If you’re using Google Analytics to track your website traffic you’ve probably come across sites like semalt.com, floating-share-buttons.com or get-free-traffic-now.com in your traffic reports.
But…what are these referral sites? Is this legitimate traffic to my website? Does this affect the rest of my Google Analytics data? How do I remove these sites from my Google Analytics account?
These are questions you’ve probably asked yourself when reviewing your Google Analytics data and you’re not alone. Many of our home building clients have asked the same questions and we’ll answer them all below…
What are these referral sites?
According to Wikipedia, referral spam (also known as log spam or referral bombing) is:
“a kind of spamdexing (spamming aimed at search engines). The technique involves making repeated web site requests using a fake referrer URL to the site the spammer wishes to advertise.”
The idea here is that the spammer is trying to create backlinks to a certain URL (ex: get-free-traffic-now.com) by abusing publically available access logs. I.E. they get a free link back to their URL in an effort to increase their own search engine ranking and boost their website traffic (lets face it, you definitely visited semalt.com after you saw it in your analytics).
Is this traffic legitimate traffic to MY website?
Unfortunately these sessions aren’t from potential home buyers browsing your collection of home styles, floor plans and photo galleries.
This “traffic” is actually either a robot (spam web crawler) crawling your website OR a spoofed session (ghost referral) and hasn’t even visited your website at all.
The bottom line is that all of this supposed “traffic” is fake and results in a 100% bounce rate, 1 page per session, an average session duration of 00:00 and no new home sales.
Does this affect the rest of my Google Analytics Data?
Since we’ve confirmed that all of this traffic is fake and isn’t resulting in more visits to your model home or calls to your sales office it is most certainly throwing off your Google Analytics website metrics.
Below is the Acquisition > All Traffic > Source Medium graph from one of our clients for Q2 of this year.
The blue line is All Sessions and the orange line is Sessions with all of the referral spam removed. As you can see, that’s a pretty drastic difference.
And the report data…
- 33% of Sessions came from referral spam
- 8% of New Sessions came from referral spam
- 38% of New Users were from referral spam
Now, since we’ve gone over what these referral sites are, confirmed that the traffic is fake and does affect your Google Analytics data, lets answer the most important question.
How do I remove these sites from my Google Analytics account?
There are quite a few possibilities for ridding your Google Analytics account of spam data but here is the solution we’ve used, which gets rid of both spam web crawlers AND ghost referrals :
- In your Google Analytics account, navigate to the Reporting view and click + Add Segment
- Then click + New Segment and title it something like “Eliminate Spam”
Include only valid hostnames
To get rid of the majority of spam sessions created by ghost referrals, only include visits to valid hostnames, usually your webserver (ex: oneilinteractive.com)
Navigate to Advanced > Conditions on the tab to the left and create a new segment with the following conditions:
- Enter your valid hostnames (ex: oneilinteractive.com)
To get rid of the remaining spam crawlers that do actually visit your site, exclude them with another filter with the following conditions:
[+ Add Filter]
- enter the list of spam referral sources separated by the vertical bar ( | )
Save and Apply your new segment
The easiest way to test that your new segment is working properly is to check your traffic reports:
You should see all sessions and sessions without spam referrals.
If you’d like to look at your data with the spam completely removed, just remove your All Sessions segment and only look at your “Eliminate Spam” segment.
If you notice new spam referrals in your Google Analytics account simply edit your “Eliminate Spam” segment to include the new referral URL.