Google Analytics - Spam Referrals Update

In a number of previous articles we've talked about the problem of spam referrals appearing within Google Analytics data. This problem now appears to be growing exponentially and without taking steps to exclude this data from your reports (changing your tracking / configuration within Google Analytics or using advanced segments to remove this data) your reports and any insights derived from them could become meaningless - or worse still highly misleading.

We're hopeful that Google will roll out a solution soon as for some unfiltered views we are now sometimes seeing that well over 50% of the traffic is spam - in a few cases equating to over 50,000 visits within a relatively short time frame.

Spammers are now also getting smarter - solutions previously described to use your website hostname as a filter are now encountering problems and maintaining lists of referrals to exclude requires ongoing proactive management with new sources appearing regularly.

In the meantime we've started work on a list of spam referrals, automated traffic and other suspicious referrals that you may want to exclude. This list won't be fully comprehensive but we'll endeavour to keep it up to date based upon what we encounter. We're hoping to publish this later this week.

Solutions such as that proposed by LunaMetrics (see link in the following article) may become increasingly essential to maintain the integrity of your reporting until such a time as a solution is available via Google.

Changing spammer tactics include:

  • Adopting legitimate source names (but perhaps adapting them via adding a subdomain)
  • Changing the hostname
  • Using minor misspellings so they appear legitimate e.g. theguardlan (rather than guardian)
  • Using new referral sources
  • Use variations of the top level domain (e.g. .org or .info)
  • Dropping suspect metrics - e.g. a 100% bounce rate or 100% new sessions can raise a red flag and so spammers appear to have changed tactics to often avoid these

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