If you’ve looked at your website traffic analytics recently, you may have noticed a huge spike in referral traffic followed by an equally sudden drop back to normal traffic levels. What’s going on here and how does it affect your website?
At first glance, these huge jumps in traffic might seem exciting, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find that these visits aren’t coming from real people.
Referral spam is an underhanded marketing tactic that attempts to spread awareness of a certain product or brand by sending tons of bot traffic to websites hoping that those website owners will see the traffic in their analytics reports and investigate the product further.
This bot traffic is harmless to your site. It doesn’t attempt to log into the backend or inject any malicious code. However, it does pollute your traffic data making it harder to analyze your data or make informed decisions about your marketing efforts and visitor behavior on your site.
How can I tell if my referral traffic is spam?
You can easily spot referral spam by looking at the details of the referral traffic arriving on your site in your Google Analytics account. If the source is from a domain that you’ve never heard of or has something to do with SEO or making money online, there’s a good chance it’s referral spam.
Spam traffic also tends to have a very high percentage of New Sessions and a very high Bounce Rate, so if you see percentages that are unusually high for these metrics (in the 90+% range), you’re probably dealing with spam.
What can I do to stop this spam traffic?
If you have a Managed Website with Pronto, we’re already working on taking care of this for you. Our first line of defense is the security measures built into our hosting infrastructure. We automatically block suspicious looking bots from accessing your site.
However, there are still plenty of harmless bots that can access your site. For these, we add filters to your Google Analytics account to exclude them from your reports.
Spammers are always changing up their tactics so the efforts we make to block spam referrers are a perpetual work in progress. If you see anything in your traffic data that looks like spam traffic, just send a message over to our support team and we’ll update the filters we have in place.
If you don’t have a Managed Website with us, your best bet is to create filters in your Google Analytics account for the referral sources that are sending bot traffic to your site. Again, these spammers tend to change their strategies very quickly so a filter that worked one month might be obsolete by the next month.
Referral spam is more annoying than anything else, but keeping your website traffic data clean is an important part of making marketing decisions down the road. Keep an eye on your traffic and as soon as you see something suspicious, shoot a message over to us.