Are Ghosts Visiting Your Website? Here’s How to Block Them

Grant Marlowe - November 3, 2015

No, ghosts aren’t actually visiting your website. What they’re doing is going directly to the GA servers via the Measurement Protocol (a tool designed to help developers collect event data). Funny enough, as discussed here, they’re doing it to get your attention. This attention is undeserved, and can lead to a lot of wasted time trying to determine the “who” and the “why” of visits, referrals, or a sudden spike in traffic. Luckily, you can easily exclude these ghosts thereby improving the validity of your data.

To create a filter for these ghosts, in order to remove them from your reporting, look at your individual traffic sources. If you see, for example, a spike in referrals:

Click through and see where those referrals might be coming from:

Now, look at the source domain. If the domain name meets one of the below characteristics:

  1. Has nothing to do with your web content
  2. Has a bogus domain name (e.g. Chinese-Amezon)
  3. Has a spammy domain name (e.g. Get-Free-Traffic-Now)
  4. Appears to have originated from share buttons

It might be best to filter out as this could likely be spam traffic that you do not want included in your reports.

To block these spammers, you’ve got to identify the host domain. To do this, navigate to:
•    Reporting
•    Audience
•    Technology > Network

Then, simply switch the Primary Dimension from “Service Provider” to “Host Name”:

From here, you’ll be able to scan down the list of domains and identify any potential spammers:

Before we continue however, let’s define exactly what a hostname is. A hostname is a label used to identify a device connecting to a network or a domain on the Internet.

Now, it’s time to create an Include Filter that will remove those specific sources from being included in our report data.

In order to do this, navigate to:

  • Admin (at the very top of the page)
  • Account (to select the correct GA account)
  • Property (to select the correct web property)
  • View (to select the correct web view)
  • Filters

Then, we can create an “include” filter to only allow traffic from the domain we specify.
5While this may seem counter intuitive (creating an “include” filter in order to “exclude” certain traffic) this method allows for a simple one time filter setup that will permit traffic from only the Hostname you provide, as opposed to adding a new “exclude” filter for each domain sending spam referral traffic.

If you would like to include more than one domain, you can use a Regular Expression in your filter. For example we could use one include filter for both www.morevisibility\.com and www.clientdomain\.com by placing a pipe character (which means “OR”) between the two domains like so:
This tells the filter to include either of these domains.

Using these methods, you should now be able to successfully filter out any unwanted spam traffic! Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can tell you a lot about your website traffic and audience – if it’s set up correctly. MoreVisibility’s Google Analytics consulting services can help you implement and optimize Google Analytics for your organization’s unique needs so you can get the best ROI from the tool.

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