Semalt Expert On Removing Ghost Referrals From Google Analytics

Google Analytics users continue to battle it out with fake referrals menace. Any spammy-looking, odd referral should be urgently removed in a Google Analytics account. Referral spams have an impact of skewing data in GA accounts and, in worst case scenarios, damage a site's reputation.

In this regard, Nik Chaykovskiy, the Senior Customer Success Manager of Semalt, highlights here how spam referrals can be removed from Google Analytics.

How harmful is ghost referrals?

Firstly, referral spam messes up GA data. Big businesses that receive thousands of visits every day might fail to notice the dramatic changes experienced by smaller enterprises caused by referral spam. Typically, ghost referrals have 100% bounce rate and very little time on the webpage. Thus, if a site owner receives less traffic, then the fake data is more likely to skew Google Analytics reports.

Secondly, most ghost referrals try to send traffic to their spam websites to enhance own SEO rankings. Usually, these dodgy sites redirect a visitor to a marketing scam, webpages containing malware or a suspect e-commerce website. Internet users should avoid clicking on these URLs.

Finally, ghost sites can in extreme cases, frame a website as a spam referrers. A scammer who wishes to send outright traffic can do so by simply editing the name of the spam URL, including that of the victim since ghost referrals can never be authenticated.

There are two categories of referral spam – ghost and non-ghost referrals. The article highlights their differences as well as how they can be eliminated.

Removing ghost referrals

The ghost referrals happen in situations where a scammer has never visit a site but tricks GA into thinking otherwise. It is accomplished by sending spammy information directly into GA. Follow the outlined steps to eliminate ghost referrals. Site owners are required to use Vertical Leap in removing ghost referrals.

Foremost, a new view on GA should be created. On the Vertical Leap, this is accomplished in the admin section. The ghost referrals are filtered by allowing only valid hostnames to pass through a filter. Valid host names refer to the one belonging to a website owner, such as website's URL.

On the Vertical Leap, navigate the GA audience section, click on Technology, and then Network to establish the valid usernames. All hostnames can be captured by setting data range to one year and switching the primary dimension to a hostname.

Before data filtration, users should create a section to test it on historical data. However, filtered views start gathering data after application of a filter. It can never alter historical data. This explains the importance of testing filters.

Removing non-ghost spam

Non-ghost referral spam is bots that visit a website. Moreover, these referral spam cannot be eliminated by filtration method above. To remove non-ghost referral spam, another filter must be created.

To determine the sections where the referrals should be blocked, head to Acquisition in Google Analytics. Select All Traffic and then Referrals. The secondary dimension should be changed to "hostname." It will be established that positive referrals contain correct hostnames. Website owners should keep checking their GA regularly for new ghost referrals since new bots pop up every time.