So you get what looks like lots of traffic on your website but engagement is low. Your website’s time on page is low and your bounce rate is nearing 100%. You check your analytics and see that one referrer is sending 99% of your traffic with no engagement. This is know as ghost referral traffic but can also appear in organic traffic. This mainly messes with your reporting and is more annoying then dangerous. Now don’t be afraid. There is a good solution for these buggers.
This ghost referral traffic seem to be targeting websites that have low page rank and low in traffic hoping that you notice them “coming” to your website and then hoping they can get your to go to theirs. Try to use using good hosting companies for your website, updating your website’s plug-ins and keep tabs on your analytics. Download our Google Analytics dashboard to identify any spam here.
Even with the best hosting sites and good maintenance you might get referral traffic from these ghost referral traffic sources. The only thing you can do is clean up your reports and focus on making your website the best it can be.
How to find your ghost referrals
In your Google analytics go to Audience > Technology > Network and choose Hostname. You will be presented with a list of hostnames.
In the example above the valid hostname for my site is ‘askfastnow’. The two others are ghost referral traffic. Why? Let’s have a look. They appear to have 100% bounce rates, one page per session and no page duration. If there was even one person that spent 2 seconds on your website there would be a something indicating page duration. In the example above there are two ghost referral traffic sources but might not be the only ones so keep an eye on your hostname reports.
Valid hostnames include anything that you control (and the services that you subscribe to) like your website domain or your mailing systems. Anything you don’t control could be a spamming domain hostname. So if you have a mailing system in place, you might get traffic from “mail.service.com” which is not a spam referrer. Let us see how do we can get ride of this referral traffic that is spam from your reports.
The best way to exclude is to include the known hostnames
Since there are a million possible spammers and dodgy hostnames the best way to filter by hostname. Simply include the hostnames that you trust or you own. Speak to your IT person or web administrator about all the hostname that your are using. You don’t want to exclude a hostname that is legitimate, so be very careful here.
Before you apply any filters; go and duplicate your statistical view in Google analytics so you can work on a copy. So go to Admin >View > View Settings and then click on Copy view. Duplicate your view and call it whatever you want – I called mine “Master” view because I am only going to look at this filtered view in the future. The original view that you are leaving alone and not applying a filter on you can rename “Original” view.
Now add the filter
So you have a list of the hostnames that you control. Now simply write a Regular Expression (REGEX) for the filter. See how to write and test your code here with RegExr.
Each hostname you want to include needs to be separated by | and; \ needs to be in front of a full stop and hyphens in your host names. Remember not to start or end with any of the special characters and that there can’t be any spaces in your expression string. If more then one domain name uses your host name you can just include the root word of that domain without suffixes or prefixes like .com or .biz.
If my hostname are: askfastnow.biz; mail.manager.com, cache.service.com
My filter pattern could look like:
Now go to Admin >View ( Choose the view you want to filter) > Filters > Add filter. Click on custom, Include, hostname and insert your filter pattern here. And Save. Note within a few days all you data in your view will be filtered by this filter. You can also filter only once using hostname.
- To get cleaner statistics filter out Administrators and writers that are working on your website. You only want engagement traffic.
- You can also filter out bot attacks and such. Look for how to do that online. There are some good tutorial for those.
- If your ghost referral traffic represents less than 1% of your traffic then you have nothing to worry about. It is only an issue if there are lots of hits.
- Download our Google Analytics dashboard to identify any spam here.
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