The OTHER Russian Hacking Story You Need To Know About

The OTHER Russian Hacking Story You Need To Know About

Each Friday, the Commexis blog features a post from one of our experts about a trending topic in digital marketing. This week, Phillip Brooks, our digital and creative strategist talks about the OTHER Russian hacking scandal that is currently skewing Google Analytics data for thousands of users.
You can’t turn on the news or browse your favored news sites without seeing stories about Russian nationals hacking American entities in support of president-elect Trump.

No, not those stories.

What you probably don’t know is that there’s been a parallel story with roots in digital marketing that has largely been ignored by the mainstream media. Russians, (OK, mostly one guy) have been using loopholes in Google’s referral code to create spam links to pro-Trump “news” sites, hoping for links back that will boost traffic and SERP rankings for his pages.

Russian Spam

By using letters in the Roman alphabet to register misleading URLs that look similar to popular URLs, the hacker has managed to create a linkbuilding scheme with far-reaching implications.

The artificial traffic has affected thousands of sites.

Google has been aware of the vulnerability since 2015 and have tried numerous tactics to combat it, but haven’t been able to keep up with the prolific spammer. Some experts have even resorted to vigilante justice.

College student and entrepreneur Michael Sitver even went so far as to purchase a domain name in the spammer’s name and hold it for ransom in exchange for a cessation of the spamming tactics.

If you or your digital marketing team has checked the Google Analytics data on your site for the past five to six months, there’s a good chance that they’ll find that referral traffic has made a dramatic jump. And while this may seem like good news because your site is getting more traffic, it’s likely that at least some of that bump is due to bogus traffic.

Commexis’ SEO team has some proven strategies that we can apply to help bring your rogue Google Analytics traffic back under control. Give us a call today!

Phillip Brooks is Commexis’ creative and digital strategist. He┬áhas engineered content marketing strategies for hundreds of clients, including Electronic Arts, Turner Broadcasting and The Bancorp.

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