Ghost Referrals No Longer Haunting Google Analytics 

I have found that one of the most annoying aspects of using Google Analytics on a regular basis is the presence of referral spam. This referral spam had the ability to take extremely useful data used to monitor and measure the usage of a website or app and skew it beyond recognition.

While the use of well-targeted filters and custom segments could help limit the damage, I’d often find ghost referrals within our data, even with these is place!

But finally, the day has come where I may no longer have to worry about spam polluting Google Analytics anymore! Hurrah!

What is referral spam and how does it skew data?

Referral spam can take one of two forms; ghost spam or crawler spam.

Ghost Spam compromises your data without actually ever visiting your website. This is done by manipulating your Google Analytics tracking code from a domain other than your own website. Google Analytics then receives this data and it forms a part of your reports within the Analytics platform.

Crawler Spam differs from ghost spam due to the fact that it does actually visit your website. Not all bots are used for Spam – all major search engines use them to crawl and index websites. The reason that these don’t appear within your Analytics figures is because they are configured not to activate JavaScript.

Websites use referral spam to increase links to their own website and to encourage webmasters to click through to the websites that appear in the referral report – thus increasing traffic.

However by doing this, important website data is being skewed. This is particularly damaging to smaller businesses as traffic levels can appear to be two or even 3 times higher than they are in reality. Having inflated and skewed data limits its usefulness and can be damaging as webmasters make decisions based on figures that are effectively false.

What’s changed?

There were approximately 550 domains that had been identified as spam referrers – although some were more prominent than others. With so many domains (and new ones appearing each month) even with the greatest will in the world it was difficult to create effective filters to protect the integrity of the data being collected.

Recently though, webmasters from around the globe have been reporting that referral spam appears to be reducing and becoming less of an issue. Although Google hasn’t made an official comment on this, it appears that these visits are being removed from the data before it ends up in reports.

How does this affect you?

First of all, the removal of these figures from Analytics is a positive for anyone who regularly uses the platform or relies on it to measure the success of their website and online marketing.

Initially, you may see what appears to be a decline in traffic to your website. If you are seeing this, remember it is not a reduction in real visitors to the website; what you’re seeing now is simply an honest reflection of genuine website visitors.

Now you’re finally able to view, analyse and interpret data with full confidence that it is representative of legitimate website activity.