Email 0131 531 9066
  • How to stop Spam bots attacking your Google Analytics webstats

    Posted on December 21, 2014

    By Neale Gilhooley, (updated 17/03/16 with a solution!)

    Recently when poring over our own and clients Google Analytics data we have come across some very unwanted results, in the referrals column. At first you think someone is giving your site a huge traffic boost then under closer inspection you realise that your site data (not the website itself) is being spammed. Its called Referrer/Referral spam aka Ghost spam. You only find out when you see some of the referring sites such as: Semalt.com, Google Inc, IloveItaly.com, GaurdIan (not Guardian!) simple-share-buttons.com and various pages that look like forums. These are not sending traffic to your site they are auto bots and leave a trail to fool you into follow. Once you search for them you may hit a spam links page forwarded to some promo site or another, but most likely you will see numerous warning results on Google. Below you can see how 7 out of the top 10 results on our stats are ghost referrals (aka fake/spam).

    Google analytics referrals

    What enormous lengths to go to too spam people but what they do know if that real people read their analytics report and check on where traffic apparently comes from. And for these spammers it is automated.  They are not visiting your site only sending out a fake ping with a fake or promo URL to give that impression. This not only messes up stats and makes a mockery of the authenticity of results but cuts across so much of your data. It is already quite hard to explain to Clients exactly what a Referral site is, or how a Network is actually the name of a server, then these spammers come along and really digitally defecate across your webstats. Plus worryingly your bounce rate goes through the roof, a bad sign as far as Google is concerned (is this still the case?) as it can indicate a lack of engagement by your visitors due to your content.

    What is Google doing to resolve this issue with their data? Good question, as yet we cannot find an answer for Google Analytics however they are more convened about scaring off advertiser dollars so see below for the TAG update, which may help.  For Analytics But here is what Google Webmaster Matt Coutts said “there is no authentication with referrals” in this YouTube video explaining in details how the spam occurs but not how to eradicate it.  So what’s the cure? (Updated section) This guy has solved this issue by showing you how to set up and apply a filter that will removed the referral spammers then apply it to your historic Google Analytics data > Scott Henderson, Search Commander 

    You can block their IP addresses via your Google Analytics account but these spamming companies will perpetually mutate their attacks using different domain names and various IP addresses or IP deceivers to continue their practices and warp your webstats.

    GA View settingsExcludeFor most Analytics users the easiest way is to block bots from your stats, log in and go to your Admin tab (top right on navigation), select Admin and then you will see three columns,select the right had side termed View Settings, then on the next screen scroll down to check the box for Bot Filtering Exclude all hits from all known bots and spiders, then don’t forget to click the blue Save button at the foot and you are done.

    We will update this post as time rolls on, hopefully Google will implement a more permanent solution.

    posted by Neale Gilhooley

    See Matt Coutts explanation video here > Google Webmasters

    If you are capable of adding coding to your site you can one-by-one block the most prolific referring spammer but for most people that is just too much effort, pity Google’s block button does not seem to hit the ones we want. Try this .htaccess Solution
    If you are receiving spam within Google Analytics which is caused by spam bots actually visiting your website and triggering the Google Analytics JavaScript, then this solution is for you.

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

    Simply add this into your .htaccess file and add as many ‘RewriteCond’ lines as required for the bots you would like to block. There are a few pieces of terminology to explain in the above.
    RewriteEngine on: This is always at the start of your .htaccess file
    # Options +FollowSymlinks: This line is commented out as it often isn’t needed. Depending on how your web server is configured, you may need to uncomment this if you start to receive an error message of ‘500 Internal Server Error’. This means your server isn’t configured with FollowSymLinks in the ” section of the ‘httpd.conf’.
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER}: Each of these lines will run the ‘RewriteRule’ if one of the conditions is met. For example in this case, if the referrer is from one of the spam domains that you want to bloc.
    [NC,OR]: These flags at the end of the RewriteCond line should be present on all RewriteCond lines, except the final one. The NC flag stands for Non-Case-sensitive. The OR, stands for… or. So if this condition is met, or, the next condition is met, or the next one, etc.
    RewriteRule .* – [F]: This rule will trigger if one of the rewrite conditions has been met. This rule is basically saying that anything that comes in will be shown the Forbidden message so that the page will never be loaded and the Google Analytics JavaScript will never be triggered.

