Ghost spam (also frequently known as referral spam (it is one type of such spam) or, less frequently, referral bombing) is a type of spam who’s target tends to be any particular search engine (Google, in this case). This type of search engine spam is known as spamdexing.
How Does Ghost Spamming Work?
Ghosts, the name of the bots responsible for the spam in question, do not actually access your site, unlike many spam bots (crawlers spring to mind as an example). This sets ghost spam miles apart from others, as traditional spam prevention techniques may not work for website owners. Ghost spam has a 100% bounce rate, something also to take into account.
Is Search Engine Optimization Affected by Ghost Spam?
Directly? No. Indirectly? Possibly. Ghost spam on its own does not hurt the SEO of your webpage. While some malicious bots may have these effects in mind, this is not true for ghost spam. However, the fact that these little guys bounce every single time the hit a website might not look that great on paper. While this isn’t perhaps as huge an issue as other spam which directly affects your SEO rankings, it can be harder to recover from in certain instances. With Google Analytics; however, you needn’t worry about SEO rankings as bounce rates won’t be taken into account by Google’s ranking system.
Does Ghost Spam Have Any Adverse Effects On My Website?
Fortunately, ghost spam doesn’t directly affect websites. While you may be able to dig up data it leaves behind, it should be noted that this data is entirely fake.
So What’s the Big Deal?
Any successful website owner either has essential data they look at on a regular basis or is extremely lucky. A blogger belonging to the former group may make important decisions regarding location-based SEO on their next article depending on where their viewers come from, for example.
With constant ghost spam, website owners can expect an ongoing influx of fake data regarding their viewership, making these important decisions impossible to make. If your website is anything more than a place to keep a journal and vent, this should concern you. Needless to say, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to protect your website(s) from ghost spam.
What Can I Do To Stop Ghost Spam?
With Google Analytics, protecting your data from ghost spam really isn’t all that hard; Google gives Analytics users a wide range of tools to do so. The only reason so many people don’t use them is simply because they don’t know how. I’ll walk you through how to use one of these tools to successfully quit having to worry about ghost spam once and for all.
Using Valid Hostname Filter is definitely the easiest, most set-it-and-forget-it way to go about fixing your ghost spam issues. Valid Hostname Filter more or less excludes “users” who aren’t using a valid hostname in your data pile. Luckily for us, ghost spam always comes from an invalid hostname.
How to Use the Filter
To use this filter, you’ll first need to go to your Reporting tab on Google Analytics and view your audience over the course of a relatively large time-frame. By selecting Network from the Technology menu and clicking on Hostname, you’ll get a list of hostnames to choose from. You’ll want to decipher valid hostnames from their invalid counterparts.
Doing this is easy once you know what to look for. If the host name doesn’t come from your domain, one of your sub domains, a cache service, video service, shopping cart, an IP or a translation service, it’s safe to say it’s an invalid hostname.
For a minute, just forget about the invalid hostnames and simply focus on the valid ones. You’ll now want to build an expression with all of these valid hostnames. Afterwards, you simply create an Include Hostname Filter. You can do this through the relevant View under the Admin tab. You’ll want to select Filters, New filter and then Create Filter, using ‘Include Valid hostnames’ as a name.
Make sure to select Custom as your filter type and select Include, then Hostname from the drop menu. The Hostname expression can now be pasted in Filter Pattern. After verifying the filter, you’ll see two sets of data, one before and one after the ghost spam was taken out of the equation.
After taking a look over everything and making sure all invalid hostnames are indeed filtered out, you can save the filter and use it to properly analyze your data from now on, making ghost spam a worry of the past.