If you’ve reviewed your account in Google Analytics recently, you may have noticed a huge spike in your traffic on few days during the last month. On the surface, that sounds great, but everything may not be as it seems.
Did you have an event or promotion occur on the same day as the spike in traffic? That may explain it. If you didn’t, however, the traffic you got might not be legitimate. Spam traffic has been around for quite some time, but we have recently noticed that this type of traffic is more of a problem than it has been in the past.
What is Spam Traffic?
When your website gets spam traffic, those visits are not coming from legitimate users. The visits you are seeing come from bots and spiders, not actual people who are visiting your site. How and why do spam bots exist? There are a number of reasons why bots and spiders may crawl your site, and they use different methods to do it.
Bots and spiders may exist for a number of reasons, and not all of them are malicious. Some bots crawl websites to index them. You may recognize Googlebot, which Google uses to index websites. Googlebot crawls websites to help Google understand the content on each page. This is critical in helping Google determine which websites will show up in search results. This type of bot is helpful, rather than harmful.
However, there are several other types of bots and spiders out there that have malicious intentions. Bots can also be used to create artificial website traffic, capture email addresses and other information, and spread malware. But how do they do it?
There are a couple of different ways spam bots can affect your site traffic. Some choose random Google Analytics tracking IDs and use them to create fake pageviews without ever having visited your site. Others crawl your site, much like Googlebot does, but they aren’t using the information for search engine indexing. So, what are they trying to do?
In many cases, these spam bots will show up as referring sites in your traffic sources. Essentially, these spam bots are trying to get you to visit these sites. Don’t fall for it, though–some of them may be legitimate business sites caught up in using spammy SEO tactics, but others may have more malicious intentions, like spreading a virus. If you’re really curious about the origin of a referring website, do a search on it, rather than typing it directly into your browser.
How Can You Tell If You Are Being Spammed?
There are a few ways to be able to tell whether your traffic is legitimate or not. Most of the time, the spam traffic will show up under your referral traffic, so that is a good place to start. You can find your traffic sources in the Acquisition section of Google Analytics. Expand the All Traffic section and click on Source/Medium to see where all of your traffic is coming from. Look for any suspicious-looking referral websites.
Some of the more common spam sites include:
There are countless others, and new ones are popping up all the time. What these sites have in common is that regardless of the amount of “visits,” 100% will be new visits, and the bounce rate will usually be 100% or 0.00%.
Spam bots can also show up in direct traffic sometimes. If you notice a huge increase in your direct traffic all in one day, spam traffic could be at work there. This is why it is important to look at your organic traffic as the most important traffic source. Organic traffic refers to visitors who found your site through a search engine like Google or Bing. If you have a good amount of organic traffic, you’re in good shape.
Can You Do Anything About It?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a fix built into Google Analytics that will block most of these spam bots from your traffic. Spammers are constantly changing their methods and finding ways to get around the system, so it can be difficult to keep up. However, there are some experts out there who have figured out ways to remove most, if not all, of the spam traffic from analytics reports. Viget.com has a great guide on removing spam traffic if you’re interested in learning more.
We have been working to apply filters to our clients’ Google Analytics accounts to be able to provide cleaner traffic data, and we have found that the right filters are effective in removing spam traffic from our clients’ analytics reports.
It’s certainly frustrating that spam bots can get around the system and skew your analytics data, but with the right fixes you can get much cleaner, more accurate data.