    UPDATE: Now Facebook, Google Bing and Yahoo are uniting to fight the bots.  However don’t get too excited as they are doing it along with many others to ensure that faith in the PPC and Banner Adverts is maintained as rather belatedly many global and national advertisers, ad agencies and media agencies are unhappy that so many ads are triggered or seen only by bots. And bots don’t have any spending power but they do cost the advertiser money from their budgets, pure wastage. So that is the reason that they’ve all joined TAG (the Trustworthy Accountability Group – www.tagtoday.net) as an “advertising industry initiative to improve the digital ecosystem”, wow that sounds so selfless and noble. Hopefully as a bi-product they can reduce spam, spambots, malware etc.

    TAG aims press release: https://www.tagtoday.net/trustworthy-accountability-group-announces-board-of-directors/

    The Drum article with industry quotes > http://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/07/21/google-facebook-and-yahoo-unite-erect-strong-defence-against-bots

  • How to start a career in design, tips do’s & don’ts

    Posted on December 20, 2014

    photo of IT guy staffIf you are looking for a career in graphic design or web development then this post may be of help. Whether you want to design logos and work in brand development or carve out a career in website design & build, the potential employer has a need for staff who can start to contribute to the company as soon as possible. Designers are in the service industry as valued collaborating partners. Each employee needs to start adding value to the design companies client offering through the introduction of fresh ideas and expertise and innovating new ways of designing solutions for Clients needs but without wishing to redesign our entire design process. To be able to do this the employer puts a great deal of value onto the designers expertise and a more experienced designer ought to slot in faster and start contributing to projects and agency revenue sooner and with less management. You need to this of what your target audience is looking for and put some emphasis on fulfilling those needs.

    So what are the essential criteria that agencies are looking for? These are viewed in different ways with weighting on each and dependent of the position being offered. It is not unusual to change the criteria to fit an exceptional candidate.

    1. Work experience
    2. Projects worked on
    3. Software and platforms worked with
    4. Personality as it’s a people business
    5. The applicants CV (aka resume)

    From being on the receiving end of thousands of applications and also having hired staff directly and through recruitment agencies we have gained some insight which may be of benefit to wannabe designers and other design agency support staff.

    In short your CV must present points 1-4 in a way that the reader can understand and see the skills easily, without needing to decipher it. Get to the point gracefully. The design of your CV should not get in the way of the message.

    Do’s

    • Do some research, to reach the best placed person personalise the e-mail address and use their name. If you want to exploit your expertise in Mobile Apps then don’t waste an e-mail sending it to brand design specialists.
    • In your e-mail be 100% explicit in saying what you are applying for in the first line: Designer, Freelance projects Work Experience Placement or other.
    • Do include an introductory paragraph. If you just attached a PDF it won’t be perceived as a fun teaser, it may be ignored.
    • Make it fun, well designed, visually interesting, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think what would impress us or get noticed, but remember quirky does gets noticed but there is a limit.
    • Follow the accepted rules of a CV by including the most obvious things that an employer needs to know, such as including your contact details other than just your e-mail address.
    • Include a link to your online portfolio or blog but make sure that you are happy with the content as we will be judging not making allowance, that’s what humans do.
    • Give us links to projects or live websites that you have worked on
    • Tell us which design companies you have worked for even on a temporary, freelance or placement basis, they ought to all be of value. Placements are hard to get and show a lot of determination so don’t discount it – we wont. Real industry pro’s did spend their Summer working at small agency somewhere.
    • Include referees, seeing a name is better than saying On request. Employers should not contact these people unless we are serious about considering you and hence we would contact you long before spending time checking out your referees.
    • Ensure that your own Blog/Portfolio site has Google Analytics so you can see who has been in to your pages. Often design companies name their servers after themselves, so a deep visit might be worth a personalised follow up.
    • Do express your personality as that is important, it’s secondary to solid experience and raw talent even, but it is all part of the mix and you are marketing yourself in a People industry.
    • Do follow the potential employer of Facebook and Twitter, is may get noticed and also you may get advance notice of a big account win which may lead to a  recruitment need or new project they have just won which you may be really well qualified for.
    • We are a UK based company and prefer to see British English spellings, its not that we don’t like seeing American spellings, but even if it’s a global market place we need our web designer to know how to spell more than colour/color as our clients don’t expect to be proofing reading and spell checking for you.
    • Do proof read your application, not just via spellchecker but read it or get someone else to do it. If you cannot spell stationery it’s highly unlikely that we would ask you to design any. Stationary may be a correctly spelled word but it’s the wrong one.
    • Do apply yourself, applications from Fathers and Mothers indicate that you might have other/better things to do, such as important exams or just playing with your mobile.

