The internet is suffering from an infestation: Google Analytics Spam Bots.
These things are quickly becoming the bane of my existence. They’re like cockroaches. As soon as you get rid of one another pops up.
If you haven’t discovered spam bots infesting your website yet just pop open Google Analytics and look at the Referrals report. It’s in the left menu under Acquisition | All Traffic | Referrals. You will notice there are lots of referral traffic from sites like:
If you visit any of these domains you will discover they redirect you to some pretty dodgy remarketing sites.
I first started noticing these sites in my Google Analytics reports a year ago. At first I didn’t take much notice of them. They were a bit of a nuisance, but it was only a few hundred hits per month and I could work around them.
Over the last few months it has gone from annoying to bad — real bad. For example, on April 20th I received 1,800 visitors from 4webmasters.org. That’s just one day and one bot.
At first I thought I was a hero. When I clicked into Google Analytics I saw that my monthly visitors to my site were way up. I thought I was the man, and I was drawing in a wave of new readers to my site. But then I noticed my bounce rate had spiked upwards and the average time on site was down.
That’s the problem with these Google Analytics Spam Bots. If left unchecked they create two very big issues:
- Garbage in, garbage out. The spam bots ruin your digital marketing data. They skew the numbers, and make it very challenging to be strategic with your digital marketing.
- They are expensive. These random, unwanted visitors to your website are costing you money. It may not be obvious at first, but they are chewing up bandwidth, slowing down your web servers, and using up resources.
Call The Exterminator!
I don’t usually write about techie stuff, but this is an issue you need to get on top of quickly — if you haven’t already.
Controlling the Google Analytics Spam Bots is a two step process:
- Block them from accessing your website
- Filter them out of Google Analytics
Ok, if you just went “Omm, nope. That’s way too much nerd for me. Who can I call to fix this?” Talk to Opal Gamble at Design and Develop. She’s my web developer and helped me clean up the mess on StickyBranding.com.
The DIY Approach
You can also address the problem yourself. My recommendation, do a quick search on Google. You will find tons of resources to fix the spam bot issue on your website. Here are two resources I found helpful:
- How to Stop Spam Bots from Ruining Your Analytics Referral Data
- Definitive Guide to Removing Referral Spam
The second post is dense, but very good. Both articles provide directions for creating filters in Google Analytics, and how to block the bots from reaching your site.
If you’re using WordPress you can also install a plugin to block the referral traffic. I am currently using the “All In One WordPress Security and Firewall Plugin”. As I find new bots in Google Analytics I add a filter to Google Analytics and update the plugin to block the spam bot from my site.
I don’t think you can overcome the Google Analytics Spam Bot infestation on your own. You can only stay vigilant.
This spam problem is universal and escalating quickly. Realistically the fix will come from a combination of Google changing its algorithm to remove the bots from its reports, and hosting providers installing server side spam bot controls.
Regardless, the fix isn’t here yet. Google Analytics Spam Bots are a pain in the ass, but you’ve got to take control of this problem or it will overwhelm your data and it might even hurt your website.