Google Analytics Spam & What To Do About It

It’s now 2016 and Google Analytics Spam is on the rise again. Following the holidays many webmasters and site owners opened Google Analytics, only to see something like this:

Google Analytics Spam

Namely, their source/medium stats are once again polluted with irrelevant referral spam. The new “star” on the block is definitely с.новым.годом.рф, while the .xyz TLD continues to be the first choice of many spammers like traffic2cash.xyz, social-widget.xyz, free-social-buttons.xyz, web-revenue.xyz etc.

We’re currently witnessing the latest surge in referrer spam which began around 24-25 Dec 2015 and is continuing to this moment (27 Jan 2016) with no visible signs of slowing down. While in late 2015 we were seeing 4-5 new spammers every month now we’re seeing more than that every week. The volume of ghost traffic is also on the rise, meaning that even sites with moderate volumes of traffic are now seeing spammers in prominent places in their referral reports.

What is Google Analytics Spam?

It’s worth reminding our newer readers how this spam works and why are you seeing it in your reports. There are basically two types of it:

  • Bot Referral Spam
  • Ghost Referral Spam

Bot referrer spam happens when there is an actual bot visiting your site, executing the Google Analytics code and thus registering the fake referral. This is actual traffic that you can see in your server logs and potential block on the server side as well, although that’s not the best approach, unless the amounts of traffic you’re seeing are actually slowing your site down.

Ghost referrer spam is traffic that is only registered by Google Analytics. There are no bots visiting the site, but instead the spammers are connecting to the Google Analytics servers directly and are logging the traffic there, completely bypassing your site. Naturally, the only place where you can block this type of spam is in GA itself.

You can read more on the technical side of the issue in our detailed post on removing referrer spam or by checkout out our Google Analytics Spam Infographic.

How to Stop Google Analytics Spam?

There are several ways to approach stopping Google Analytics spam. Working on the server level is one way, but it will only limit bot referral spam, leaving ghost referral spam untouched. It’s also cumbersome to manage, especially if you need to do it for multiple sites on different servers.

The other approach is more resilient and actually easier to apply and manage and that is through Google Analytics view filters. You can implement hostname include filters to include only legitimate traffic with a combination of complex exclude filters using Regular Expressions to exclude spammy referrals that have the correct hostname. The second type of filters would, however, require constant updates, due to the amount of new spammers that emerge each day. When this needs to happen across tens of hundreds of accounts the task easily becomes too daunting and time-consuming.

Precisely for this reason we’ve developed the Auto Spam Filters tool, which applies anti-spam filters to hundreds of web properties in minutes and then keeps them up-to-date with the latest referral spam, so that yours or your client’s stats are kept free of the nuisance. It’s most useful for Google Analytics professionals, digital agencies (SEO agencies, AdWords/PPC agencies, etc.) and large publishers, managing many sites. You can check it out and try it for free here: Auto Spam Filters.

Why doesn’t Google Just Block Referrer Spam?

If you’re waiting on Google to solve the issue – it’s likely not going to happen anytime soon, if at all. Google has been aware of the issue for years and webmasters have been complaining about it on Google Groups and other webmaster forums to no avail so far. The issue lies at the core of how Google Analytics functions so solving it might not even be technically possible. More technical details on that are available here.

P.S. We’ve just launched an Infopage on referrer spam with latest spam domains featured on it.

 

Georgi is an expert internet marketer working passionately in the areas of SEO, SEM and Web Analytics since 2004. He is the founder of Analytics-Toolkit.com and owner of an online marketing agency & consulting company: Web Focus LLC and also a Google Certified Trainer in AdWords & Analytics. His special interest lies in data-driven approaches to testing and optimization in internet advertising.

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