So you’ve got a website set up and you’re tracking traffic data with Google Analytics. After a couple of months, you start noticing increased traffic in your Google Analytics, so you go and check out your referral sources and notice some sites you’ve never heard of sending you a lot of traffic. You tell yourself traffic is a good thing, right?
Well, I hate to break the bad news to you, but you might be seeing what is known as Referrer Spam. Those sites you’ve never heard of are likely spam sites sending you bogus traffic. Other names for this are Ghost Spam and Referral Spam.
What Is Referrer Spam?
Referrer Spam is basically fake traffic hitting your website by one or several spam sites. These spam sites take advantage of a vulnerability in Google’s new Measurement Protocol and allow direct hits on the Google Analytics tracking servers, thus avoiding an actual visit to your website. This underhanded tactic is designed to get you to either type in the spam domain or do a Google search for the domain, which helps them rank their sites higher in the search engines.
Here is a few signs for Referrer Spam:
- Increase in traffic from unknown sites
- Bounce Rate metric increases monthly
- Average Session Duration (time on the page) metric is decreasing
Unfortunately, ignoring the issue is only going to make the problem worse. Imagine thinking you’re getting 5,000 hits a month to your site, only to find out that 3,750 (75%) of those hits weren’t real. It may seem far-fetched, but I’ve cleaned up the referrer spam on some of my client’s Analytics, and that spam accounted for 50 – 75% of their traffic numbers. With bogus numbers like that, you’re not going to be able to figure out how to make site adjustments to improve conversions on your traffic. You don’t want that, so its best to get this handled right away.
Worst of all, there is new spam referral sites popping up all the time, which increases the likelihood of even more false traffic data. This can be fixed, but up until I found my solution, it required either a lot of manual work (which means spending time trying to figure out Google Analytics) or, paying an expert to come in and fix it for you. This means an ongoing expense as new spam sites could target your data and you’ll have to pay to keep the data clean.
How I Stumbled On This Tool
A few months ago, I wrote about a problem I encountered during my LeadPages WordPress Plugin Experiment. I started noticing that in Google Analytics, I was getting a lot of traffic, however, a number of hits to my LeadPages welcome page weren’t matching up. Any new traffic hitting my homepage for the first time should have come across my welcome page. This lead me to research what was causing the difference in numbers and I stumbled upon the referrer spam issue. I spent some time manually fixing the issue, but managing the new referring sites had become a tiresome chore.
While searching for a solution to a completely different problem I was encountering with a client’s site, I found a free tool that will block Referrer Spam inside of Google Analytics. I’m not a very trusting person so, of course, I tested it out for myself and I’m glad to say, it worked better than I could have expected. What makes this so great is the process takes about a minute to complete. It automatically sets up a filter inside your Google Analytics account that blocks all the potential referring spam sites.
The tool is from Loganix a company specializing in SEO. They update the tool regularly with the latest referrer sites.
All you have to do is run the tool every few weeks to get a fresh list of sites.
One other thing I’d like to mention is while testing out this tool, the owner of the company, Adam Steele, personally responded to my questions as I was trying to understand the tool better. That’s what I call good customer service!
How To Block Referrer Spam For Free
Using the tool from Loganix is very simple:
- Visit the Referrer Spam Tool page
- Install the segment on your Analytics account
- Select All Views in the set up box
- Click the Create button
Once you install the segment, you need to activate it to see your true numbers.
Just follow these steps:
1: Click on the Add Segment button at the top of any page in Google Analytics.
2: Check the box next to the newly added Loganix segment and click Apply at the bottom.
3: The new segment is visible in your Google Analytics data to compare the original and corrected data.
I’ve also included a video tutorial from Adam Steele himself which guides you through the process:
Before and After Loganix Tool Implemented
Here is a before and after for a site that I’m not doing much with:
How To Update The Loganix Spam Tool
Updating the tool is as simple as following the steps over again.
1: Open the email update sent by Loganix and click the download link. You might need to enter your email again to confirm your account.
2: Create A New Filter
3: Add the new filtered segment and delete the old one
4: New segment is in place with updated information
I’m listing a few extra places you can visit if you want to learn more about referrer spam.
Wrapping It up
That wraps up my post on blocking referrer spam for free! I hope you find this an easy and cost-effective way to clean up unwanted spam in your Google Analytics account. Please let me know how its working for you in the comments below!
In addition to this free tool, I’ve written an article highlighting the best free SEO tools you can find online!
Hey Chad – really appreciate the mention here. As I mentioned in my email to you just moments ago, I think you took a pretty complex problem, and broke it down really nicely for folks. Something I know all of us on our team struggled to do.
It appears that this is a problem that folks have mostly fixed (industry folks), at least the the best of their ability. But, there is a new kind of beast coming. This problem is evolving like all spam does. Ghost spam is just the tip if the iceberg. We see new referrers every day, and are ever impressed by their cunning. Very soon people are going to realize that what they’ve done to date, methods other than the blacklist method…don’t cut it. They will get frustrated, and just like we did…seek out additional solutions.
No doubt, there is not one solution. However, I can’t imagine a solution without a blacklist. Whether this is all they do, or one of 2 or 3 things they do.
While this is a problem that has existed for some time…I believe we are getting in on the ground floor of a much bigger, more serious problem. Mark my words, it’s going to get way worse.