Traffic numbers skewed by spam and ghost traffic?

If you haven’t taken steps to filter your website’s Google Analytics data, the information that drives your decision making is probably unreliable.

Is spam corrupting my analytics data?Spammers, like viruses, grow and evolve on a constant basis. While there are plenty of evildoers manipulating websites, driving bad links, disrupting search listings, and hacking meta data in order to advertise Viagra medication, for example, these petty criminals are also dirtying up your website data – swelling your session totals, page views, referral numbers, and even your goal numbers. Bot traffic, now at an all-time high, could even make oblivious organizations think they’ve met their quarterly goals when in fact their data is dirtier than a library keyboard.

Here are a few things to look for to determine whether your data is corrupted by spam:

  • Spikes in traffic or spikes in page views from a single source
  • Language listings that are not languages
  • Landing pages that aren’t page of your website
  • Spammy Referrer sources such as those mentioned above

If you think you need to clean up your act, start with these first steps:

Filter Referral spam. Start by blocking them in your .htaccess file in the root directory of your domain. Here’s some background from SEOMoz.

Eliminate ghost visits in bulk. Here’s a helpful primer on ghost spam.

Many industry experts (like Analytics Edge) suggest using a property number in Analytics higher than -2 if you have a new website. Spammers tend to prey on lower numbers, so higher numbers reduce your chances of being targeted, at least for now.

You can always enlist a third party to help you with your spam filtering so you don’t have to wade through the process on your own.

In the future, we might be able to rely on Google’s help. It makes sense that these spammers could be stopped at the source, so thousands of website owners like us don’t have to independently implement dozens of safeguards. In fact, Google reports it is working on these protections so in the future the worst offenders could be eliminated from our data.

Let us know if you’d like to talk about managing your analytics.