Who cares about the fake news when you’ve got fake traffic to worry about?!
A few years back, spam was the junk that landed in your email inbox. Before long, email providers created filters that blocked spam from getting into your inbox, and it seemed as though you’d never have to worry about it ever again. Happy days! But now that you’ve got a website, spam is back on your radar – and it’s coming after your Google Analytics account.
Analytics data is pretty damn important to any online marketer who cares about their SEO campaigns. But when it gets tampered with by fake, spammy data, it’s tough to work out how well your campaigns are performing.
In this article, we take a look at six different kinds of spam SEO traffic that pops up in Google Analytics, why it pops up – and how to eliminate it.
Why spam SEO traffic is a total nightmare
Picture this: your website isn’t doing too badly for traffic, but it could be better. Then one day you suddenly experience a spike. Hurray!
On closer inspection, however, it turns out that the spike was caused by a few rogue spammers (or maybe even just one) whose spamming has now contaminated your analytics data, making it impossible for you to work out how well your SEO campaign is performing otherwise.
For sites that score lots of traffic on the daily, a bit of spam SEO here and there isn’t an issue. For smaller sites, however, it can be a massive problem because marketing analysis becomes tricky when 70% of your traffic is essentially fake.
Then there’s the issue of server load. The more visits you have, the more overloaded your server becomes. As a consequence, this can damage your page speed loading time which can cause your bounce rate to skyrocket, which in turn can scupper your position in the SERPs.
What causes spam SEO traffic?
Bots largely wreak the most havoc. Of course, there are good bots, such as GoogleBot, that crawl our sites for legitimate reasons. But there are also bad bots that either want your traffic or want to hack you or steal your content.
Some bots might crawl your site for lead generation purposes, others might crawl it to index webpage data for their own needs, and others might direct affiliate traffic to eCommerce platforms.
All the reasons are nefarious, and while some websites give you the option of removing the bot from your site, such as Semalt.com, it sometimes doesn’t work. The next best thing to do is to follow these six ways to block spam SEO traffic in Google Analytics.
1. Filter your Analytics traffic
Filtering your Analytics traffic is a good idea because it helps you understand what’s being removed from your data set.
All you need to do is create a separate view in your Google Analytics and call it “bot traffic filter” or something similar. It’s easy to do:
1) Go to “Admin,”
2) Click the + icon on the “ALL WEBSITE DATA” menu on the right column,
3) Click “Create a new view,”
4) Set an appropriate time zone.
This last step is crucial because you won’t be comparing lemons to lemons if you stick to Pacific Time (Google’s default time zone).
2. Block the known bots and spiders
Scarily, you could end up with a LOT of bots in your SEO traffic. The good news is that you don’t have to remove all the bots manually because Google Analytics has a handy button that will block the known bots. This will probably save you around 80% of time and effort, and the excellent thing is that Google updates it automatically when it comes across new bots.
Using the new view that you created above, head over to your “View settings” menu and tap “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.”
If you happen to notice a few of your most fundamental traffic sources on the list, simply remove them.
3. Add your own spam referrers
Google Analytics is pretty good at blocking known bots from your data, and you should definitely implement the above step. However, there will still be some referrers that slip through the net.
To catch these slippery ones, open your referrer report before sorting your descending data according to bounce rate. Those with the most bounce rate should be at the top.
Use the advanced filter so that you see only sessions that went beyond a certain threshold. The exact threshold will depend on how much traffic you get, but 50 is a good number.
Then simply go through the list to see which sites should be added to your referral list. There’ll be some odd ones in there, such as er55665.getmorelinks.com, in which case you should just add getmorelinks.com.
4. Setup a bad referrer filter
Go back to your new view and create a “Bad referrers” filter. Don’t do this at the account level but at the view screen, and here’s how to create the filter:
1) Go to “Admin,”
2) Choose “View” and then click “Filter,”
3) Select “Add Filter” and create a name,
4) Select “Custom” followed by “Exclude,”
5) In the “Filter Field” section, click “Campaign Source” and input the pesky domains.
5. Block traffic from specific countries
This technique is only recommended if you know for sure you’re getting a lot of spam traffic from specific countries and very little legitimate traffic. For example, if you know that 95% of your traffic from Indonesia is spam, you’re hardly likely to lose potential top quality customers if you block traffic from there.
To block traffic from specific countries:
1) Open your “Admin” tab,
2) Create another new view
3) Click “Filters” followed by “+New Filter Button,”
4) Then filter out traffic from countries you know are giving you issues.
6. Ban bad bots
This is a difficult one and – without wanting to terrify you – if you use the wrong character, you can ruin your whole site. For this reason, we recommend that you make a backup copy first and that you have proper access to the server.
You need to use .htaccess for this, and the command is:
Rewrite Engine On
Deny from 188.8.131.52
Allow from all
This code can’t be copied and pasted as it needs to be integrated into your .htaccess file. It’s an ideal way of removing bot traffic that’s slowing your site down, and it also prevents bots from getting to your site in the first place, which therefore mean it won’t ever tamper with your Google Analytics data.
These are six ways to block SEO spam traffic in Google Analytics. Once you’ve blocked some traffic, remember that it’s an ongoing process and you’ll need to keep a lookout for new rogue traffic sources. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it, and your data will be a lot more useful.