Whether you call it referral spam, ghost spam, fake traffic, or just plain old spam; filtering out bogus traffic from your Google Analytics data will help ease a few headaches and give you a better idea of the legitimate traffic coming to your websites and/or your client sites.
The technique by spammers of sending Ghost Spam to a site is commonly believed to be a form of “marketing” tactic meant to entice a site owner (or anyone with access to the analytics data) to visit the referral URLs of the fake visit to then sell a service, make money off of an affiliate link, or to possibly infect their computer with a virus, according to the Google Advertiser Community.
At Efferent, our SEO team uses segments which is a function, set up in Google Analytics. One of the segments we use is designed to remove some of the more common and pervasive spam referrers from our data. This way, we can both see and track the rise and fall of spam issues through certain segments while also being able to take out most, if not all, of these spam referrers when necessary.
Unqualified spam traffic can cause reporting on your bounce rate to spike up, and can give you false readings on sessions and page views. They can ruin reports for best days and times for traffic to your sites, skew your conversion metrics, and more. The last thing we need is to be compiling reports for our clients with false data included.
Removing these issues from our data gives us a clearer picture of what is really happening on our client’s sites. It can be tough seeing precisely how recent site updates, link building efforts, or local outreach have affected traffic over the past quarter when you’re wasting time sifting through lines of Spam-referrer.xyz, Spam-referrer-2.xyz, Spam-referrer-3.xyz, and so on.
While some of these spam referrers, the site or space which is sending the spam traffic to our clients’ sites are easy to recognize and remove (I’m looking at you Vitaly Rules), sometimes just trying to determine them by name of site is less obvious.
Normally though, we can look at the metrics to help us better differentiate between spam and just poor traffic. If you look in Google Analytics at Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium you’ll see that spam referrers almost always appear to report a 100% bounce rate, 1 page per session, and zero average session duration.
Using this data, you can start to build up your own spam-free referrer segment for your website or your clients. If you’d rather take a quicker approach that will cover a larger amount of potential spam referrers but also possibly not filter everything that is specific to your site, we use the spam free referrer segment from Loganix as a basis for our segment. The Loganix spam segment is updated regularly, covers just about every unqualified spam referrer you could think of, and is simple to implement. If you don’t mind semi-regular emails from the company, then it’s a great way to get a head start on clearing out these analytics issues.
Once you’ve got that running, adding new spam referrers to your segment will require a few minutes and some copy+paste into segment conditions. Just be warned, it’s possible to accidentally segment out all your traffic or the wrong traffic…. so it’s usually best to copy the segment before editing anything. This way your original version is untouched if anything goes wrong. When adding new information to your segment, make sure it gets added into the correct place (whether that be referral path, source, etc.) and don’t forget to use the asterisk wildcards (*) to make your life easier.
With the added and/or updated referral spam segment, you can now get cleaner more accurate reporting for your site. There’s no more sifting through the dregs to pull out that hidden gem. Let the tools and options that Google already offers in analytics do the job so you can get right to the good stuff. For more help on cleaning up your data or help with your own website or business, don’t hesitate to give Efferent a call or email.