Practice From Semalt – How To Filter Referral Spam In Google Analytics

There is one question that keeps popping up in online forums: how do I filter out referral spam? Google filters them out yet they somehow show on the website. Well, you could start with Google Analytics Solutions Gallery, but the solution won't be that straightforward.

You must understand several things, specified by Igor Gamanenko, the Customer Success Manager of Semalt:

1. You could be dealing with a lot of other things, not just bots.

2. Filter stuff wisely.

3. Try to block all bots.

4. Identify all people referring the spam.

5. Create a custom filter with a 'bad referrer' tag.

6. Black all bad bots carefully.

Not all bots are bad

There is a misconception that all bots are bad. This is not true. Some like Bingbot and Googlebot make your search would go round. Others may not be search bots but are nonetheless good. The perfect example would be DeepCrawl, SpyFu and Screaming Frog.

Those that you'd want to block are the ones which hijack your web traffic, looking for loopholes in your content management system (CMS), or those trying to scrape your content for malicious purposes. Other than bots, you should be worried about websites or accounts directing unnecessary web traffic.

Filter your analytics traffic carefully

You should know exactly what needs to be done. This guide should be helpful:

  • click on the 'Admin' tag
  • scroll through the right column, find the 'View' tag, then click the drop-down menu
  • choose 'Create New View'
  • select the appropriate time zone, and you're done

Block all known bots using Google's Analytics

This often eliminates about 75 - 85% of all bad bots. And to add on this, the list of bots is regularly updated. Simply go to the new view then select check settings after which you check the exclude all hits from known bots and spiders option. Make a point of checking the list as sometimes good bots and referral links may be blocked.

You may add spammers to your blacklist manually

Regardless of how good you think Google Analytics is, you may have to remove referrers that send bulk volumes of low-quality traffic manually. Sort out this data using the bounce rate metric. Those with a high bounce rate should be at the top. Now go through the list and filter out the bad apples.

Create a filter for bad referrers

Follow these steps:

  • choose Admin
  • go to View then Filter
  • choose add filter then create a custom one
  • select Custom followed by Exclude
  • select the Campaign Source then finish off with the list of all referrers you wish to block

Block off bad bots from your website

For this, you'd need technical know-how. It involves editing .htaccess files and other web config files. You must have a backup when embarking on this. The best thing about this approach is this:

1. Your server will handle much less traffic implying it will be faster

2. You won't be visiting your analytics profile as often

What you should know:

  • as much as referrers and bots are different, they slow down your server.
  • you can block the two above using their IPs or using top-level domains.
  • be careful so that you don't filter out good stuff.

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