So your boss asks you to audit your Google Analytics Reports, but when you dive headfirst into your accounts, you notice your seemingly robust traffic is… spam. A lot of it. This will likely happen to you at some point in your career, and it will be intensely frustrating. Trying to keep up with ever-evolving spammers is like playing Whack-a-Mole in the dark with one of those little rubber mallets you see in a doctor’s office, and that’s just as exhausting and confusing as it sounds. Fortunately, there’s a quick and pretty simple way to get your spam referrals under control with Google Analytics filters. It won’t solve all your spam problems forever, but it’ll put you on great footing early in 2017. And you deserve that.
Create New Views
The very first thing you should do before you tinker with your account is set up three Google Analytics views. The first should be a completely untouched, unfiltered accounting of your website traffic. The second should be a test view, where you’re going to screw around with filters and potentially break everything. The third should be your carefully vetted filtered view, which you’ll use for reporting purposes.
Google Analytics Filters
Start by navigating into the Admin panel in your Google Analytics account. After that, select “View Settings,” click the dropdown for “Create New View,” and get all three set up. From there, you can go into “Admin” and “Filters” to create new filters. Easy!
Set Up Comprehensive Filters
There are a variety of filters you could use, but for our money it’s tough to beat this guide from Analytics Edge. We’ve used this on our own site and for several clients, and we’ve found it removes 99% of the spam referrals we were seeing upon application. That includes all the most famous players, like semalt and heyclickhere.net.
Once you have your views and filters set up, you’ll need to watch the test view carefully for a few days to ensure you’re getting the traffic you should be. You can also see any clever spam referrals that are sneaking through. If all is working as it should, apply that exact set of filters to your Filtered view. You can also simply clone the Test view (if you haven’t added any other odd filters) and reap the benefits.
One thing to note: These filters do not apply retroactively, so you’re still going to have to report on historical data with that annoying spam present. One of the easiest ways to do this is to consult your list of referrals, in particular, and look for anything from the Analytics Edge list of common spam sources. You can then then go to Customization and create a filtered report (filtering by Source) that removes those common spam referrals. It’s a little tedious to set these reports up, but it’s worthwhile.
Because spammers are constantly changing their tactics, this is never going to be a set-and-forget solution. Be sure to check resources like Analytics Edge on a regular basis to see what’s changed. If you do spot a new source of spam traffic, add it to your filters. This is the best way to ensure your reporting is based on clean, accurate data. Shockingly, your marketing efforts will benefit from that over the long haul.