A client reached out to us recently to ask us to assess why their Google Analytics reports had suddenly started to show an unusually high bounce rate in excess of 80%. A little digging into the analytics revealed a significant increase in referral traffic in the last month. Delving deeper into the referral sources unveiled that the majority came from an unknown yet seemingly legitimate social sharing button service. Perhaps our client had added this sharing utility to a recent blog? Sadly, this was not the case… a quick Google later and it became apparent that the website had fallen victim to malicious ghost referrals. Further more, a quick check through the analytics reports for some 100+ client websites demonstrated just how widespread an issue this has become over the past month with the majority of these site's analytics affected.
Ghost referrals are a type of referrer spam which use a vulnerability in Google Analytics to fake visits within the reports by randomly generating a website’s unique analytics tracking code ID number to send fake data to the reporting tool. Frustratingly this skews analytics data by adding hundreds of non-existent single page views which in turn distorts bounce rates, average time spent browsing the site, etc.
So what can we do to stop this? Unfortunately it's not simply a case of blocking the culprit from visiting the website seeing as there isn’t ever a real visit. For now, until Google do something to combat this, we need to use a view or a segment to filter out referrals from the malicious domains of which there are many variants.
We’ve created a segment to filter out all the troublesome domains which you can install in your own analytics account by simply clicking the button below and choosing ‘Any View’ when asked to choose a view to import this configuration. As soon as you click the Create button, you will be able to apply this segment in all of your reports to return your analytics to a more accurate depiction of activity on your website.