Jun 12, 2015

Filter out Referrer Spam in Google Analytics

In February, I noticed that the bwired site was getting traffic from something called “Free-buttons-for-website.com”.

After some research, it appeared that every single site that I report for was showing that this website was referring at least 50 users its way.

And while it does sound like a strange site name, I’m reluctant to look a gift horse in the mouth. So I Googled it, on the off chance that it was legitimate. Unfortunately, it was the latest spam referrer site doing the rounds.

Referrer spam is something that sites use to spam search engines, rather than websites. Its aim is to increase the spamming site’s link counts – and presumably cause havoc for the rest of us.

This site, as well as about 15 others in the last couple of months, is infiltrating analytics and skewing the figures.

In fact, spam referrer sites aren’t sending traffic to your site at all. They’re also not actually doing any harm, but when it comes to reporting, things can get messy.

There are two ways you can get around referrer spam. The first is to block the sites via your .htaccess file. This is effective, but it can be tricky if you don’t have access, or you’re not very sure about making changes to the file itself.

The second way is not actually blocking them, but simply filtering out the unwanted data from your Analytics. New referrer spam sites pop up almost every week, so this is a relatively easy way to stay on top of it.

Google will also block known bots, and if you’ve got this set up correctly in your Google Analytics, it will automatically filter the results. However, it does take some time to do this – and meanwhile, your results are getting more and more inaccurate.

How to filter out spam referrals in Google Analytics

  1. In Google Analytics, find the site that you need. Go to the Admin section, and on the right, under View, click the menu item labelled Filters
  2. Click + New Filter
  3. Leave the radio button on for Create new Filter
  4. In the Filter Name field, call your filter something recognisable, like Spam – free-buttons-for-website.com
  5. In the Filter Type section, choose the Custom tab
  6. Ensuring the Exclude radio button is selected, type Campaign Source into the Filter Field
  7. In the Filter Pattern field, type the URL of the referrer as it appears in your Analytics data
  8. You can choose to Verify this filter, but keep in mind that it only shows data for the last seven days.
  9. Save and either return to your report, or enter the next referrer spam site!


Good luck, and stay vigilant!


How to filter out referral spam in Google Analytics

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