM) View Post
Frankly, I'm amazed that anyone would fall for such a thing. But obviously they do.


This technique is targeted at Webmasters who look at their analytics data for indications of inbound linkage. It is difficult to determine why a particular site sending you referral traffic just from the referral alone, unless you are already familiar with the site. Hence, it probably has a high click-through rate.

However, based on my own experience with these fake referrals through the years, I suspect the click-through traffic is pretty low quality.

Much like Jill, until recently I had not seen this kind of fakery in Google Analytics data. However, it seems that someone has now taken that tactic to the next level and they have figured out how to ping the Javascript code (I think I know what they are doing but I'm not going to try to reverse engineer it).

I suppose we'll see an increase in fake analytics referral data. There is nothing you can do to stop it as the people who use this software (so far) seem to be running it from their own computers. When someone sets up a server to generate the fake clicks, we may be able to identify and block whatever IP addresses it uses (and if it uses proxy IP addresses a lot of Websites will already be blocking it).




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