Analytics software such as Google Analytics is a useful tool for SEO work, allowing you to observe how much and what kind of traffic visits your website. By sifting through the demographics of your website’s visitors, you can focus in on what is or is not working to bring in new viewers and retain old ones. You can look at statistics such as how your traffic changes from month to month and which keyword searches attract visitors to the site.
Unfortunately, spam bots have found a way to profit from this resource, producing useless and confusing analytics results. Ghost spam shows up in Google Analytics as a referral visitor from a website. These referral bots are different than the spam bots that “crawl” over your site and are blocked with .htaccess. The spam referrals come from various domains, usually with adult-themed names. They never actually visit your site, but rather use your Google Analytics tracking code to affect only your analytics data. The bots benefit from this when you look through your analytics and click on their domains in an attempt to see where all your views are coming from.
How does ghost referral spam affect your website and SEO? Luckily, it doesn’t! The spam never actually hits your site, and thus only affects the Google Analytics information. But it does affect reporting and data by swarming your Analytics with 100% bounce rates and ‘0 time on site’ metrics. It also falsely boosts your site’s visitors, skews the data so you can’t see which referral avenues are actually working, and alters locational data since most of the bots appear as traffic from Russia.
So what can you do to stop ghost referral spam? At this point, the only direct solution is to set up filters for each domain within Google Analytics. Unfortunately these filters do not apply retroactively, so spam statistics will remain in previous metric data. Here is a link to instructions on how to set up filters in Google Analytics. Hopefully these ghost referrals don’t turn you away from Analytics, because this resource is a great way to keep up-to-date on how your website is doing.