Spam In Your Analytics

“Hey everybody, our site traffic is up. Isn’t that great?”

With all the ways less-than-reputable companies bother us daily, there’s a new kid in town. This bandit doesn’t show up in your inbox, voicemail or as a flyer in the mail.

It shows up in your website analytics reports.

Huh? Yes, it’s true. It’s spam for people that review their analytics data. It also throws off your analytics reports so the data you are seeing is not accurate.

Large sites won’t notice the effect (unless Google doesn’t eventually fix this issue) but small businesses are suffering from seeing data that is not actual site traffic.

How Do These Spam Bots Work?

They crawl the web and utilize a weakness in Google Analytics Universal Analytics code. They insert fake visits into your Google Analytics reports! For this reason this type of spam is also called “referrer spam.”

Referral site traffic is from one internet “entity” to another such as from another website, blog, or email newsletter. It’s called referrer traffic because it refers traffic from one place to the next.

When you analyze your analytics data, you may see a URL that is generating traffic to your site and you go there to check it out.

These spammers even have domain names that they know people viewing their analytics will be attracted to such as “get-free-social-traffic.com”.

One of the most audacious ones (that has since been taken down) is “See-your-website-here.com.” This service used site spam as a form of lead generation! You could pay them to perform site spam on your behalf!
see-your-website-here

Others include Semalt (and various sub-domains) and floating-share-buttons.com.

How To Tell If A Referral Site Is Fake

This method looks at the host name for the referring site. Go into your Google Analytics and choose Acquisition>All Traffic>Source/Medium.

Now select the Secondary dimension pull down menu and click on Behavior. Scroll down and select Host Name.

Notice in the image below that some of the host names show “(not set)”? These are false site visits from the spam bots.

There is also one in this example called “sexyali.com” that is coming in from the Google translation service that shows you a site in your own language.

This one is obviously spam (based on the site name) so possibly the bot comes in through the translation service.

If you are still unsure if a referral URL is real you can go to the URL and check it out.

Just make sure your computer securities settings are on and DO NOT click on anything on the site.

How To Remove The Spam Referral Traffic

You want to identify all of these fake referrals and create a list such as:

  • get-free-social-traffic.com
  • floating-share-buttons.com
  • sexyali.com.

You can filter these URLs in your Google Analytics reports. But all this does is hide the data from your reports. The bots are still crawling your site.

If you get enough of them crawling your site, it could actually effect your site’s performance depending on your hosting plan.

The best thing to do is stop the fake visits. You’ll need to edit your .htaccess file to do that.

If you are not a developer it is highly recommended to leave this job to the technical folks since this file controls a lot of what goes on in your website.

Here is some sample text for the .htaccess file showing three different spammers we want to block:

## SITE REFERRER BANNING
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt.com [NC,OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} buttons-for-website.com [NC,OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} seoanalyses.com [NC] RewriteRule .* – [F]

Hiding The Bots From Google Analytics

If you want to simply hide the data in your analytics reports use the following method.

  • In your analytics account, click on Admin along the top row of menus.
  • Click on Filters
  • Select New Filter to create one.
  • Select Custom.
  • Choose Referral for the filter type.
  • Type in your spam referral URL.

  • Under Apply Filter to Views, highlight All Website Data then click on the Add button.
  • Save your filter.

You’ll need to do this for each of the offending referrals.

You can use modifiers if you like, to enter wild card conditions for just one filter or if that is too complicated, just enter each URL for each filter you create.

Let’s hope Google finds a way to plug this hole but until then at least you have a fix.

Your analytics reports will now be more accurate even if your website traffic numbers appear to be down slightly.

You’re seeing the truth now and that’s always a good thing.

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