The Guide From Semalt: How To Remove Referral Spam From Google Analytics

Masquerading of referral spam as legitimate website visitors have compromised the reports made by Google Analytics. At some point, Google was looking at the matter, without coming up with a certain solution.

The current problem is that people do not know what referral spam is, how to spot it, and how to get rid of it. It poses a significant risk to business when they begin using inaccurate reports to determine their marketing campaigns for increased conversion rates, decision optimization, landing page optimization, and much more. In some cases, marketers continue to present data to their bosses, which could be off the mark by up to 60 percent.

Alexander Peresunko, the expert of Semalt explains what is referral spam, how to identify it, what are the ways of elimination of referral spam from Google Analytics reports, and how to prevent this situation from reoccurring.

Referral Spam

Some of the spam never actually gets to visit the site and is commonly referred to as “Ghost” spam. However, it still appears in the reports as legitimate traffic which impacts bounce rates, conversion, time on site, and total sessions among others. A major business, which records many sessions may not view this as a significant problem. For smaller firms, however, it is a reason to worry. It can account for over 60% of the daily sessions this affecting monthly reporting, A/B testing, and other conversion rate tests.

The reason why this data does not visit the website but shows up in GA is due to the Measurement Protocol, developed by Google. It tracks customer behaviors from offline data sources and directs it to Google Analytics. However, it opens doors to crafty spammers who force raw data by attacking UA tracking codes, thus bypassing the website.

Identifying Referral Spam

The are very many ways to identify referral spam, but the quickest one is through the "Acquisition" tab to view "All traffic", and then the source/medium. If one does not immediately recognize a spammy site, pasting the URL in the browser should confirm all doubt. However, some spammers have gotten more sophisticated, so looking at the bounce rates, pages/session, and new session metrics is also a good idea. If they are at 100%, then this traffic does not visit the site.

Removing Fake Traffic from Google Analytics

The suggested procedure works 100% of the time on both old and new accounts. The only catch is that it requires regular updates since new domains keep popping up. There is no permanent fix, maybe until Google provides one.

Getting Started

Create a copy of the existing view which should remain untouched and unfiltered as a safety measure in case the filters filter legitimate data. The filters block all future traffic known to contain referral spam. For the first filter, click on Admin, select the Filtered view, and insert a preferred name for the filter since it may require several. One must then select Exclude, and choose Campaign Source. The Filter Pattern is where the filter string goes.

Cleaning Old Google Analytics Reports

One may also remove spam from the historical reports using a single custom segment. Follow these steps: click on Acquisition, All Traffic, Source/Medium. Once there, click Add Segment, and +New Segment. After completion of the relevant inputs, click save.

Taking the Fight to the Spammers

There is nothing that affects an A/B site more than inaccurate reporting. It is not until Google releases a definitive solution to the problem raised by referral spam. Currently, the procedures indicated above serve as the best guides to ensuring that Google Analytics has no referral spam.