Two Referral Sources Skewing Millions of Google Analytics Reports

Ghost referrals, referral spam and spam bots are Google Analytics headaches.

Chances are that if you manage Google Analytics for a website, you’ll see what I mean when you go to the Referrals page and sort by source. These fake referrals have become exponentially more troublesome on Google Analytics over the past year. Personally, I have noticed the website traffic increase on many of my clients’ websites by several hundred views each month due to these nuisances.

These sources are designed to trick you into visiting a shady/spammy website as you’re trying to find out how visitors are getting to your own website. They can be divided up into two types of spam: ghost referrals and non-ghost referrals.

Ghost referrals don’t actually visit your website; instead they push their data straight to your analytics. Non-ghost referrals, like bots and spiders, actually hit your website. Because these two types of spam act differently, you must approach them differently when you are trying to get rid of them.

Ghost Referrals

ghostThese are the majority of the spammers, and they simply target your Google Analytics so you will seek them out and end up on their spammy website. The only way to block them is to go through your Google Analytics to get rid of them. These ghost referrals are pretty smart, so you will have to go through several steps to ensure they don’t out-maneuver your preventive measures.

Non-ghost Referrals

Bots and spiders, while annoying to your analytics reports, actually help with identifying SEO; therefore, you don’t want to block them completely from the website. Instead, you want to make sure that they aren’t being counted in your Google Analytics report. You can use these simple steps in your Analytics administrative settings to take care of that.

The good news is that these sources are rarely out there to hack your website or cause serious damage to your digital property. The bad news is without action against them, you are not able to get an accurate reading on your website analytics and therefore, could be making some misrepresented business decisions because of them. Additionally, while the steps in this post may help right now, these spam sources are constantly evolving. Make a point to maintain surveillance and act proactively against these digital pests regularly.

Have you seen an increase in these types of hits in your Google Analytics? Do you have other tips to add? Comment below.