Have you accessed your Google Analytics data and seen a suspicious spike in your website traffic? Or, perhaps your bounce rate is increasing and your average site time is decreasing, but you’re not sure why?
It could be because of ‘spambots’.
What are spam bots?
Apart from being a royal pain in the buttock, spam bots are ‘fake’ visitors to your website that access your website then leave immediately. By ‘fake’, I mean there is no chance that the bot can be mistaken for a real human with the intention of using your website’s service.
Apart from skewing your Analytics data, spambots have also been known to overload your website’s host server, resulting in a decreased page speed, which is a ranking factor.
How do I know if spam bots are affecting my Analytics data?
Establishing whether spam bots are skewing your data is actually very simple.
1. Access your Google Analytics account
2. Using the navigation bar on the left, locate the ‘acquisition’ tab and click on ‘referrals’.
You will then see a page that resembles this:
Now, you must identify whether the data is real or a spambot. It is generally easy to tell – anything that contains the word ‘money’, ‘SEO’, ‘webmaster’, ‘semalt’ or ‘button’ is likely to be spam and can be removed. A list of some of the most common spam bots I have come across include:
Once you have located the culprits, it is time to remove them.
Removing spam bots data from your Analytics
1. Locate the admin section of your Google Analytics account and select ‘filters’
You should see a screen like this, giving you the option to add a new filter:
2. Click on the new filter button, bringing up this screen:
Note: At this stage, it would make your life easier if you open up another browser window, access your Google Analytics data and locate the spam bots in the referral traffic. Then, put your two Google Analytics windows side-by-side, like this:
3. Enter the data into the filter
For this, you will need to hover your fingers over ‘CTRL+C’ and ‘CTRL+V’ as you will be copying and pasting the data across the two browser windows.
Firstly, name the filter. You can call it anything you like and it will not affect the results, but for simplicity reasons, I copy and paste the URL into the name:
After entering the filter name, click ‘custom’ and then access the ‘filter field’ drop-down menu.
Select ‘Campaign Source’ from the drop-down list.
Finally, copy and paste the URL data into the filter pattern. This is simply the URL data from the referral page i.e. 4webmasters.org
4. The final step is to verify the filter.
After clicking on ‘verify this filter’ at the bottom of the page, a table should appear indicating the amount of traffic the spambot brought:
Note: If instead of seeing a table, a message appears saying ‘the filter would not have changed your data’, it means the URL you entered is either wrong, or the traffic coming from that particular bot is minimal. It is still worthwhile to save the filter, as this will prevent future bots from that URL.
Once the table or the message has appeared, click save and the spambot will be blocked.
You are then returned to the first screen, in which you can continue to apply new filters, blocking spam bots from alternate URLs.
Spambots are extremely annoying, especially if you are keenly watching your website data due to a marketing campaign or recent website changes. Use this guide to block spam bots entering your website and providing you with skewed data.
I would like to say that this will rid you of any future spam bots, however, Google doesn’t seem in a hurry to fix the issue and unfortunately, new spam bots are created on a regular basis. My advice would be to revisit your referral data on a weekly basis and block any new spam bots that visit your site.