    This recently received e-mail application does have a few faults, but the pluses just outweigh the minuses. the enthusiasm and character flood through. Faults include; I am not Mr Martin, personlisation is eye-catching but for the wrong reasons if it is incorrect. Poor grammar does not work in your favour and US spellings are noticeable to us in the UK. But he has his own logo – I love that, he clearly is passionate about design. Including a skype contact is a great idea.

    CV4

    Dont’s

    • Forget to give us your contact details, your employment status (visa/work permits), language skills etc.
    • Send out a portfolio PDF as 10mb + e-mail attachment that is  as it wont get through many spam filers and you ought to be able to know how to compact it more efficiently.
    • Do not zipp your portfolio or CV as this will look like spam and many people will not open.
    • If your portfolio is full of student projects we can usually spot this so perhpas best to not try and hide this, otherwise we might look at it and think it’s full of either poorly briefed or badly executed projects.
    • Don’t include everything that you have ever done, often you will get judged by the worst piece of work not the best. It’s wrong but it’s human nature.
    • If you want to work in the UK from overseas then take 2 mins and use a Gmail or even a Hotmail.co.uk e-mail address, also don’t include a hunnybunny69@freemail.com or anarchyjihadist@gmail.com e-mail addresses, they says a lot about you, perhaps too much.
    • Please don’t call it a resume we are a UK based company so use the right terminology, same reason as using British spellings.
    • Dont forget that the telephone is a useful tool for contact and research and a 1 minute call might save you 45 mins crafting a CV for a company who no longer exist.
    • Don’t exaggerate or lie, it will most likely be spotted even if we don’t tell you.

    CV1This e-mail is hardly worthy of a reply, but I did (contact details changed). Yes it really does say “Respected Sir/Mam, Plz See Attach Resume” so is hardly inviting, in fact it displays a real laziness which may not even be true. But seriously how long does it take to craft a good covering e-mail and check the grammer? Even a sentence or two in the place where it is most likely to be read and have an effect.  Something to encourage us to even read the CV.  It takes hardly any time and it can be re-used over again so it’s a really good investment and a discipline.

    image of an email with zipped attachement

    Another real no no is attaching anything in a zipped file format as most people would be unwise to open anything like this from an unknown source. As it happens this is spam most likely containing malware, so be aware! Also your CV should not need to be zipped as you can compact your portfolio PDF.

    We’d like to wish any job hunters good luck and thanks for reading.  If you wish to stay connected you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    By Neale Gilhooley, Evolution Design (updated 24/3/17)

    Information resources:

    Trade Press : We read The Drum who have a recruitment section > Drum Jobs

    Good article for Creatives seeking work, practical
    Tips On How To Land Yourself A Design Job  > DesignTaxi

    Recruitment websites:

    Time Recruitment – specialist office recruitment firm often seeking to fill temporary and permanent roles

    AWS Recruitment – specialist charity sector recruitment agency in Edinburgh covering central Scotland

    You can try going to this website for news about who does offer placements: e-placementscotland.com

    Or you could also try louise@thebusinesspartnership.org.uk they try to arrange placements, if you are Edinburgh based.

    Also if you want to move to Scotland have a look into registering here > www.TalentScotland.com contact jamie.duncan@scotlandis.com

  • E-cards are not just for Christmas

    Posted on November 19, 2014

    While it is true that e-cards are not just for Christmas, it is the most popular time of year that our customers send them. They make a seasonal greeting, a gentle reminder and also are a good way to communicate festive hours. It’s never too early to request one but it can be too late so don’t dally. What would you like to say to your valued customers?

    We started designing & printing traditional corporate Christmas cards for Nikon back in 2002, then created as both printed cards and as early adopters of electronic versions, until they evolved into solely e-cards. Over the years we have created many festive variations on the theme using six languages without mention of the word Christmas as Nikon have customers beyond the Christian world or northern Europe.  We found in previous years that our own e-card had a much higher open rate than our Design Matters e-newsletter.
    Nikon Corporate Christmas e-card 2013Recently we have designed e-cards for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and SNIPEF and for the Don’t Freeze Up This Winter safety campaign.

    Whatever your customer communication needs, there is still time to order an e-card for this Christmas and beyond.

    Left is Nikon Corporate Christmas e-card for last year (2013). Nikon’s bespoke card illustration is left this year in 6 languages.

    Also look at this blogpost for some campaign reports here in Perfect your own email marketing campaigns, collating info from billions of e-mails sent out in millions of campaigns to give you really robust data.

    Ecard montage

    To see more examples that we have designed click here

    To get your own free e-mail account click here Powered by MailChimp we can design a great looking style template for you and even help set up your mailing lists.

    By Neale Gilhooley Evolution Design > contact by e-mail