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Referral spam is a blight on the internet that’s probably disguising your websites ‘true’ performance

Whenever we start a new website project, we like to discuss the goals and objectives with the client. Once these are agreed we’ll also discuss targets and benchmarks so that we’ve all got something to aim for. Before the new website is launched, we’ll set up the agreed goals in Google Analytics to enable the client and ourselves to monitor the progress towards achieving those goals.

After launch, we’ll use Google Analytics to view the website’s performance, focusing on the popular metrics such as Sessions, Users, Page Views and Bounce Rate. As you can imagine it’s critical that this data is accurately recorded and interpreted, otherwise you run the risk of making costly changes to your website. Most people we speak to assume their GA data is accurate, but in fact in almost all cases it isn’t. Why? Because of something called referral spam (also known as referrer spam).

What is referral spam?

Referral spam occurs when your website gets fake referral traffic from spam bots and this fake traffic is recorded in your Google Analytics property. Referral spam is not real web traffic but non-human visits instead, resulting in completely inaccurate web traffic statistics. The problem has increased enormously over recent months, with many digital marketeers posting blogs on how to stop it, many of which simply don’t work. But fear not, we have a solution that works and offers two clear benefits:

  1. We can create filters to stop referral spam from being recorded in your future Google Analytics data
  2. We can create segments that enable you to view accurate historic data without the referral spam that has been recorded

To sum it up, we can help show you the true performance of your website.

Here’s a case study

As an example, one business we helped was regularly monitoring their website statistics in Google Analytics. They were pleasantly surprised by the 1,138 reported Sessions during the month of July 2015, but were concerned about the alarmingly high 79.17% bounce rate during the same period. In fact, the bounce rate concerned them so much they were considering spending a considerable sum on significant changes to their website’s homepage.

They commissioned us to remove the referral spam from their Google Analytics account and have been astounded by the true statistics as they are vastly different from the false data they were seeing. Their website had in fact only had 208 Sessions, which meant that a whopping 930 sessions were completely fake as they were referral spam. Although this true number of actual sessions was disappointing to them, they were delighted to learn that the true bounce rate of their website was in fact a very respectable 40.87%, meaning it was performing far better than they thought!

Removing the referral spam also revealed that users were actually spending almost 3 times as long on their website as they thought, with the true Avg. Session Duration being 4 minutes 16 seconds instead of the inaccurate 1 minute 36 seconds recorded. Just take a look at the screenshot to see the huge difference between the true and false statistics.

Here’s how we can help you stop referral spam

First, we need to see how badly your GA property is affected by referral spam. You simply add our user to your GA account and we’ll take a look and send you two reports (Hostnames and Referral traffic), for free.

Assuming it has been affected (like most) we’ll then create the necessary filters and segment within your GA account. Once complete, we will produce new versions of the Hostnames and Referral traffic reports to show comparisons of before and after so we can ensure only the ‘fake traffic’ is being filtered out.

Once that’s done you’ll be able to load the our newly created segment into your main view and start seeing accurate data for your website.

Will this stop referral spam for good?

Whilst this work will put a stop to current referral spam, it is still possible that new ones may appear in the future as they are using more sophisticated methods to infiltrate GA accounts all the time. We keep an eye on any new ones that appear and, if they do, we’ll contact you to see if you’d like them filtered out. Each one takes just a few minutes, so we won’t charge you for it.

If you would like to see the true performance of your website, contact us for a quote.

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