How to Block Referral Spam with Google Analytics

Referral Spam

Google Analytics is a powerful tool to have in your marketing toolbox. It can provide both business owners and their customers alike with an engaging brand-based experience by utilizing a set of integrated data and marketing analytics products. In short—you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the ways that Google Analytics can work for you and your business. In this article, we’ll be discussing referral spam in your Google Analytics and what to do about it.

What’s the Big Deal?

Referral spam (aka referrer spam) is a sort of spamming that is aimed at search engines. The technique involves making a lot of web site requests using a fake referrer URL that directs to the site that the spammer wants to advertise. Why is this a problem? Well, first off, it will throw off your analytics data. Big websites like Moz.com don’t have to worry so much about a couple hundred extra hits from spammers, but when you’re talking about a small site for a local plumbing site, that extra data is going to make any meaningful analysis nearly impossible. Second, when a spammer is visiting your site, they are using up the resources of your server in a way that can slow load times, lower your rankings, and lead to higher bounce rates. There is also no guarantee that these spammers aren’t searching your website for vulnerabilities.

What Can I do?

There are two main ways to combat referral spam within Google Analytics: segmentation and filtering. Segmentation works on the data that’s already there in Google Analytics, and filtering works on the future data that is coming through. This time around, we are going to concentrate on the segmentation aspect—dealing with the data that you already have. Once we have created a segment, it will filter out the existing data so that the spam is no longer a factor. First, create a new segment and title it something like “Leave Out Referral Spam”. The next step is to create a condition. This condition should identify the host name—for example, our host name must be 33 Mile Radius. This first step might not make a huge impact in your data, but it’s a good place to start. Next, we will take steps to ensure that the data you’re keeping only pertains to valid sources of traffic.

The next step is to create a conditional filter. Look at the traffic you’re getting, and try to determine whether any of the sites are ad networks or other sites like that who just want you to get clicks. There are many available lists of undesirable sites online for you to cross-check with if you are not certain. You’ll want to identify these sites and add a filter to exclude them from your data. Doing this can have a dramatic effect on the amount of sites and traffic that shows up in your database. Make sure to save your adjustments! Now, you should be able to see clearly just how much referral spam was blocked, just because of simple filtering. You can even add a shortcut here, so that you will have a quick reference to see your referral traffic.

As always, if you have any comments, insights, tips or questions, please feel free to contact the experts at 33 Mile Radius and let us know!

Transcript

Tim Gill: Today we’re here to talk about referral spam in your Google analytics and what you can do about it. There’s two main ways to combat this within Google analytics and that is through segmentation and filtering. Segmentation works on the data that’s already there in Google analytics, and filtering works on the data that’s, the future data coming through. That’s done through creating a new view in the add-in panel. We’re going to concentrate on just looking at the segmentation aspect of the data that’s already there. The last, here’s the last thirty days of our referral traffic, you can see we’ve got about five hundred and eighty sessions. I’m going to expand this out.

Some of these look familiar and some of them don’t, depending on the different marketing tools you’ll use, it will, they’ll show up in here. What I like to do is really kind of get an idea of who really is a spammer right off the bat by adding a secondary mention of your host name. Now let’s scroll down here. Okay, now this guy jumps out at you as being a spammer. These don’t look like real sites. Now what these are is this what’s called a “ghost spam” and they target your Google analytics ID and the only thing that they’re there for is for you to do this, they actually don’t even go to your site. There’s a few more of these, Get Rich Quick, not too many more. Okay, so it’s not too bad, not as bad as I’ve seen other ones.

What we want to do is we want to create a segment, so in that it will all kind of filter out this data. It’ll never eliminate the data because it’s there, but it will filter it out. You have to create a new view to totally eliminate the data from being in here. I’m going to create a new segment, let’s title it “leave out referral spam”. Okay, so what we want to do is create a condition. I’m going to call it BSB, the host name, host name must be 33 Mile Radius. That really eliminates about, just really about one percent of the traffic, which is not a huge deal. Again I’ve seen it where referral spam is twenty, thirty, fifty percent of the referral traffic, even more. Now we go down you can see it reduced our sessions and the only thing in here is the host name of 33 Mile Radius, but there are some other ones that are lingering in here that are not valid, a source of valid traffic.

This one right here, and there’s a couple of other ones, and what we need to do is we need to create a conditional filter, and I think this one is for some ad network that again just wants you to get clicks. What we’re going to want to do is go back in here and we’re going to edit this, and we’re going to add a filter to exclude, and we’re going to take that source. Then we’re going to look, so I’ve done this ahead of time, so I’ve run the other expression, so we’re going to take these three main sources and add them to the filter. We can see here it goes from ninety-eight, now it drops down to eighty-eight percent, so roughly just with these two filters we’ve taken roughly almost twelve percent of the traffic away from our reported, which can be kind of significant.

I’m going to go ahead and click “save here”, so we can see that it’s adjusted. Now we went from, you know, five hundred and eighty sessions to almost three hundred and ninety-four. Roughly about thirty-five, forty percent of our traffic is gone down because of just simple filtering. You want to do is sometimes you can go ahead and just add a little shortcut here, so I’m going to the save referral traffic spam. Then we’ll go to shortcut, so anytime you want to go here and just take a look at that you can see the referral traffic. All right, thanks and if you have any questions go to 33mileradius.com. Thank you.

 

 

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