Semalt – How To Identify And Fight Ghost Spam Using Google

Spam takes place when unsolicited data is received. This type of spam is in two categories. Crawler spam and Ghost spam. Getting rid of Ghost spam traffic is prudent, but you need to identify which type of malware is present, first and foremost.

Crawlers are a type of spam that actually visits your site by sending bots that utterly ignore rules like those in robots.txt. When they exit the site, a trail of a legitimate visit in Google Analytics data is left behind, but unfortunately, it’s fake. They are extremely difficult to identify because they hide behind referrals akin to genuine websites and with a similar URL.

Frank Abagnale, the Customer Success Manager of Semalt, shares his experience on how to fight Ghost spam successfully.

Ghosts are the most common spam. Unlike crawlers, they do not have any contact with your site, instead, they worm into your Google analytics server via a Trojan passage through your Google Analytics tracking codes. They ingress through your codes by acquiring them from a third party or incidentally generated tracking codes (UA-XXXXXX-Y). Since they do not access your site, they use a Measurement Protocol to alter your Google Analytics data.

Most people often ask why you should do away with ghost spam. Spam has catastrophic effects in the analytics of users’ websites. They degrade a user’s internet speed by increasing the load of a server. Though they do not interfere precisely with Search Engine Optimization, manipulated data does not depict a user’s real online behavior. Eventually, your Search Engine Optimization will be affected in that your search rankings will fall due to improper decision making and imprecise judgments.

Despite this, harm to crucial metrics like engagements, sessions and conversion rates whose data is transfixed to opposite ends of the spectrum, will not upset the Search Engine Research Page (SERP). Simply, though Google Analytics is a popular analytical service, not every site uses Google Analytics. This explains why any data from Google analytics will not affect the rankings from a Google site.

There are ways to deal with ghost spam using Google Analytics. These ways involve steps that use a single filter against ghost spam. It is highly recommended because the user only updates and adds new tracking code. Otherwise, little maintenance from the user is required. Finally, identifying suspicious hostnames aids in keeping ghost spam from entry into Google Analytics data.

The steps are:

First, go to Google Analytics (where you view website traffic) and identify the reporting tab. In the left-hand panel, locate ‘Audience’ and click on it. Scroll through the left-hand panel and identify ‘Technology’ and click on it. Expand on technology and select ‘Network’. A Network Report will appear and on top of it, click on ‘Hostname’. After this, a list of hostnames will appear including those used by spam. You can then list the valid hostnames. For example, yourmaindomain.com or seosydney.com.

Second, include all hostnames and create a regular expression. For example, seosydney\.com|yourmaindomain.com.

Third, create a custom filter. Click on the ‘Admin’ tab on the left-hand panel right at the bottom (ensure you have a view without filters). Click on ‘All Filters’ and then press ‘+Add Filter’ button. Under ‘Filter type’ click ‘Custom’. This creates a new custom filter. Create a Filter Name. Select to include ‘Hostname’ after checking the ‘Include’ bubble. Copy your regular expression into the ‘Filter Pattern’ box.

Lastly, go to Apply Filters and select ‘Master’ and then “Add” to the selected view. Select ‘Save’ and apply your results.

It is, however, advisable that every time you add a tracking code to any service, it is best to add this code at the end of the filter. This assists in ridding off any future occurrence of ghost spam.