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What Is Ghost Referral Spam and How to Stop It?

08/12/2016

If you are a webmaster, you must have dealt by now with a whole new type of spam that affects your Google Analytics data. The problem is that this causes anomalies, such as unexplained, fake traffic spikes, thus failing to provide a clear and honest image of what your website traffic is actually like. Below, you can find out what causes this and how you can fight it.

Where does the spam traffic come from?

Increased traffic should be a reason for joy – not in this case, though. Not all traffic is good. You need real visitors who can be converted into customers. What you're getting in this situation is fake traffic from spammers, which does not come from legitimate sources. In conclusion, it cannot do any good to your website. This is why it's called ghost traffic.

What can Google Analytics users do?

When Google Analytics shows you this type of surge in website traffic, you need to take action against crawlers or spam bots. Blocking these is a most efficient measure. You can find out more about how to block refferal spam in Google Analytics from reputable web hosting providers. The .htaccess method will not succeed in blocking it. Instead, better filters will do.

Creating view filters

In your Google Analytics account, you can create filters and then apply these to one or several views. You may also do this at view level and apply the filter only to that particular view. To do this, you need to select the Admin tab and go to the account concerned. In that specific account, click All Filters and then select New Filter. Choose the Create New Filter option, give it a name and make a custom filter if the predefined types do not suit you. You will then see an Available Views list. Select those views that you want to add the filter to and proceed to clicking Add. Don't forget to save your new filter with its settings. To create a filter at a view level, you need to access the Views column instead of the Account one, then follow the same steps. The account also allows you to change the order of existing filters.

Additional referral spam solution

What follows is a highly effective process. If you have a new site, the property you use must be “-2” or higher. You need to install Spam Crawler Filters and also have a Valid Hostname Filter to weed out ghost visitors. The filters must be employed in a Custom Segment. Furthermore, you need to locate Google's own spider and bot filter option and enable it.

What you must NOT do?

Although certain measures may seem like appropriate, it's better to steer away from those. The list includes making modifications to your SEO (totally not required) and installing plugins to remove fake referrals. Also, the Referal Exclusion List won't be of any help and should not be employed, because it does not act as expected. The visit is still registered, only that the connected information is not provided.

Ghost traffic doesn't really hit a website. It only modifies the data in Google Analytics, which is annoying and misleading. It will not do any actual harm to your pages, but will modify the perception of your SEO results.

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