What is ‘Ghost Spam’ in Google Analytics

Have you ever taken a good look at your referral traffic in Google Analytics?

Often users glance at the monthly traffic overview, check out their organic rankings and goal completions – but what about referrals?

Chances are if you’ve never looked into referral spam, then you have some.

The red flags are referrals from social buttons, adult sites, or anything else that looks out of place for your industry.

This isn’t a cause for panic, but it’s something to be aware of and can misrepresent your traffic.

Moz defines two primary types of Analytic spam from this blog:

Ghost Spam:

Uses the Measurement Protocol, which allows people to send data directly to Google Analytics’ servers. Using this method, and probably randomly generated tracking codes (UA-XXXXX-1) as well, the spammers leave a “visit” with fake data, without even knowing who they are hitting.

Crawlers:

This type of spam, the opposite to ghost spam, does access your site. As the name implies, these spam bots crawl your pages, ignoring rules like those found in robots.txt that are supposed to stop them from reading your site. When they exit your site, they leave a record on your reports that appears similar to a legitimate visit.

The Moz blog above also describes a simple way to filter out these sorts of visits.

But, why should you care about this?

Well, depending on the size of your business your traffic data may be inaccurate.

A few thousand spam hits for a huge website is a drop in the ocean, but what about a small or medium sized company?

They may have a good chunk of their current traffic coming from spam sources, which should be filtered out.

Analytics needs to be as accurate as possible so you can make improvements to your site.

For example, if you had written a great blog that boosted traffic in one month, but it didn’t stack up compared to previous months as they’d had more spam – you wouldn’t see the value of the blog.

However, if you had filtered out the spam traffic you would be able to see the blog had helped your traffic and do more in the future.

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