How to Get Rid Of Ghost Spam Referrers in Google Analytics

Kate Pullen
By Kate Pullen / December 14, 2016

If you look at your referrers in Google Analytics and see a lot of odd looking URLs – ones that say they have registered a page view on your site, show a 100% bounce rate and spend no time on your site – it’s likely to be ghost spam. This is tiresome and annoying, but it won’t hurt your site other than skew your analytics. You could ignore it, however you can stop it from happening (at least most of the time) by going to Admin. Now in the View column, click on View Settings and tick the Bot Filtering checkbox.

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You’ll see above where to change the timezone if you need to.

This bot filter isn’t perfect. It still lets the odd ghost or spam bot through.

If you want to see if you have any in your data, click on Reporting in the menu at the top of the page. In the left hand column check under Acquisition for the All Traffic entry. Click to open the submenu and click Referrals. Anything that looks spammy with 100% bounce and 0 time on the site is likely a ghost referrer.

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It affects your data because it affects the averages. If the data already is there, we’ll need to take it out. However, if you have a busy site, with lots of pageviews, the spam referrals may be such a small % you can ignore it.

We are going to set up a segment of the data which we know is going to contain data ONLY from Etsy. This doesn’t directly affect all our collected data, but allows us to view it without worrying that we’re looking at figures that have been inflated by spam. To do this go to Admin and in the View column, click Segments.

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Make sure your view is set to All Web Site Data (see the control at the top of the column) and click the + NEW SEGMENT button to set up a segment as follows.

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You can see that clicking Conditions in the left hand column opens the Conditions panel. Give your segment a clear and meaningful name so it will always be clear what this segment is designed to show you. I named mine Etsy Without Spam, but feel free to use a name that makes most sense to you.

If you click on the drop down control that I’ve set to Hostname, you’ll find Hostname at the bottom of the Behavior list. However, the quickest way to set this is to start typing Hostname into the search box that appears at the top of the drop down when it opens. The Hostname option will then appear and you just click it to select it.

This is telling GA to only show sessions which come from Etsy and don’t forget to click the Save button.

The only drawback with this solution is we have to remember to switch segments. To see how this looks, click the Reporting link in the menu at the top of the page. Now look down the left hand column, under Acquisition, click the All Traffic submenu item to open it and then click Referrals.

Click Add Segment directly above the line chart.

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Now you can choose the segment you just created. I called mine Etsy Without Spam, but you’ll see whatever name you used in the list.

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If you had ghost spam before your report should look like this. You should see the new segment is reporting less visitors than the original data.

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If you want to remove the All Users segment, just click on the arrow and click Remove. Note that only removes the segment from the reports and you can add it back in at any time by clicking Add Segment again and selecting it from the list.

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About the author

Kate Pullen

Kate is a long term marketing professional who made a lifestyle change and moved to Spain to follow her dream. She learned how to apply her business skills to her creative skills to grow a business. Her goal is to help others follow their dreams too.