Is Faking your Website Traffic?

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Video Transcript

If you have a website for your business,  one of the things that you are very likely to do is to have something like Google Analytics or some kind of analytics software set up on your website that will allow you to see information about the visitors that come to your site.

And one of the reports that you can see in Google Analytics is this report here, which breaks down how your visitors arrived at your website.

It will show you for example, how many people came to your site by Google. How many people came to your site via Facebook or Bing, all the different ways that people may come to your website.

And the reason that’s useful, is because if you see, for example, that you’re getting a lot of traffic coming from one particular source, and you find that the visitors coming from that source then go on to do stuff, something that you would like them to do on your website, such as by  a product or make an enquiry.

And then obviously when you’re thinking about how you allocate your marketing budget, you would spend it on the traffic sources and the channels that are driving the most sales for your business.

So being able to see an accurate breakdown of where your traffic is coming from, is a very important way of determining where you are going to spend your money when it comes to marketing your website.

Now I happened to be browsing on Twitter the other day and came across this tweet that was posted by a guy called Tim Capper, who is a very well respected and experienced local SEO expert.

And he posted this tweet, which reads, “Business phoned me up, I’m paying Yell and doing well with them, but everything else is not doing so well. What’s this Yell UTM doing on all online properties, including Social and GMB”. And then underneath, you’ve got this string of text here.  

Now to most people who don’t work in the field of digital marketing, this tweet probably won’t make too much sense. But essentially what Tim is saying here is that he had a client that contacted him phoning him for advice, with their online marketing.

And essentially what the client said to him was, “I’m advertising with Yell, I’m paying Yell and I’m getting lots of traffic from Yell, but I don’t seem to be getting traffic from any other source. Can you help me?“

I’ve spoken to Tim about this, and obviously that started to ring alarm bells for Tim because, if you know anything at all about Yell and the effectiveness of their advertising, it’s almost unheard of that Yell would be the primary source of traffic to a website.  In fact, most people I speak to, that advertise with Yell, find it to be completely ineffective.

So obviously this rang some alarm bells with Tim as to why would this be.  Why would it be the case that this website is getting lots of traffic from Yell and not getting traffic from any other sources?

And, what he’s then commenting on is the fact that he then found this string here sitting in the business’ social media pages and on their Google My Business page.

It didn’t take very long for me to find, several examples of where this has happened. So I’m just going to explain to you what this is if we pop over here.

So this is a search on Google for a company called Dansky Taxis who happen to be a Yell customer. And if I search for their business by name on Google, on the right-hand side here is their Google My Business profile.

If you have a business, you’ve probably created a Google My Business profile, but if you’re a customer of Yell, then this is often one of the things that they will set up for you.

So they will, either create it under their own account or get your password and login details to go and set up your Google My Business profile. And Yell will also do the same thing with your Facebook pages or your Instagram accounts or wherever you happen to have a profile.

Now what you’ll see here, on the profile listed here for Dansky Taxis there is a link here to Dansky Taxi’s website.

And I just want to show you something. If I click on this link and it’s now going to take me over to, Dansky Taxis website. And if you have a look here at the top here, you can see the URL, the address.

So this page, which is . And then just after the URL here, you can see the same string of text, that Tim mentioned in his tweet, which says UTM source equals Yell plus UTM medium equals referral plus UTM campaign equals Yell.

So why would there be something referring to Yell, in a link that is coming from Google My Business.

If we go back here, what has actually happened here is that Yell when they’ve set up this Google My Business profile have put that tracking code into the link of Dansky Taxis’ Google My Business profile. So that whenever anyone clicks on this link, that string of text appears.

And you can see it more clearly here on Dansky Taxis’ Facebook page. Where it’s actually revealed here rather than just being a button that you click on the full address. The link is here and you can see that Yell have inserted the link here with this same, tracking code afterwards. UTM source equals Yell, medium, Yell, equals referral UTM equals Yell.

Dansky Taxis are not the only company that Yell have done this too. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of examples.

This is another company called SBS events. And if I click here to go and visit their website from Google My Business, you’ll see at the top in the address bar here is exactly the same tracking code on the end here.

Here’s another example, a company called Rocket Security, another customer of Yell. If I click on their website. And now their website has actually been taken down because they’ve now left Yell. So all they have is a kind of a temporary landing page waiting for their new website. But you can see that the same tracking code appears at the top here because Yell have inserted that tracking code on their Google My Business profile.

Now, why would Yell do that? Why would they put in this tracking code here?

I’m going to show you an example of why I believe this has been done. And, what I’ve done just as an experiment is created a page on this website. So this is and I have created a link on this page, which takes me over to a website that I have access to the Google Analytics.

And what I’ve done is in the code of the link here, I’ve added that same URL tracking code so that I can show you the effect of this. So what I’m going to do before I click on that link, I’m just going to pop to, and, what we’re looking at here in Google Analytics is a list of visitors.

In real time, this is a live display, of all visitors showing where they came from. So if a visitor did come up, and there was a visitor coming from Google or there was a visitor coming from some other website or a directory or somewhere like that, the visitor would show up here and it would tell us where the visitor has come from.

So I’m going to pop over here. I’m going to click on this fake link that I’ve created that has been designed to look like the visitor is coming from Yell. And as you can see, it’s not coming from Yell. It’s coming from this website here, the I’m going to click on that link. And it takes me over to the website.

And if I pop back over to Google Analytics and as you can see, it’s now showing that right now, there is a visitor on the website. and if we have a look down here, you can see that it’s showing that the source of that visitor is from Yell.

Now, there is a possibility and, this depends on your view that this is an innocent mistake by Yell, that they’re putting these links in with this tracking code for perfectly innocent reasons. Or maybe it’s an error on their part.

Another view of this is that if you wanted to create the false impression that your company, Yell, was driving a very large number of visitors to your customers’ websites, so that, when they’re thinking about allocating their marketing spend, they then think about spending that money with you. This would be a very effective way of manipulating and faking, the source of traffic to a particular website.

Now, if this were any other company besides Yell, I may choose to accept that this is an innocent mistake. The fact that this is Yell and based on all the other things that we know about this company and how they operate, it seems far more likely to me, that this has been done intentionally.

And it’s being done to misrepresent the source of traffic to a website because obviously if somebody goes to Google, and they search for a particular business by name, and they click on their website link on Google to view my profile, that shouldn’t be not be considered to be a visitor from Yell or even that Yell has had any part to play in providing that traffic.

And exactly the same from Facebook. Somebody visits your Facebook page, they click on the link to go and visit your website. None of that traffic should be attributed to Yell as the source of that traffic.

So you can make your own judgment as to Yells motivations for doing this. but, I strongly suspect that this has being done to falsely misrepresent the traffic to the website.

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