Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Fake Traffic And What You Can Do About It

To be perfectly honest, I never really bothered about fake traffic one way or the other. I could always delete spam because my blog is set to hold comments in a moderation queue, so I didn't really bother about the ones that slipped past my anti-spam plugins. However, when it caused my hosting account to be suspended, I realised I'd have to do something about it.

What happened was, one or more of the spammers put malware or a link thereto in one of his spam comments and I got the blame for it for not keeping an eye on my moderation queue. Add to that the fake traffic that I also wasn't bothering with, which came in on the back of my most popular posts (thanks, Reddit!), and I was left with a mess that knocked out my associated email accounts. Something had to be done.

Why I moved from static pages + application programs

I don't know if you've noticed this but I've moved my website (well, most of it) to WordPress. This was because updating HTML pages manually was a bind and more websites than ever are being hosted on CMS. Few people are going with static pages alone these days, whether they've added gallery and other programs to it or not. Besides, trying to move the static pages to b2evolution wasn't going to work; the theme I wanted to use didn't give me the functionality I wanted (namely the option to remove the sidebar on certain pages), there aren't many working, up-to-date plugins, and b2evolution itself is being left behind by WordPress, which is the clear winner in the blogging CMS program wars.

Basically, I had more reasons to go than to stay; most of my new builds are on WP because it's quicker, easier, and mobile-ready if you choose the right theme. The multiplicity of plugins that extend functionality sealed the deal. I can do anything I want on WP. Working with other programs is harder, takes longer, and requires customising the theme for the all-important seamless viewing experience. Plus it's easier for clients who want to update the site themselves.

The move

Well the final push was when my account was suspended over the fake traffic (the spam malware was the final straw), most of which was coming via my b2evolution installation. I'm not blaming my clunky old blogging program altogether since most of the fake traffic was driven there by popular posts shared elsewhere, as far as I know. The point is, it was time to move on, so I did. The trouble is, b2evolution is a bit like Hotel California. You can check out any time... but leaving is a huge bind if you want to take two years of posts with you.

The solution is here, if you're interested. Put this in the address bar at the top of your screen on another tab: (just replace "" with your actual blog's URL) after setting your blog's RSS to "For each article in a feed, show full content." That way, when you import the feed, you will get all of the content, not just a snippet and a link to the original content on b2evolution, complete with link to As I discovered the hard way.

I'd been getting Error 500 timeouts and slow loading problems in addition to the spamming, and wasn't sure what was causing them, even after I'd added the new plugins. iPage support technician Waseem K responded to my question thus:

This happens from time to time because of other users on the server monopolizing resources and causing particular applications which are sensitive to MySQL load (applications like phpNuke, Drupal, phpBB, Joomla, WordPress, etc ) to experience slowdowns and timeouts.

Those spammers and fake traffic merchants are not just messing with my hosting, they're messing with everyone's on our shared server. I've told Waseem and the other support staff about Fake Traffic Blaster in the hope that it will help to resolve this issue. As it is, if you experience slow loading times here, it's the spammers, and no, I'm not going to move. Private servers are a bit too pricey for me, even at iPage. Besides, if they help everyone else out (it may not be their fault that this is happening) by pointing them to Fake Traffic Blaster or variant thereof, it will solve the problem altogether. I've already suggested that instead of shipping the one-click installation of WP they offer with JetPack (WHY???!) and other fluff items that promise much but get in the way, they could ship it with the antispam and Fake Traffic Blaster instead. Problem solved from the get-go.

The solutions

I made all the changes required of me and disabled my b2evolution installation by changing the folder name of the blog. Then I installed WP and uploaded the content via the RSS feed importer (again). Then I cast about looking for solutions to the spam, malware, and fake traffic problems. That's when I discovered Fake Traffic Blaster. I uploaded it via the Plugins menu and installed it. The best part is that it gives you a slot to put in a URL to redirect the fake traffic. Is it bad that I put in the URL of my most prolific spammer?

Akismet has been activated and I've added NIX Antispam Lite. Akismet shows you what they've been blocking so you can liberate those posts that are not actual spam. Finally, I added the gSearch plugin to improve my sucky search widget. The difference is astounding.

I've left the gallery up for the moment and will probably move my images from there to here. It's linked on the menu.

So yeah, fake traffic isn't something you should ignore. It spoils the internet party for all of us.

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