Referral spam and how to remove them from Google Analytics

posted on February 4th 2016 in Google Analytics


Spam is a pain in the neck appearing in our inboxes, website comments and now in Google Analytics feeds. The ones named as referral spam define fake referral traffic from spam bots which are showing up in your Google Analytics screwing the data results. This has a negative impact for business/website owners who need accurate data for referral traffic (incoming) and conversion rates. It’s difficult in this context to work on a properly tailored marketing strategy.

Referral spam could be a ghost or crawler. Ghost spam, which are the majority of them, never access your website. They exploit the measurement protocol which allows the sending of data directly to Google Analytics servers. Spam leaves a fake data “visit”, without passing through your website. Crawler spam browse a website, like Google, and does access your site. However, these web crawlers don’t identify themselves as robots and appear in analytics reports.

The intention of these spam, as with all spam, is to get attention and lure people. They sometimes use a fake URL that offers something to sell to get hold of your email address or just to promote a page. The user could see an unusual, but interesting, URL in the GA reports and make a purchase. Because most referral spammers do this on a huge scale, they succeed to get business and SEO benefits.

It is highly recommended not to be too curious and not visit one of the spam links as there is a risk of exposure to malware. It’s easy for the referring spammer to point to a URL that could contain malicious software in order to steal your electronic data or infect your machine. To help you, here is a webpage link to a spam list which helps you to recognize some of them: spam list

You also have to know that the spam bots priority is to attack the weak websites and the ones using custom CMS (Content Management System) or shopping cart. So be careful and host your website on a secure, well-respected, platform.

Among the solutions to help to remove spam from your Google Analytics metrics, you can read this article which sounds to me pretty simple in comparison to many others I have found, “Keep Calm and Stop Ghost Spam in Google Analytics“. It shows a filter to create a “Campaign source filter” in Google Analytics. It may take up to 24 hours before the first effects but should be worth the wait.

Removing referral spam will allow you to clean your analytics and make them more reliable. Last but not least, it will help you to publish a website that is far more safe and secure for you and your customers.

Following over 13 years of online marketing experience in France, I decided to set up my own business in London. I love my job, the challenges it brings with the satisfaction of the solution and Eurostar of course :-)

We would love to hear your comments