Removing referral spam from Google Analytics results, and the power of Analytics segments

A lot of the sites we manage have seen a real spike in their traffic according to Google Analytics, but it's not a real spike at all, but a form of spam being called 'referral spam'. The traffic hasn't actually visited your site, so you can't exclude it by IP address, but they have found your analytics code and submitted it using some form of automation which makes Analaytics think there is serious referral traffic from their site.

Why? The only plausible reason seems to be to encourage you as the site owner to visit them. What a waste of everyone's time.

There are two things you need to do:

  1. Adjust your settings in analytics for this site to exclude traffic from bots, and
  2. Create a segment without the spam, so that you can view your 'real' traffic and its behaviour without this distortion.

The reason for the second is that if the bot setting works - and it doesn't always work 100% - it will still not exclude traffic that was being reported before you put this setting in place.

Here is an excellent article showing you how to set filters step by step, and it introduces segments, referred to above, as a means of removing the spammy traffic from your reports.

Here are the settings we are currently using to remove spam (see that article mentioned above first to see how / where to put these settings):

  • Medium: contains "referral"
  • Source: matches regex "|||||||||||||||||||"

Spam.jpg Segments open up a whole world of value to you way beyond this referral spam issue. Consider the following analysis:

  • What is the click behaviour (time, paths, pages) of your blog traffic?
  • How does that differ from your search traffic?
  • What about visitors from your home country vs. other countries?
  • How do return visitors behave differently to first time visitors?

Start playing with segments and you'll unlock deep insights into your site(s).