Referral Spam: Why Your New Website is Less Successful Thank You Think

Congratulations! You’ve launched your new website, store or blog and within a couple of weeks, you start seeing your traffic really climb. Instinctively, you reflect on your genius (“mom was right all along”) and start fantasizing about how big this website can get and what you will do with all the money you’ll be making from the growth as a result of your flawless execution. Then, after the excitement abates, you decide to dive into the data and to learn where the traffic is coming from, as well as how consumers behave on the site; and that’s when reality sets in.

Referral Spam: Why Your New Website is Less Successful Thank You Think

You notice that the bounce rates are upwards of 80% and that most of the traffic is referred to you from sites you’ve never heard of. You can’t figure out why these people are visiting your site in the first place and why they have no interest in engaging with your content or converting into sales or leads.

This is what’s known as referral spam. Basically, spammers are flooding your Google Analytics ID and generating fake traffic to your website by inserting a fake referral URL, so that it looks like the traffic reaches your site via referral from another site instead of directly from a server being used by a professional spammer. This is done in an effort to get marketers that see this traffic in their Google Analytics accounts to visit the sites that appear in the referral data, at which point those sites present them with ads or drop an affiliate cookie in their browser so they can receive commissions from their online purchases on shopping sites.

GA view

How to Block Referral Spam

Once you’ve accepted that your website had less initial success than you thought, and that there are people out there in the world that may not have your best interest in mind, it’s time to block all this traffic and stop it from messing up your analytics data.

The first step to block out this site that seems to generate most of this traffic is to create a referral exclusion list. Any site you add to this list will no longer appear in the data of this analytics account. You can create this list by following these instructions:

  1. Sign in to your Analytics account
  2. Click Admin
  3. Under the Account column, use the dropdown to select your Analytics account
  4. In the Property column, use the dropdown to select a property
  5. Under the View column, either select an existing view or create a new one that will exclude referral spam
  6. Click View Settings, and check off the Bot Filtering option
  7. Click Save

How to Block Referral Spam

Next, Create a Custom Filter

  1. Click Filters under the View column
  2. Click +Add Filter and provide a name for this filter
  3. Select Custom > Exclude > Campaign Source > and enter the referral spam sites in this format: www\.spamsite1\com| www\.spamsite1\com www\.spamsite1\com\
  4. Click Save

There are numerous filter types you can apply that will ensure that all different types of spammers will be excluded. But the process above will prevent much of the spam as long as you make sure to keep this filter up to date.

Next Steps

Once you’ve blocked referral spam on your website, it’s time to look ahead and think about what exactly it is that can be done to get more traffic, leads and sales to the website. It’s generally a long process and requires hard work, patience and a budget, but it can be done, either by your company’s marketing team, or an external company that specializes in helping businesses grow online. Either way, if you believe in your business, it’s worth the investment, because if you stick to it, success will eventually follow.

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