How To Filter Out Referral Spam in Google Analytics

 Google Analytics

Referral spam can prove a major annoyance for webmasters. This type of spam is generated by automated bots that hit sites with a referral URL of a site they want to rank higher in the Google search engines. They hope that a search engine spider crawls over the internally generated log pages giving them a backlink to their site. They believe that each individual backlink will further improve the rankings, despite the fact that Google’s algorithm likely has been configured to ignore log pages. Webmasters need to learn how to filter out referrals spam in Google Analytics.

One of the reasons that it is crucial to remove referral spam data is that Google will actually use data from Analytics in its search engine algorithm. It likes to look at a site called “bounce rate” which represents the percentage of visitors that come to a page and then make no attempt to interact with it. The general thought is that if a page has a bounce rate of 100%, then no one is finding it useful when they come to it. The problem is that referral spam bots never do anything other than trigger the visit and thus the fake log data. Visits from spam referrals thus result in bounce rates of 100%, pushing your overall rate higher, and potentially your search engine ranking lower.

To prevent this problem from happening, log in to your Google Analytics control panel to purge the referral spam from your system. You want to look for the referrals report page. This will show the different referral URLs that are delivering traffic to your site. Since referrals spam will always have a bounce rate of 100%, click on the bounce rate column at the far right to sort by bounce rate. Then look at all the entries at 100%.

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Referral spam references will almost always hit a site multiple times to try to pick up as many links as they can. Look for sites with 100% bounce rate and at least 10 separate visitor sessions. This should give you a reasonable enough sample size to tell if the bounce rate is representative; after all, you would expect at least one in ten people would hopefully be interested in your site. If you have questions about a site, then visit it using a secure browser with appropriate security functions turned on in case the site is loaded down with malware. If you cannot find your link anywhere on the site, then chances are it is a fake referral spam link.

Gather a list of all the referral spam URLs that you want to remove. The next step is to tell Google to ignore all the referral traffic from these URLs. This can be done through Google’s advanced filter. Hit the “NEW FILTER” button. Assign the filter a name at the top such as “Eliminate Spam #1.” Under “Filter Type” choose “Custom.” Make sure the radio button “Exclude” is selected. Under “Filter Field” select “Request URL.” Then under “Filter Pattern” type in the URL of the site that is generating the referral spam. Repeat this process for each site that is bombarding you with referrals spam.

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Another step that you can do to prospectively prevent referral spam is to block known spam sites from appearing in your Google Analytics report. To do this go to the “Reporting View Settings” within Google Analytics. The second entry in the pop-up that appears should say “Bot Filtering.” Click the checkbox underneath it right next to the “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.” Then Google should automatically filter these referrals from your results.

After you have set this up, you are going to want to periodically log in to Google Analytics to check for new sources of referral spam. New domains that try to use this technique pop up all the time, and you need to remain constantly vigilant to keep from being a target. Just go through the logs as instructed above and add new filters as needed. Ideally this should be done at least once a week while going over your base Analytics stats.

Referrals spam wastes plenty of computer bandwidth and can be a real headache, but you do not need to let it mess with your Google Analytics statistics. By following the aforementioned best practices, you should keep your Analytics panel relatively spam free.

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