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Referral traffic can be very valuable. It can drive highly-targeted visitors to your website, making it easier for you to convert them and generate revenue.
It can act as a steady source of organic traffic outside of search results hits and can also help to improve your search engine rankings.
But obtaining referral traffic is not easy, especially if you are a newbie and/or you lack authority. And all of your referral traffic might not be legit. Sometimes, a lot of the total referral traffic you receive is nothing but spam.
Before we discuss referral spam and how it affects your Google Analytics data, let’s take a closer look at what referral traffic is.
What is Referral Traffic?
The term, “referral traffic,” is used to define people who visit your website after clicking on a direct link on another website. It is like getting other sites to recommend your brand, products, or content to their followers/readers.
You can take a look at your Google Analytics to see the amount of referral traffic you are getting.
And, you can figure out ways to increase it further.
Publishing valuable content is the best way to establish authority and trust, and gain more referrals. You can leverage tactics such as guest blogging and boosting your presence on social media to drive traffic your way.
It is exciting to get a lot of referral traffic. Right?
But, when you get into the details and analyze the numbers, you may end up discovering that the numbers are just an outcome of referral spam.
What is Referral Spam?
Some referral traffic is good. It actually drives visitors to your site. Visitors who genuinely take the time to engage with your content. They are more likely to be interested in your products or services and make purchases.
For example, the referral traffic I get from reputable sources such as Medium, HubSpot, and Ahrefs, actually spends a decent amount of time reading and engaging with my content.
But, then some traffic we receive from referrals is just useless. It adds no value to your business and the conversion cycle. We call it “referral spam.”
Why Do They Spam You?
Spammers use this tactic to draw attention and traffic to their own site through your Google Analytics dashboard.
When a spammer wants to promote a site, they send multiple requests to your site. Your Google Analytics dashboard tracks all of this information and their visits show up in your referral traffic reports.
If a referral spam link appeared in your Google Analytics repeatedly and you didn’t know it was spam, chances are that you’d visit the link out of curiosity.
Much of this referral spam will direct you to ecommerce stores through affiliate links so that the spammers can generate revenue.
Spammers send referral spam links to thousands of Google Analytics accounts. And that too, using an automated script or a bot, most probably.
While they make money, you gain nothing.
Though you see an increase in the number of referrals, they don’t add any value to your business. Referral spam just plays with your Google Analytics reports and it affects your future marketing strategy.
How to Identify Referral Spam in Your Google Analytics Dashboard
One of the most effective ways to identify referral spam in your Google Analytics account is to sort results by their bounce rate in descending order.
Referral spam sessions have high bounce rates.
Also, if you see repetitive traffic coming from sites you don’t recognize, it’s most likely spam.
Thankfully, most spam is easy to spot. Especially, the links that has a 100% bounce rate and a session duration of 0 minutes and 0 seconds.
These spam hits are exactly the kind of data you want to remove from your Google Analytics reports.
How Does It Impact Your Google Analytics Data?
Fake website hits are annoying. They can seriously screw up your Google Analytics data, traffic reports, and thereby, your marketing analysis.
Also, repetitive website visits from bots or automated scripts can put extra and unnecessary load on your server. It can increase your page load time, which can lead to a bad user experience, increase in bounce rate, and drop in search results rankings.
Thankfully, there’s a fix.
You can eliminate the spam traffic affecting your Google Analytics data.
How to Remove Spam Traffic from Google Analytics
The easiest way to prevent referral spam is to create filters that can help you block the traffic coming from certain sources.
Once you’ve discovered spam from a certain site, you can block their URL so that you no longer see fake hits from that site in your Google Analytics dashboard.
However, new spam sites will keep showing up. So, you should frequently check Google Analytics reports for malicious links and block them. I’d recommend that you look for spam links every month and block them.
You can either create filters in Google Analytics to block certain domains or block them through your .htaccess file in your domain’s root directory.
Though it is a challenge to completely eliminate spam, you can use the measures we’ve discussed above to significantly reduce it.
Once you succeed in getting rid of referral spam, you will get a real picture of your actual website traffic.
With the right numbers, you will be in a better position to make informed decisions. This can help you create effective marketing strategies to grow your brand.
All it takes is a few minutes to set up filters and clean out your Google Analytics. If you do it regularly, you’ll only have good referral topic coming your way.
Trust me, it’s definitely worth your time.