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For Bloggers: How To Filter Out Referral Spam In Google Analytics And Why It’s Important

How to filter out and remove referral spam from your google analytics for a more accurate representation of who is actually viewing your website and blog

If you’re serious about blogging, or even just an avid hobbyist like myself, one of the best things you can do is make sure that your Google Analytics represents your true traffic. GA opens so many doors in terms of interpreting who views your site and for what purpose. Using and interpreting this data is many blog posts in itself, but starting out with the right data is an extremely important baseline. Whether you want to start monetizing your blog, use blog statistics to start working with brands, or create more content geared towards your main viewers – having accurate data is a key benchmark.

How to filter out and remove referral spam from your google analytics for a more accurate representation of who is actually viewing your website and blog

Finding Your Referral Traffic In Google Analytics

The Aquisition tab in Google Analytics essentially tells you how people are getting to and discovering your blog. It will show you which social platforms yield the highest engagement (except for Instagram unless you have a tagged UTM link for your website on your IG – again that is another post entirely, that I hope to write soon), if other bloggers are linking to your posts, or show you how SEO friendly your image names are.

By accessing the Acquisition > Referrals tab, you can see where you are getting the most referral traffic from. IE how your audience is finding your blog. As you can see, a lot of my traffic is coming from German Google, Pinterest, Twitter, the Bloglovin‘ frame. But, that first one is totally referral spam and doesn’t contribute to any insights regarding my blog traffic.

How to look at your blog referral traffic and make sure you aren't being fooled with referral spam

Blog Referral Spam: Is It Actual Traffic? How To Tell If It Is Spam Or Legitimate

In most cases, nobody is viewing your blog from the referral spam sources. They simply have guessed your GA site code and run a coding script for it to ping your GA and register as a referral. Think of it like that scene in Matilda where her dad artificially backtracks the odometer of the cars he is selling, but instead of putting the car on blocks and running it in reverse, the marketing spammers are bypassing your site and hitting your GA numbers directly. This is why a key tell in referral spam is extremely low time on site, despite having insanely high traffic numbers.

Google.de? Completely legitimate traffic, it is just the German Language version of our Lord and Savior, Google. But if you see urls that have the same base name with different numbers interjected, as well as other indicators like high bounce rate and low time on site? It’s probably referral spam.

What you don’t want to do is click on that link to check it out. As that is part of the referral spam game. By pinging your GA artificially, they hope to drive actual traffic to their own sites – it’s human nature to want to see where your traffic is coming from, investigate, and blindly click somewhere. Nefarious purposes aside, don’t. click. the. links.

Googling the respective referral link and the term spam? is a good start. If you see other people complaining, best bet is to go ahead and filter that data out. How do you filter that traffic out you ask? Please be my guest and read along.

Using The Referral Exclusion List To Make Your Blog Traffic More Accurate

After you’ve taken a look at your referral traffic and determined which spam sources you’d like to exclude from your traffic data, I’d recommend opening the following page in a new tab.

Using the Referral Exclusion List in the admin section of Google Analytics to filter out spam traffic

In the middle column of your Admin section, you will see an option called Tracking Info alongside a .js illustration. Click on that to reveal a further drop-down list. In those options, the eye of the prize is the Referral Exclusion List. It is the second option from the bottom.

Tl;Dr; Go to Admin>Tracking Info>Referral Exclusion List.

You’ll know you’re in the right spot if your page looks similar to mine below.

How to remove Russian referral spam from your blog Google Analytics

Though if you haven’t used yours yet, it may be empty.

The next step is to copy the URL from the first page (Reporting > Acquisition > Referrals), click on the +ADD REFERRAL EXCLUSION button, and paste the link.

How to see who is actually viewing your blog and not be fooled by referral spam from scam russian marketing sites.

It will look similar to this. Then, you hit create. From this point on, Google Analytics will filter out that referral link and it won’t show up in your data.

That being said, it is important to check back every couple weeks to make sure that any new referral spam links are not being counted. It will take a while for this change to be reflected in your default GA view, as it typically looks at month to date statistics. However, if you stay on top of

Of course the topic of referral spam, seo, and marketing in general is much more detailed than I could even start to write about, this post is much more intended to be an introduction into understanding it with steps to filter out negative data. If you’d like to know more specifics, please leave me a comment or email me, and I’ll look into the matter for you (or at least give you a few starting point articles).

Do you use Google Analytics? What section do you find to be the most interesting or helpful when you’re planning out blog posts?

Em

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  • Interesting stuff! I have a GA account, but I don’t use it much – one reason is that I don’t think I have enough traffic to make an in-depth analysis really relevant (I have a background in data analysis and the last thing you want to do is read too much in your percentages when the base sample is smallish). But I’ll definitely start digging around when the traffic increases.

    One thing that frustrates me is that GA already finds a lot less traffic than Blogger’s built -n stats tool – so if they still count bots that just ping your page, I’ll have to come to the conclusion that only my cat is a loyal reader, lol!

    Beaumiroir

    • Totally fair. Too small of Ns do not good hypotheses make. But if don’t overreach your data limitations much, it can still be useful for seeing small correlations as long as you don’t attribute it as causation (In all seriousness, significance tests were my fave part of my Stats classes haha – sampling error is no joke). Though I don’t have any experience with Blogger’s stats so I’ll take your word on that point.

      But hey, your cat and I are super fans of French Fridays, so it could be worse [=

  • This was so helpful, I really don’t understand GA and it just makes me feel a little sad about my lack of views. But I’ve just sat and hidden all the rubbish links which I didn’t even know existed! I’ve also found out where all my clicks come from, so that’s really helpful. I don’t really use GA as much as I really should xx

    Tamz | http://www.throughneweyesx.com

    • Shoot, the main reason I spend so much time in GA is because monitoring traffic and site usage was a large part of my previous job. I’ve already noticed that since I’ve moved I don’t spend nearly as much time looking at it. I now have to schedule it in my blog planner. Haha.

  • Danielle Beautyblog

    This is so helpful! Definitely going to take a bit of time to filter out these spammy sites!

    Danielle’s Beauty Blog

  • Omgoodness this is so useful! Google Analytics is still so new to me and I did wonder how the hell these people had linked to my blog, this solves the mystery! Thanks for explaining it clearly, and the Matilda reference just sealed the deal xxxxx

    • I’m glad I was able to help out a bit! And especially that my Matilda references were appreciated. Thanks for reading!

  • BLESS THIS POST. i’ve been getting tons of referral from Russian porn sites, and it’s good to know that i can exlude that in GA.

    • Ahaha, yes. This is pretty much the reason why I googled how to exclude ref spam to begin with.