Spam has always been a major problem for many users of Google Analytics. In my experience serving many clients, I have noticed many of them have many misconceptions regarding the effects spam has had on their Google Analytics accounts. What this article strives to do is differentiate truths from falsehoods and detail what solutions you need to overcome some of the problems associated with spam.
Google is doing something to handle the problem
Google is doing something in an attempt to solve the problem. If they did not do much to combat the spam problem, then it would be much worse. The question that needs to be asked though is whether they are doing enough to combat the problem given spammers still manage to slip through the cracks. What is worse is that this issue is not going anywhere anytime soon. The millions of websites that actively use Google Analytics for online marketing effectively make it very attractive for spammers who are attracted by high numbers.
The different type of spam
- Referrer spam
This refers to fake information that is posted on Google Analytics (GA) with the prime intention of luring individuals to check out their sites.
- Crawler spam
Crawler spam makes use of bots which leave fake referrals.
- Ghost spam
The unique thing about this type of spam is the fact that it is unique to Google Analytics. It is by far the most aggressive and most recognizable on the site. You can expect to find it in your reports.
- Crawler referrer spam
Crawler referrer spam is essentially a spider programmed to move easily between sites while posting referrals. Users will eventually find themselves on their sites while searching for information.
How ghost spam hits your analytics
Ghost spam hits your analytics through the Analytics Measurement Protocol which is ideally used by developers to transmit data to Google Analytics in order to find out how users engage with their companies. Most account holders mistakenly believe that they are IDs are tracked before they encounter ghost spam which is not the case. Despite only relying on the Analytics Measurement Protocol to gain access to your account, ghost spam still manages to worm its way into your reports.
Hostnames in Google Analytics
A hostname refers to every location where one of your visits arrives. Granted it is more often than not your domain; it could also refer to a service where your tracking code was included.
Valid hostname filters
Valid hostname filters are by far the best solution for persistent spam problems. Using a hostname filter carries some advantages that include:
- Unlike other filters in the market, it prevents spam from gaining access to your reports which makes it an effective long-term solution.
- You do not have to worry about maintenance costs as it is all you need for the long haul.
- This filter can block out all types of spam irrespective of the types or their means of access.
- The filter will also provide the additional benefit of blocking out any unnecessary traffic.
Will spam give you any security issues to worry about?
Spam has some specific characteristics that differentiate it from other problems that might pose a serious security risk such as hacking. Spam can only pose a threat is in scenarios whereby you insert some script from the site the spam originates from. Except for that possibility, then expect to find the occasional odd pages in your Google Analytics reports.
The reason why server solutions do not work against ghost spam
What differentiates ghost spam from other types of spam is the means of entry it adopts. Given it uses the Analytics Measurement Protocol to gain access, the solutions offered by servers such as plugins will be useless against it. These solutions are better suited for other types of spam.
Identifying the spamming problem
My years of experience working with Google Analytics accounts with prevalent spam problems has proven to me that the best way to handle this problem involves figuring out the extent of infiltration by spam and the extent to which it prevents you from adequately browsing through your reports. This is where my services come in. I will audit your website to figure out the extent of proliferation by spam. This evaluation will also involve me assessing other problems that your site may have. I will then send you a proposal that indicates what I can do to eradicate your spam problem as well as the time I will take plus the cumulative cost. If you accept it and pay me, then I will begin working.
While it is important to seek solutions to combat spam, it is also important to always remain informed about the different types of spam which will enable you to know what to do every scenario.