Semalt: Excluding Ghost Referral Spam From Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free and reliable tool that website owners can use to retrieve traffic data and make reports out of them with much efficiency. Over the years, ever since 2005 when Google acquired Urchin, it has become a powerful web analytics tools. Webmasters use it to monitor their online campaigns and determine their conversion rates, implement website optimization measure, and keep a track report of their e-commerce activities. Nevertheless, the presence of referral spam can quickly undermine the accuracy of this bulk data.

Artem Abgarian, the Senior Customer Success Manager of Semalt, defines here some ways and methods of removing referral spam from Google Analytics.

These Are Not The Bots You Are Looking For

Referral spam is a technique used by people seeking to get free backlinks to their sites. The traffic from these sources is also known as "Ghost referrals" since no actual humans are behind the visits. Referral spam tends to inflate the present organic traffic statistics, which has negative implications for the conversion and engagement rates of the site.

What happens is that ghost referral domains appear on the Google Analytics traffic report, yet nobody made the visit to the site. Spambots are behind the scraping of the Google Analytics the tracking code. They then use it to send traffic directly to the tool for analysis. In short, ghost referrals bypass. It is easy to spot and remove referral spam domains since they have excessive and unnatural traffic and visit sessions.

Referral spam has one objective which only benefits the spammer. The idea is to trick the site owner by hoping that their curiosity to know where the bulk of traffic comes from will get them to click on their URL. Once one clicks the URL provided in the GA report, it redirects back to their site and records as organic traffic from their side.

Currently, there are claims that Google is working on a permanent solution to dealing with referral spam. In the meantime, there are measures to put in place within Google Analytics, to minimize their prevalence on GA reports. The most useful one per se is the inbuilt filters that Google Analytics has in place. They do not necessarily remove referral spam, but they give the user a chance to get a more accurate image of their site's performance. They are only view-level filters. Select Filters from the Admin section in GA and "Create a new filter." Once here, choose from the two plans of action options:

#1 Destroy anything with more than 15 symbols

It uses a regular expression to reject any domains with 15 characters or more. It may not remove referral spam to entirety but serves as a good place to start. Give the new filter a name like "ghostbuster" and make it a predefined type of filter. Choose to exclude, and insert ".{15,}|\s[^\s]*\s|\.|,|\!|\" in the filter pattern. Save the filter.

#2 Remove specific domains

It involves creating custom filters to get rid of particular links which can be very tedious if they are several. However, in the end, it will be worthwhile. The only drawback is identifying the spammy domains. Give the filter a new name like ghostbuster (campaign source). It is a predefined type and then selects "Exclude." Enter the suspicious domains in the filter field separated by a "\" and save.