Exorcising Ghost Referral Traffic from Google Analytics

Filtering ghost referral traffic in Google AnalyticsIf you look at Google Analytics reports for your website, you probably have noticed an increase in traffic to your site from sites you probably don’t recognize. This is referrer spam or ghost traffic. You can see this report under Acquisition and then All Traffic and then Source/Medium. These sites provide no benefit to your business but are perhaps hoping to get you to visit their site and provide them with real traffic or infect you with malware or get valuable links to their sites. This is called ghost traffic because the visits are not real but appear on your reports, skewing the data.

How can you find which sites are providing ghost referral traffic?

There are many ghost-spam sites out there and they change often. They are usually websites you have never heard of before. See below for a sample with several ghost sources highlighted:

Spam Referrals highlighted

How to remove ghost referrals from your reports?

SPAM bot filtering in Google AnalyticsYou can check a box in Google to exclude known SPAM spiders and bots. This is fine to do and it will help but it will not remove ghost referrals. Google is now working on a better way to accomplish this. To check the box, go to your Google reports Admin view, and go to the View tab. Select View Settings. Then choose the box in Bot Settings – Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders and Save.

A good way to remove ghost referrals, is to add filters to your reports. This is done in the Admin area of your Google Analytics dashboard under Account / All Filters. You should add a filter to include traffic from your hostnames. You can also add filters to exclude traffic from ghost referrers. Make sure to test your filters to make sure they don’t block real traffic. Read this article with tips on how to create the filters. Or try this tool to automatically add the filters. Soon your reports will be closer to accurate and the ghosts will be banished for eternity.

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