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Internet users find it frustrating while trying to figure out why the analytics data displays inaccurate bounce rates, drop in conversion rate or sudden spikes in traffic. Apart from execution challenges, referral spam (also known as ghost traffic or referrer) is the most lead cause of inaccurate data for Google Analytics users. Moreover, ghost spam is constantly increasing in both reach and volume, and it cannot be stopped by any means.
Users can, however, block referral spam from showing in data analytics and hence regain the required data integrity to report on performance, make informed marketing decisions and gather insights. The use of a “simple” filter is enough to get rid of almost all referral spam in a Google Analytics profile.
In the article, Igor Gamanenko, the Semalt Customer Success Manager, explains the meaning of Referral Spam before tackling real solutions of eliminating this virus.
What is ‘ghost traffic’ or ‘referral spam’
Ghost traffic is recorded when a site’s traffic is acquired from another web, often, a hyperlink that a visitor clicks. Spammers and hackers attempt to track false traffic in a Google Analytics profile to catch the attention of a user causing them to visit a website or a page with fake traffic, usually to install malware or sell a product. To accomplish this, fraudsters record a site’s traffic as a ghost so that they can insert “referral” URL and domain for their target site or page into a Google Analytics profile for a user to see. Moreover, spammers can also create false entries or implement fake events on other page-reliant dimensions, for instance, language. In these occasions, referral traffic is the most accurate term.
The working of referral spam
The referral spam filter
Users commit some mistakes while trying to minimize or eliminate ghost traffic and referral spam. Many people use several tactics and methods in addressing the issue. However, it is possible to target the ghost spam in one hit by understanding that fake traffic appears on a site using a fake hostname or no hostname at all. Thus, any traffic that is not valid for a website can be excluded. In this regard, any hostname that does not match valid domain for some web properties where Google Analytics code is installed can be excluded by the use of a hostname filter.