You just can’t get away from it these days… I’m talking about SPAM!
I know, spam sucks. And spam in your Google Analytics reports sucks even more because you often don’t even know it’s there. It’s just hiding in the background, skewing your numbers.
It’s also pretty weird. How did it even get there? Is my site hacked!?!
No! Google Analytics spam does NOT mean your shop has been hacked.
What is this stupid stuff?
“Referral spam” is when useless, fake or malicious websites show up as having sent traffic to your site. They haven’t. At least not real people visitors.
Head over to your All Referrals report in Analytics. You might notice that some of your largest “referrers” are kinda weird. Here’s what mine were a few years ago, before I applied this filter:
Not one of these sites had a genuine link to my shop.
How to tell if a referrer is spam
Look for referrers that talk about seo, free things for your website or end in .xyz. DO NOT VISIT THESE WEBSITES.
Other spam pretends to come from big sites like Huffington Post!
Even if you can’t tell what’s spam, this technique will stop it 🙂
The main way that spam gets into your account is through “ghost referrals”. This “traffic” is sent straight to Google Analytics and nothing (not even a bot) visits your site. This doesn’t mean your GA account has been hacked.
It’s just like telemarketers calling random-generated phone numbers.
Here are two steps to solving Google Analytics spam:
EASY: Turn on Google Analytics bot filtering
If you only do one step, do this one! This will deal with 90% of the spam to your account.
- Head to the Admin section of Google Analytics.
- Select the right Account and Property for your Etsy shop, from the dropdowns.
- Select your “All Web Site Data” View and open View Settings.
- Scroll to the bottom and tick the box that says “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders”
- Save it
- Do the same with your “Test View”
Advanced: Only allow traffic that’s actually visited your website
This configuration might feel a bit complicated. As long as you’ve turned on bot filtering, your account should not get very much spam at all! Feel free to skip it if you prefer.
Ghost Referrals are so easy to detect! This makes them really really easy to remove: we’re going to create a filter to only include traffic we know is safe.
Put simply: ghost referrals don’t know the domain name of the website they’re supposedly “visiting”, so when Google Analytics asks for that information, they make something up or leave it blank.
1. Prepare a list of all your domains
The domain for your shop is the part that ends in “.com” (or similar, depending on your country).
On Etsy? Easy – your domain is “etsy.com”. Skip down to create the filter now.
To create this filter, you need to know every domain that can run your Google Analytics code.
How many domains do you have?
Many shops only have one domain name. If this is you, you might think this is a silly question! But some will have multiple domains that display content on their site, such as:
- alternative domains you own <– only if they do NOT redirect to display your primary domain, which is how most alternative domains are set up.
- the domain of your ecommerce platform might be shown during checkout. <– this is a common one!!
- the domain of your email marketing system if you’ve connected Google Analytics <– eg. MailChimp can run GA on your campaign archives!
Run Google Analytics for a while? Use it to check!
This report is pre-configured to exclude most ghost referral domains already! What you see will be mostly valid domains.
- Select your All Web Site Data or Raw Data View to install the report.
- Choose a very long time frame, like 3 – 6 months.
- Pick out your own domain (or the domain of your marketplace)
- If it’s in the list, make note of your ecommerce platform’s domain (eg. mybigcommerce.com)
- Note any other domains you recognize and remember configuring with your Google Analytics code or ID.
- Ignore “(not set)” <– that means a domain wasn’t provided.
Here are the valid domains for the Artisan Analytics website. They include my own domain, plus two that belong to MailChimp:
2. Create the filter
Once you have your list, it’s time to create a filter that only allows traffic to those domains.
- Go to the Admin tab
- From the “Views” drop-down, select “Test View”. (You’ll add it to your main View once you’re happy it works properly.)
- Click [+ New Filter]
- Name your filter “INCLUDE Valid Traffic”.
INCLUDE Filter for just one domain (Includes Etsy sellers!)
If you have only one valid domain, enter the details of the Filter like this:
- Filter Type: Predefined
- Select filter type: Include only
- Select source or destination: traffic to the hostname
- Select expression: that contain
- Hostname: [enter your domain]
eg. artisananalytics.com or etsy.com
INCLUDE Filter for multiple domains
- Filter Type: Custom
- Select “Include”.
(“Exclude” is selected by default, so check under the first form field you see for the “Include” option.)
- Filter Field: Hostname
- Filter Pattern: Enter each domain name separated by a pipe (|) symbol (normally under your backspace key).
Do not put a pipe at the very end!
- Use “Verify this filter” to check how the filter could affect your data. You’ll see a “before” and “after” snapshot using data from the past 7 days.
This is just for you to test. The filter will not actually be applied retroactively to this data.
It’s possible for this test to say that your data would not have been changed! This might happen if you didn’t get very much spam in the past week.
Watch and check this filter closely for a week or so before applying it to your All Web Site Data View, to make sure you aren’t excluding valid traffic!