Spam in emails have long annoyed the public, but at the end of 2014 a new kind of spam started to annoy website owners. The new spam came through Google Analytics and drastically changed the amount of traffic being reported to website owners.
There’s a number of different names for this kind of spam, everything from Ghost Referrers, Referral Spam or just Google Analytics Spam, but they all base around the same idea. Junk traffic that does nothing but inflate the numbers. You may be asking why do the spammers even bother with this technique? The simple answer is that people click those referral names in their Google Analytics trying to find out where they’re getting traffic from. So it’s a way of driving traffic to a website, but I’d venture to say that nearly everyone instantly closes the window for the new site that opened. But it’s too late, their get their user count to go higher, and they then sell that “service” to other websites. It’s really popular in the Online Adult Industry in particular.
What is the Spam? How does it happen?
For the most part, this “ghost traffic” or “ghost referral” never actually visited your website. There is a loophole in Google Analytics that allows people to inflate their traffic numbers by loading just the Google Analytics Code on a page. Since Google doesn’t check to see if the Analytics Code came from the website in question, the numbers can be artificially inflated, and you end up with junk traffic reports.
There is some traffic that comes from places that are scraping content from your website, or competitors trying to find out what phrases you’re using in SEO. These generally come through places such as WooRank, semalt, and similar SEO sites that offer a “free seo report.” These sites visit your website, pull some general information about your site, and present it in an easy to read report. Generally these are very high level SEO reports and provide just the tip of the iceberg in what is actually happening in your website.
Google Analytics Reports – Segmented Filters
There are any number of ways to block the reported traffic in Google Analytics, but we’ve found that the Segments in Google Analytics provides the easiest and most effective way of blocking the traffic on the reports.
Our Google Analytics Reports to our clients filter out nearly 300 different locations that are known spam or junk traffic locations. Our list is compiled based on our clients actual activity. Since we have a large pool of clients to pull report information from, if one gets a spam referral, we add it to the master list for every other site to ignore the traffic. When we deliver our monthly reports to clients, they see only REAL traffic as a result. This is a service we can provide to you even if you don’t have SEO with us. Just fill out the contact form and we will provide pricing information to you.
Here are some of the places that we block on our report and think you should too. We have more than 300 different sites on our list, but these are a good start:
How to Setup Google Analytics Segments to Block Spam
Here’s the steps (with pictures) on how to remove the spam traffic yourself. Click the image to see a larger version.
Step 1 – Access the Filter Area
Step 2 – Add New Filter
Step 3 – Add Spam Sources to the List
Step 4 – Display Results – Add the Filter Segment
Step 5 – Display Results Comparison
As you can see in the report above, sessions reported to Google Analytics was 14,511, but after we ran it through our filters the actual session count was 7,382 sessions (50% lower). This is critical especially when you’re looking at bounce rates and determining what your actual reach was for your website.
Some of the spam traffic that we block in our reports are REAL visits to the website, but they’re done via a spider or robot and are not a real customer. You can spend time adding information to an .htaccess file to block sites that crawl or spider your site, but filtering the traffic takes care of things for the report. As long as you’re not noticing any slowdown on your website, the need to block spiders or indexes is minimal.
Big Red SEO Makes Accurate Reporting Easy
In SEO, the customer and the conversion is the only thing that we really need to track. Blocking out the known spam sources and ghost traffic gives you real numbers to work with. On each of the SEO plans we offer to our customers we include the filtering so we can provide and track accurate numbers for the campaign.
Big Red SEO can provide you with Monthly SEO Reports, even if we are not doing the SEO. If you’d like to see how your report would look, just contact us, provide us READ access to your Google Analytics and we’ll generate a report so you can compare information.
Please contact our SEO team at (402) 522-6468, if you want to learn how Big Red SEO, an SEO Company located in Omaha Nebraska, can help you with SEO, Web Design or Google Analytics Monthly Reporting.
Update: More Google Analytics Spam in 2016!
In 2016, the antics of Vitaly Poplov continued. Check out two additional articles on the subject;
- Google Analytics Traffic Dropped – Google has resolved the Analytics Spam
- Google Analytics Language Spam – Vitaly found a way around the filters Google made!