Especially at the start of this year, we noticed a trend that a lot of our Google Analytics accounts were getting hit with more website traffic. Unfortunately, it seemed too coincidental that almost all of our websites got the same exact surges in traffic. And what we found when we looked deeper into the data was that most of that traffic was actually coming from spam bots. It’s important to remember though that not all bots are bad. Googlebot, for instance, is Google’s bot that crawls web pages on the Internet. In this blog post, we are specifically talking about bad spam bots that pretend to act as website traffic.
In the image below, you can see just a small snippet of some of what these spam bots look like.
How does this affect website data? First, these aren’t real human visitors. These are fake spammers that inflate your website data. This skews everything from new users to bounce rate to average time on your website. If you don’t take steps to proactively remove these hits from your website, you end up with very inaccurate data about how your website is performing.
How can you spot spam bots? Generally, they spend 0 time on your website, only “visit” one page, and don’t seem like the type of website URL that you would have linking to your website. They also tend to come from other countries that your business is definitely not located within. Another quick check is simply searching for the URL on Google and seeing what people have said about the website. In the search example below, you will see that WordPress support has an official statement supporting that semalt is a spam bot, and it walks users through how to block them from their websites.
There are a couple ways that you can remove these bots from your website:
- Use your .htaccess file to block them from ever hitting your website. However, if you are unsure of what you are doing, inserting one wrong character into this file can bring your entire website down. As a result, be very careful when using this method.
- Set up Google Analytics filters. For most people, this is a better alternative since you can still keep one raw data filter and use this filtered view to see if you’ve successfully removed the bots. By comparing the two views, you will be able to see exactly what your filters have removed and how the difference in your website performance. You can choose to filter by country, by IP address, or however else you see fit depending on the nature of the bot. Also, make sure that “Bot Filtering” is turned on under View Settings within your Analytics account.
Remember to make annotations in your Google Analytics data as a way of remembering when you edited your .htaccess file and/or inserted new filters. It makes reading your data graphs a lot easier, and it lets you know if you’ve successfully removed the visits.
Still unsure of how to execute these filters? Talk to your Analytics team to see if they are aware of these spam bots, and ask how they are proactively removing these visits for data integrity so that you can get the most out of your website data for your business.