• Google Analytics and Referral Spam

    by  • Last modified:January 30, 2016 • Google Analytics • 0 Comments


    Ever notice weird websites in your referral reports for Google Analytics. And what I mean by weird, sites that have no business being there. Here is an example:


    These were sites not actually linking to my site. These are what called “referral spam“. As much as you will try, you will not find how these listed sites link to you. You may even wonder what the point of these “fake referers” is, and by you going to their site, you have accomplished their objective. They use a technique involving repeated web site requests to your site using a fake referrer URL. The goal of the spammer it to let you know about their website.

    So what can you do?

    How to protect yourself from Google Analytics Referral Spam?

    Thankfully it’s really easy. You just need to add a simple filter. The main identifier to this fake referral spam will be a hostname other than your domain. You should add a filter like below:


    The other ways you could protect yourself is to add a filter to protect yourself from visitors without a browser dimension.

    As noted by Andreas Veithen’s blog, be aware of the following when using the Hostname filter:

    “The drawback of this approach is that it is easy to accidentally filter out valid page views. E.g. if somebody views a page of your site through Google Translate, this will be reported as a page view with hostname translate.googleusercontent.com. If you want to preserve these page views, then all relevant hostnames need to be included in the whitelist, which may be tricky.”

    You can read more of his solution using Request URI filtering.

    Personally this risk is worth it to me, but it’s also why I suggest to use a a separate view, and keep one without any filters.

    Regardless how you decided to proceed, their are solutions to reduce these spammers from your reports. Choose the one that works best for you.

    You can discuss this filter and others at analyticshelp.org


    About The Author: Adrian has over 12 years experience in Digital Marketing and Analytics. He currently works as a Marketing Head of Community at Vanilla Forums, a modern forum software platform that allows clients to connect and engage their communities and customers. Adrian has extensive experience with Google and Piwik (Matomo) Analytics. He lives and works in Montreal.