Understanding Spam in Google Analytics – Part 1

Ashley Nevis

Ashley is our Communications Specialist. She covers topics related to email marketing, SEO, and digital marketing.

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If you’ve ever logged into Google Analytics to monitor your traffic and noticed that your sessions or pageviews are higher than expected, it’s natural to get excited. People are coming to your website! However, when looking into your site’s analytics, you should always dig a little deeper and ensure you’re not including spam traffic in your reports.

Common types of spam

Referrer Spam

The most common type of spam showing up in Google Analytics is called referrer spam. This will appear in the list of referral traffic to your site, making it look like other websites are linking to you. In actuality, the spammer is making repeated requests to your site, with the referrer URL they are trying to advertise.

Most referrer spam is also called, “ghost spam”, which means that it’s never actually hitting your website. Instead, the spam completely bypasses your website and sends traffic data into your analytics.

Example of referrer spam in Google Analytics

Language Spam

A more recent type is known as language spam, which seemed to be especially prominent around the 2016 presidential election. This type of spam manipulates the referral source to make it look like traffic is coming from real sites, such as reddit.com. Language spam not only affects your site views but also your average time on site and pages per visit data.

Example of language spam in Google Analytics

Spammers hope that you will see these websites in your analytics data and visit the website to try to determine how they are linking back to your site. The spammers are able to profit off multiple visits to their website, which is their ultimate goal.

What can be done about it?

While it can be disappointing to realize that you’re not getting as much traffic to your site as you originally thought, it’s important to remember that spam traffic does nothing for your business. Even though removing spam data from your analytics will ultimately lower your overall traffic, it will leave you with a more accurate view of how your site is performing, without artificial numbers skewing your data.

So, what can you do about spam? Google is constantly working to improve the amount of spam in your analytics data, and it would probably be much worse than it already is without the measures they’ve put in place. Unfortunately, it will likely always exist in some form, as spammers are constantly coming up with new ways to infiltrate your analytics.

The good news is that there’s an easy way to filter it out of your analytics so you can more accurately report on your data. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post for a guide to removing spam from Google Analytics.

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