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By Samantha Russell Outreach

Google Analytics Referral Spam – What You Need To Know

5 minute read
Google Analytics Referral Spam – What You Need To Know Featured Image

The Problem:

We all know that it is imperative to have Google Analytics tracking your website performance. However, for months now, anyone who logs into their Google Analytics account has noticed an increasing amount of traffic from referral spam sites (like Semalt.com, 4webmasters.org, 4.free-social-buttons.com, etc). These fake referral hits are easy to identify, as the “Average Session Duration” for each referral site is 0.0 seconds, with a 100% bounce rate.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 11.41.45 AM
Referral Spam is easy to identify, as the “Average Session Duration” for each referral site is 0.0 seconds, with a 100% bounce rate.

 

These fake hits show up as legitimate visitors, which in turn skew your site’s numbers. This problem is affecting ALL websites across the internet, regardless of industry, company size, and average number of site visitors.

Is Referral Spam Harmful?

The main question our staff at Twenty Over Ten is asked regarding this issue is “Does referral spam hurt my website?” In short, the answer is NO. Referral spam is not harmful to your site or site visitors in that it does not install a virus or malware to your computer. However, if you are not aware of it, it can greatly distort your view of your website’s performance and the actual number of site visitors.

Common Referral Spam Websites:

TechFeatured recently published a pretty extensive list of common referral spam sites you may find in your Google Analytics reports. Refer to this list if you are trying to determine which sites are spam.

Common Referral Spam sites you may see in your Google Analyics.
Common Referral Spam sites you may see in your Google Analyics.

What Is Google Doing to Fix the Referral Spam Problem?

That is the million dollar question. In the latest Google+ hangout with John Mueller, John said he is aware of it but it is not part of his team. He works with search quality, this issue is on the Google Analytics team. He did say: “I think there are some options in analytics that you can use to clean this (referral spam) up itself, but I imagine it makes sense to have a more general solution on our (Google’s) side for some of these things.”

So, Google is aware of the problem, but currently without a resolution. See this article for more on Google’s response. For now, your best bet is to filter out the spam, and check back monthly to see which new spammy sites have popped up, and filter those out as well (I’d suggest doing this once a month for now).

How to Remove Referral Spam from Google Analytics:

Since the spammer never actually visits your site, you cannot really block them from continuting to do so (think of the spammer visits as “ghosts” who never actually visit your website, they only leaves a digital footprint in your Google Analytics data that mess everything up).

So, the best way to remove the spam is to simply filter it out of your Google Analytics data, giving you a more accurate view of your actual site visitors and behavior. I suggest following these step-by-step instructions for removing the referral spam. As you will see, the process can be a bit time-consuming, and since there are so many referral spam sites to filer (and new ones pop up each day), filtering the spam from your analytics is simply a short-term fix to a long-term problem.

To learn more about Google Analytics, read up on our blog posts and catch up on our previous webinars:

Webinar Replay: Google Analytics for Financial Advisors
Google Analytics For Financial Advisors – Your Questions, Answered
Google Analytics For Advisors: Which Metrics Should You Monitor?
10 Questions About Your Marketing Google Analytics Can Answer
Back to Basics: Google Analytics for Financial Advisors
Measuring The Success Of Your Online Presence