Fighting referral spam, once and for all
With the arrival of the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol ( a fantastic Google Analytics feature ), comes a less welcome item associated with the arrival of a new spam category: Referral spammers. These guys put fake data into your Google Analytics account in the hope of getting a couple of seconds of your time. We have written about them before:
- Fighting Referral Spam (event-tracking.com)
- Trump’s Effect On Google Analytics Data
- Google Analytics Referral Spam List
Referral spam evolves, but so do GA View filters and this duel seems unending. I often receive questions like "how can I exclude all of the referral spammers from my website? ". While on most website hits from referral spammers don't change the picture, on some they actually do. On top of that - there is always a feeling of inaccuracy in your data. If spammers can affect the number of sessions and referrals, maybe they can change my transaction numbers or AdWords as well?
Terrible feeling, right? Good news is that you CAN fight spammers' hits to your GA account permanently.
Take this approach:
The idea is quite simple, with every Google Analytics hit from our website (or even iOS / Android app) we will send a specific marker and only include in the Google Analytics View hits with this specific marker. Referral spammers do not target your website exclusively (and even or when they do, we have a solution for that too!) and therefore won't know about this specific marker allowing us to completely filter them out!
What could such a marker be? Any part of the Measurement Protocol which is not used by your tagging solution. For example, you could choose to add a specific character to the end of the Page Title and in Google Analytics View filter include only hits matching regex pattern looking for that character. For example, this character: ♠ Or use a Custom Metric. The free version of Google Analytics has twenty Custom Metrics which are not widely used and I would be pretty sure you can spare one of them. If you are a lucky owner of an Analytics 360 licence, you have two hundred Custom Metrics and can definitelyuse one of them to mark a legit hit.
If you are still using the in-page code snippet, the technical fix is to use a very simple Google Analytics plugin. If you are using Google Tag Manager (GTM), it can be done relatively easy as well.
With this approach, you are not only fighting referral spam very effectively, you couldalso create a Google Analytics View to catch hits WITHOUT the marker! Gotcha, you spammers. An increase in spammers' hits might be a clear indication that you are being targeted by one or more spammers.
How do you fight referral spammers?
Are they making a huge difference to your GA Reporting or areyou not sure yet?
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