It started with me saying “Hey look at all the traffic we’re getting!” Great, right? Who doesn’t want more traffic to their site?
Except it was on a domain that I had taken offline a couple of months ago so there was no way someone could actually visit the site. Mystified, I took a closer look at Google Analytics and saw suspicious sounding domains like trafficmonetize.org, free-social-buttons.com, and semalt.com. It went on and on and on like this.
It’s called referral spam and it’s a HUGE problem.
So big that Google still hasn’t figured out how to deal with it. So if Google is having issues with this, how can you protect your precious traffic data from getting polluted with these shady outfits?
And here’s the kicker – the traffic you’re seeing is often not traffic at all – referral spam artists (is that what you call these guys?) figured out a way to ping Google’s servers by guessing your Analytics ID and registering it as an actual visit. They’re called “Ghost Referrals”.
So now you see why this stressed me out. And it should concern you too.
By the way, DO NOT VISIT ANY OF THE DOMAINS I listed above. That’s the point – they want you to see their domain in your reports and then visit them so they can sell you their services or, more seriously, attempt to install malware. Not cool.
These companies operate like the herpes virus; pervasive, unpleasant, and if you’re unlucky enough to catch it, quite difficult to get rid of. But fear not, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and Mike Sullivan from Analytics Edge is holding that light.
How we fixed our referral spam problem
If you google the term referral spam, you’ll find a lot has been written on this topic, but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there too. Mike Sullivan has written the Definitive Guide to Removing Referral Spam in your Google Analytics reports. Seriously, he’s a hero for doing this. Check out the comments on his site from the many people he’s helped.
Mike’s written two comprehensive articles on this topic, explaining the ways you can filter and segment the offending data from your reports without harming your valid traffic data. However, if you are confused about all the steps you need to take he offers a service to do this for you by personally examining your Analytics Profile and produces customized Advanced Segments and Filters for you instead. There is also a link to the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery where you can directly import the Advanced Segment that “Eliminates all ghost referrals and the worst of today’s spam crawlers”. This is what we did, and it works like a charm.
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