Last year I had to check out a client´s Google Analytics in order to see where their traffic came from and if there were any discernible patterns in the analytics. One of the things I always look at is the source of traffic. Does it come from social media, search, another website, etc? It gives an idea where improvement is possible or what needs more attention. (Updated 25-2-2016.)

When looking at their referral traffic (this shows which sites do send visitors your way) I was dumbfounded by all these sites that seemed to send traffic to my client´s website but had a bounce rate of 100%. A bounce rate of 100% indicates that all the people who come to the site, visit one page and then end their visit.

This totally intrigued me and I started studying Google Analytics and taking courses to learn all I can. One of the things I learned is that there is such a thing as Referrer Spam. I will not go into why there are businesses that perform such frustrating acts as I find it too mind boggling to even want to comprehend.

What is Referrer Spam?

This activity by other websites damages your business in two ways. First of all, it totally confuses your analytics data. If you are a huge business with enormous amounts of traffic, Referrer Spam may not stand out or make a big difference. If your website doesn´t have that much traffic, Referrer Spam will completely throw off your data.

Another thing that these spammers do is use up your server resources. If the server is overloaded this results in slower load times, which in turn lead to higher bounce rates and lower rankings.

So naturally you want to exclude this spam data from your reports. We looked at the data for some clients and the difference in traffic over the period of a year (or their existence if shorter than a year) is a decrease of 15%, for some around 50%, and for one even 89%.

How to Exclude Referrer Spam

Below you will find the Audience Overview of one of our own websites.This is what it looks like without the elimination of Referrer Spam.

Referrer Spam

In order to remove the Spam, you have to click Add Segment.
Referrer Spam

When you click it a window of segments opens up. In our case we check ‘All Sessions Referrer Spam Removed; Dots ‘n Ink 20150803’. (You will have to add your own segment, which you can do with an app; explanation at the end of this post.) For a good view you can uncheck ‘All Sessions’ but for the sake of comparison, we will leave it checked. You then click the blue Apply button at the bottom left.

Referrer Spam

After you have clicked Apply the page will load again and you see the Audience Overview in two ways. The blue one is the original one, which shows everything. The orange one shows the data that has been corrected for Referrer Spam. In this example the difference is huge!

Referrer Spam

In this example, 25,467% of the traffic remains. This means that almost 75% of the traffic measured was spam. When the spam is filtered out, you can see that session duration goes up and the bounce rate goes down. Perhaps disappointing that your site isn´t generating as much traffic as you thought, but it is better to know the real results then to manage and market your business based on false information. It would be like driving a car blindfolded.

This thing we did makes sure that you do not see that Referrer Spam in your analytics data. That doesn´t mean that some of these spammers aren´t coming to your site anymore. In order to prevent that from happening, we would have to exclude certain traffic sources. Either based on their domain name, IP address, or simply the country where they are from. Currently, countries like Russia, Indonesia, and Brazil are heavy on producing Referrer Spam so you may want to make sure that visitors from these countries cannot come to your site. Remember, it is not only Referrer Spam, but they also use up your server space.

Of course, if you are targeting potential clients from these countries, you cannot just exclude a whole country from visiting your site. If you are trying to sell real estate to Russians for instance, this could be the case. In that situation other, more labor intensive, exclusions have to be made.

Setting up Referrer Spam Filters Yourself

There is an easy way of setting up such filters in your Google Analytics by using the Quantable App to eliminate referrer spam. Real easy!

If you need help with setting up the Referrer Spam, stop spammers from using your server resources, or simply want Dashboards and tailor made reports set up, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to help.