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Ghost Referral Traffic Skewing Google Analytics Numbers

By April 27, 2015October 7th, 2016Websites, WordPress

Having accurate website traffic data is critical to your business.

It helps determine not only the quantity of visitors to your site, but also what pages they visit and where they come from. Unfortunately a recent spam development is skewing the numbers.

We manage a number of responsive WordPress websites and have seen many traffic reports succumb to what many are calling Ghost Referral Traffic. These are not actually visitors, but malicious code that inserts itself into Google Analytics reports. It’s quite annoying.

Here’s an example of what it looks like.

Notice the first column on the left? Those are all referral websites that sent traffic to this site. Looks kind of spammy doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

All of the traffic shown here is spam and not real traffic. It’s showing up on a number of our Google Analytics profiles. What we noticed right away is that all of the traffic has a 100% bounce rate. Very suspicious.

My first reaction was that the site was hacked. However, our security tools indicate the WordPress site is clean. As I investigated the issue further I discovered numerous articles about the issue. It’s an attack on Google Analytics code. You know what they say about messing with the bull don’t you? I trust Google is aware of the situation and acting accordingly.

What can be done about Ghost Referral Traffic?

Google and many others are suggesting webmasters create filters to eliminate this kind of traffic from our reports. Unfortunately it’s just a band-aid for now. There’s a lot of work to be done, but having clean data is very important. We’ll be spending the next couple of weeks following the issue closely. Here’s an article about creating filters for this kind of traffic.

If you have any questions about how this issue might affect the WordPress site we created for you, please call, email or send us a message. I should point out that all of our WordPress Care Plan subscribers are fully covered.

Chris Kitzmiller

I help businesses become more profitable by sharing their story on every device to the audiences that matter. Have we connected yet? LinkedIn | Twitter