Referral spam is where bogus referral traffic is sent to a website – and it seems to be on the rise. At first glance it seems as though you’re getting plenty of referral traffic to your website; on further examination it becomes apparent that the data is worthless – it’s all from spam. For your Google Analytics data to be meaningful you need to filter out this annoying referral spam.
Google introduced a ‘Bot and Spider filtering’ option in 2014 in an attempt to address this problem, but this doesn’t seem to be able to deal with all the new spam appearing regularly. In fact why Google left this as an ‘optional extra’ hidden deep within your Google Analytics account is a bit of a mystery.
If you want to check if your Google Analytics account is opted in to this filter, go to
Admin > View Settings > then scroll down and check the box below
But it is highly likely you will have to set up manual filters to keep out other referral spam.
- How do I know if I have Referral Spam?
Go to your Google Analytics account, scroll down the left hand column to acquisition – and click ‘overview’.
Here you’ll see a summary of where all your website traffic is coming from. If you have a high number of referral traffic you may be delighted. However, click on the referral row to see more…
If you see a screen similar to this, with a list of strange looking websites (referral sites) you have referral spam.
The example above shows sources which include the spam referral traffic:
- ‘social buttons’ such as free-share-buttons.com
Unfortunately this means that the 350 website visits recorded by Google Analytics for the account above mean nothing – these are not real website visitors.
There are a number of ways to check if sites are in fact spam:
- a) 100% bounce rate with 0:00 session time
- b) 0% bounce rate with 0:00 session time
- c) invariably all having a spammy name
If you want to be 100% sure what is spam referral and what is not, you can check online – there are many reputable SEO forum where people are continuously reporting new spam names.
Alternatively check out the WordPress.org site which identifies a number of referral spam which can be filtered out via the WordPress plug in GM Block Bots. We’ve included the list for completeness at the end of this article.
2.2 How can I filter out Referral Spam
It’s not too complicated if you follow these guidelines – and by doing so you should eliminate almost all of your referral spam.
You need to go to your Admin page, look across to the 3rd column and you’ll see Filters.
Then Add Filter > Custom > Exclude > Campaign source Type in the spam you are receiving separated by a vertical bar. For example:
Verify filter to check – it will show how many visits will be filtered out in the future eg;
Although this really works, you should check new spam referrals appearing in your Google Analytics report regularly. On your main data page, choose Acquitisition > All Traffic > Referrals
then add the spam ones to your Filter Pattern section, and re-verify the filter.
So there you have it – a simple way to eliminate practically all of your spam referral traffic. But do note that the filters only take effect from the date that you implement them.
Hopefully Google will come up with a better fix in the future, but until now, keep on modifying your filters.
List of Known Spam Referral Traffic blocked by the WordPress GM Block Bots PlugIn.
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