Google Analytics Ghost Referral Spam
This has come up several times over the last couple of weeks, and I’d like to take a few minutes to help everyone address this problem.
Your Google Analytics numbers are wrong, some are higher, some are lower.
- Your bounce rate will be higher than it really is
- Your time on site will be lower than it really is.
- Your total visitors will be higher than it really is.
- Your conversion rate will be lower than it really is.
I can go on. Your analytics are full of spam and it’s giving you inaccurate numbers. These numbers you likely use in your reporting to track progress or make decisions about campaigns or what to do next month.
The Source Of The Problem
What a lot of Google Analytics accounts are displaying is ghost referral spam. This represents information sent directly to Google without ever having gone to your website. No amount of filters on your actual website will prevent this type of spam, only Google themselves are capable of removing this unwanted junk.
I won’t get in to the reasons why it exists, there are plenty I’m sure and I’m not interested in giving it a thought. It’s spam, and I want to get rid of it.
You need to setup a filter to only include traffic that used the correct hostname to reach your website. You see most of the spam is from randomly guessing your Google Analytics ID and sending false information to your account. One thing they likely don’t know is the real hostname of your website. So it’s fairly easy to remove a lot of this junk by only including traffic with the correct hostname. True traffic can’t reach your website any other way.
How To Identify The Problem
There is an easy step to identify if you have a serious spam problem (amongst others). Follow these steps in Google Analytics:
- Go to “Audience” -> “Technology” -> “Network”
- Change the primary dimension to “hostname”
Look through that hostname list and every time you see something that isn’t your own website, then it is likely SPAM. You may use this Google Analytics ID on a few other websites, maybe your chat provider and website provider, but for the most part, it’s all junk!
This is the last 30-days for this dealership. 60% of the reported website traffic is nothing but SPAM, that’s the worst I’ve seen so far, but any amount will negatively affect your numbers and the actions you take on those.
In this case, we can create a filter to only include traffic with a valid hostname that we allow, thereby removing the junk.
This is a great article getting into more specifics about what and the how: Lunametrics