Have you ever peered into your Google Analytics statistics only to get excited at the apparent huge jump in month-on-month traffic? It might be that you just put it down to the fact that an SEO company has been doing a Google marketing campaign for you or even just that you have suddenly been re-ranked in Google for all of your target keywords as a fluke.
The chances are though, if you see a graph similar to the below over a short space of time you are probably a victim of Google Analytics referral spam:
On the face of it, the traffic growth looks encouraging. Drill though though into the sources of traffic though and you might see that in fact “Referral” spam accounts for a lot of this traffic:
To find this page login to your Google Analytics and click Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels:
In the right window then, it will show the sources of your website traffic similar to below:
Click the word “Referral” in blue and you will then be taken to the next page which will show you the source of the “Referral” traffic to your website, similar to this:
In this list above, these are all spam referrals and not real traffic. This is created maliciously in your Google Analytics by automated computer robot programs that travel the internet, grabbing Google Analytics ID’s from your website and then calling this code triggering it to add their spam to your website statistics.
Important Note: Do not visit these links or open them. The websites they refer to may contain malicious code. That is what the spammers want you to do.
The other frustrating thing is that in most cases they rarely even ‘visit’ your website; they just trigger the Google Analytics code remotely, unconnected to your website which still logs this rubbish (annoyingly) into your statistics, thus skewing your statistics of website traffic growth.
Most companies are too busy to get their head around this problem but on a practical level what it does mean though is that any website statistics your present to your boss or management should ideally exclude these ‘phony’ visits as they are not real traffic.
Google have introduced a Bot and Spider filtering option in Google Analytics you can now choose to turn on. In our tests it filtered the majority of this junk referral spam out going forwards, giving more meaningful customer website statistics.
Here is where to find this opt-out option in Google Analytics. Log into your Google Analytics and then click on “Admin” at the top:
On the left then, click “View Settings”:
Then on the right side, click to enable “Bot Filtering” (Exclude all hits form known bots and spiders):
This change is not retrospective though and will only apply to traffic logged in your Google Analytics from this point going forwards.
The effect of ticking this box and filtering this junk out can be quite dramatic though, as shown in the example below:
Spam bot traffic was increasing from January 2015 to May 2015 and then checking this option dramatically reduced referral spam to minimal levels by the end of September (note: this graph only shows referral spam traffic numbers and does not include other traffic so basically shows the raw referral junk traffic only).
It might be that you do not even know about the curse of this Google Analytics referral spam. Hopefully this will help you crush more of this junk appearing in your website statistics and help you show your Management the real numbers, excluding the annoying referral spam.