For any of you that look at your Google Analytics reports from time to time you may have noticed an uptrend in traffic in the last several months.
Unfortunately some of this traffic isn’t real, in fact for many sites most of it isn’t real.
Why? Because of something that is growing in usage called “Referrer Spam”.
When you look at your Google Analytics dashboard scroll down to something called “Acquisition”.
Then navigate to Acquisition/All Traffic/Channels and click “Channels”. On the right will be displayed a variety of ways users are coming to your website including Organic Search, Referrers and Direct.
“Referrers” is the culprit. Click on it and you will see many visitors from domains like the ones shown below (a very partial list);
These are all FAKE. A combination of automated bots visiting your site from these domains and a form of direct injection into your Google Analytics code itself. The first type can sometimes be blocked by using your htaccess file the second cannot be blocked at all.
This is a VERY serious problem as it makes Google Analytics (the defacto standard for website statistics) very misleading to most site owners.
There are ways to filter these things out within Google Analytics itself but in my opinion this isn’t an ideal solution to the problem although, for now, it may unavoidable if you want to keep using GA.
I have tried adding an extremely large htaccess file to the root directory of the website but, although it helped, it did not eliminate the problem. I have also heard that this can slow the site down somewhat also.
I’ve tried a WordPress plugin but I found that also did not eliminate the problem.
I’ve read that a service called “Clicky” (which has been around a very long time and I have used in the past) seems to filter a great deal out of it’s results so I’m currently testing this on one of my sites.
I cannot imagine Google not addressing this somehow in the future but who know how long that will take so I will be looking for GA alternatives for my sites and my Marketing clients sites.
Setting Up Basic Google Analytics Filters
After adding the code suggested in the distilled article to remove some referrers it was good to see all were gone except one (floating-share-buttons.com). So I followed the Distilled article instructions (link above) and also added a filter to remove any referrers that showed no “Screen Resolution”. That seemed to work! Only problem is now the site is getting zero traffic. :).