Are your web analytics being distorted by spam?


Most businesses routinely use Google Analytics to monitor and report on the usage of their website, however few take the time to look behind the headline numbers.

A steady growth in overall traffic is noted positively and rarely questioned, particularly in smaller organisations without in-house expertise.

Unfortunately over the past year or so, there has been a steady increase in ‘referrer spam’. This spam is reported in Google Analytics as referral traffic, however it has never even been to your site. The spammers have communicated directly with Google’s servers to generate false entries in your ‘referral traffic’ statistics and therefore your overall site statistics.

For local business sites which typically experience low traffic levels, referrer spam can be a significant proportion of their overall traffic.

Are your site’s GA stats affected by referrer spam? Look at the referral traffic to the site within Google Analytics – do the listed domain names look relevant to your business, or they have names related to buttons & SEO (e.g. ‘free-social-buttons.com’) or mis-spelled trusted domains such as ‘amezon.com’

Why do the spammers do it?

There are a few theories but the most common are:

  1. The spammers want you to back-link to them, and figure less-aware webmasters will ping back to their sites.
  2. Some of the referring sites have malware on them, so they’re hoping you’ll see them in the web statisticss, visit the sites to investigate… and get infected.

Solving the problem is more difficult. Currently the most effective mechanism is to create Google Analytics filters can be created to hide/remove the spam data from Google Analytics reports. Whilst effective, these filters can require regular maintenance as the spammers regularly switch to new domain names.

As referrer spam undermines users’ confidence in Google Analytics reporting, it is hoped that Google itself will eventually tackle the problem to block this spam traffic from its servers.

Need assistance in the meantime? Give GN Consulting a call on 01928 787026