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Learn to identify referral spam traffic, as well as best practices to reduce referral spam in your Google Analytics account
 
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Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I'm amazed to see that Google is letting referral spam traffic become such a big problem. This problem is really making Analytics quite useless and it takes some knowledge to setup the right filters.

Me myself, after I've been searching and testing for ages, have set up Google Analytics to show me only the statistics of visitors visiting through the hostname of my domain. That works well.

But some people (and even professional companies!) are:

Either not aware that their analytics are manipulated by spam traffic
still updating exclusion filters on a weekly basis

E.g. everyone is dealing with this problem themselves. But where is Google? Invisible to me. The only thing they've set up is an automated Google filter to block all 'known bots and spiders', but it doesn't really work well and shouldn't be the solution to this problem.

What amazes me most is that Googles analytics tracking-ID is still a simple number in the format UA-000000-01. It's very easy to get it from a websites sourcecode or simply automatically generate the codes to start spamming, like this blog shows us: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/protect-analytics-from-hacking/

Isn't there anything Google can do to reall wipe out this method rather than letting everyone who wants to use Analytics have to set up custom filters?

What about for example working with well encrypted tracking id's? Using complex combinations of digits and letters and special characters that make the automatic generation of tracking-id's more difficult? Anyone else have ideas about this?

2 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor
Hi Thomas,
First of all, I really like your encrypted IDs idea. At the very least, it would make it more difficult to guess or randomly generate. No doubt the spammers will figure a way around it.

As far as I know, Google stated at a conference last year (can't find the link now) that they were working on it. This sort of stuff is pretty secretive for obvious reasons. I too wish that Google would at the very least make some sort of comment. Like you, I am incredibly frustrated with this. A very large number of our clients have moved away from GA as a result.

Unfortunately, all we have to go on is that Google mentioned it at an obscure conference and what exactly they are doing about it, nobody knows. You're not the first to express frustration and you certainly won't be the last. That's the problem with free products I guess.

Sorry I can't give you any additional information on this. I'm as angry and disillusioned as you. Nobody on the GA team even visits here as far as I'm aware. All I can recommend is that you submit (or star) the issue here: https://code.google.com/p/analytics-issues/issues/list and hope that someone actually looks at it.

Sorry there's nothing more to give you at this point.



Re: Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Top Contributor
# 3
Top Contributor
Hey Thomas,

It is a bit unfair to state that Google is doing nothing about referral spam. I have been tracking the problem closely for a year now, and have seen step increments where they clearly did something, stopping the spam-of-the-day and limiting the volume. The problem is that the spammers keep changing tactics, so one door opens when another closes.

[...lots of comments written and deleted...]

I once wrote in a blog article that it was just a matter of time for the referral spammers to recognize that they could spam more than just referrals; they could send events or .... and it was less than a week before the first event spam hit.

I am happy to know that they are doing something, that the volume is contained to a few hundred visits a month and it goes away after a while. If and when they make an architectural change such as you suggest, I suspect the spammers will search out new ways to get around it. I have watched them - they enjoy the cat-and-mouse games they play. The GA user base is too big and contains too many naive new website owners - they won't walk away.
Mike Sullivan, Google Analytics Top Contributor
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Re: Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
# 4
Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭

This has been a hot topic on the Google Analytics Community for a while now. Industry leaders have come up with some great third party blockers mentioned in the thread. I was also fuming over Google's lack of action on this and made my own infographic about it (not linked)... then a very smart person told me that if Google is taking such a long time on this then they are likely doing it right, and not only removing the spam but also removing the historical spam data (which is not an easy job)

Re: Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
# 5
Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
But still no sign of improvement.

Re: Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Top Contributor
# 6
Top Contributor
Actually Soumik, there has been. It just hasn't been announced. I've definitely noticed a lack of new spam. Whether that's because of a strong set of filters, the "block bots" box has been checked or whether Google is proactively doing something about it, I don't know. I believe it's all three.

My complaint isn't so much that Google are doing nothing. As has been mentioned, a lot of this has to be kept under wraps. I believe that communication still needs to be addresses. There's a balance and I don't believe it's being struck right now. All it would take is a small but of community engagement. As someone who who works in this area a lot, I can tell you that even a small "We know there's a problem and we're doing our best to resolve it" can go a lot further than engineers think.

However, I'd rather that Google spend time working on this problem than communicating if it's one or the other.
All I can say is thank goodness for GA premium. I have no doubt that users of it have raised this issue and you can bet that a solution is being worked on as a result.

Re: Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
# 7
Explorer ✭ ✭ ✭
Hope it all goes well and Google should officially announce some info for that. Beacause a lot of users like us is dependent on GA classic.We love it.

Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 8
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I am amazed that this isn't getting any main stream attention, I mean, it's all Facebook fake news what's getting all the attention as well as their possible miscalculations about marketingdata. This annoys me way more then it probably should. I mean, I get that if I use Google's services, I have to be able to work on these myself. But, if I buy a car and it gets messed up only hours after I drive off, it would be no issue whatsoever to return my car to the salesman... So, I realllly want to return my Google Analytics account back to them for repairing, but I simply can't. And it's useless referral spam as well...

Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 9
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

So would your best advice be to keep adding filters and more spammers show up?

Why doesn't Google truly battle referral spam traffic

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 10
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I wish they would let us just delete it, why can't we?  I have to set up views and keep adjusting it almost daily, really getting old.