By Charlie Cummins –

A key part of BBMM’s services for clients is ongoing analytics and providing clients with meaningful insights into how their websites are performing. We have noticed a recent growth trend in traffic which is distorting this data and would seem to be originating from outside Ireland (it was Russian, but it seems like US is growing). In extreme cases, this traffic can account for up to 50% of total sessions.

Ghost Traffic

The traffic anomalies are being caused by “Ghost Traffic” and a corresponding growth in traffic identified as “spam referrals”.

What is Ghost Traffic?

Ghost traffic is basically a set of “false visits” which are counted by Google analytics. These come from a few websites which create false visit entries in your Google analytics account and get recorded as visits in it. Ghost referral traffic can be generated by a simple program that sends fake HTTP requests aimed at different Google Analytics properties, so this traffic doesn’t even hit your site. However as we can “see” the traffic in analytics, but it really doesn’t exist, it is called “Ghost Traffic”.

What is Spam Referral?

Referral spam is the practice of sending bogus referral traffic to a website. The spammers are doing it to get referral links back to their own sites (black hat SEO practices) by having a website owner click on the spam referral link to see what it is.

It is easy enough to spot in your analytics reports (under: Acquisitions – All Traffic – Channels – Referrals). Some of the common spam referral names likely to show up are, among others:

semalt,  buttons-for-website,  buttons-for-your-website,  darodar,  hulfingtonpost,  ilovevitaly,  simple-share-buttons,  theguardlin,  guardlink,  etc.

Spam referrals can also be easily spotted within the metrics data as they generally show as 100% for New Sessions, 0% or 100% for Bounce Rate, 00.00.00 for session duration and only 1 page view per session

Why is it a Problem?

While the bulk of this “traffic” does not appear to be malicious in the sense that it attacks a website with viruses or hacks into them, the traffic does skew analytics reporting if you’re unaware of it. It will give much higher readings of total traffic counts to the website site, by way of overall sessions, numbers of users and numbers of new users. It further distorts the engagement scores for a website by artificially increasing the bounce rate metric, lowering “session duration” times and decreasing “pages viewed” scores.

What’s the Solution?

There are a number of solutions, some of which Google Analytics appear to be working on. One solution is for your webmaster to create filters in the analytics programme to exclude these traffic sources. The only problem here is that an individual filter may need to be created to exclude each one individually. As new ones come along all the time, it’s a never ending battle. A simpler solution is to set a filter to provide “Irish Only” traffic (assuming that Ireland is your primary market) and use these metrics. Irish originating traffic at the moment seems to the free of both ghost and spam referrals.

To discuss your website analytics, please contact us at [email protected]