What is Spam Google Analytics Traffic?
Did you know anyone can send bogus traffic to your Google Analytics property without ever visiting your website! All they need is your unique tracking ID.
The majority of spam is generated automatically by sending data directly to the Google Analytics servers without ever touching your website. And if you were wondering how spammers find your unique tracking ID... they guess!
The Google Analytics tracking ID uses the following format, where each X represents a number, UA-XXXXXXXX-X making it easy for spammers to create a big list of possible IDs to loop through.
What Does Spam Traffic Look Like?
The easiest way to identify potential spam traffic in your Google Analytics view is to navigate to Audience > Technology > Network and select Hostname as the Primary Dimension.
If there is spam traffic, you'll see websites that you don't recognise as well as "(not set)" in the list of hostnames.
How to Eliminate Hostname Spam
The fix is a relatively simple one. Because the spammers have guessed your tracking ID they don't know which website it actually relates to. Implementing a hostname filter will remove any traffic that didn't originate from your website.
It's also worth pointing out that filters are not retroactive and will, therefore, only filter spam traffic going forwards. Any historic spam traffic will still be shown in your Google Analytics reports.
Test Your Regular Expression
This filter uses a regular expression to match one or more relevant hostnames. Getting this wrong could filter out legitimate traffic and leave you with even more inaccurate data. To prevent this from happening, it's a good idea to test your regular expression prior to implementing the hostname filter.
This is the regular expression we will be using. Update example\.com with your domain name, making sure to use a backslash (\) to escape any periods (.).
Go back to Audience > Technology > Network and select Hostname as the Primary Dimension. Click advanced next to the search field and set the match type to Matching RegExp. Paste in your regular expression, modified for your domain name, and hit Apply.
The list of hostnames will now show only traffic that has originated from your website or was hosted on the googleusercontent.com domain, which happens when a page is served from Google's cache.
As long as everything looks good, you can now create and apply the hostname filter.
Include Hostnames Filter
From Google Analytics:
In the Admin area select the Filters option under the view you would like this applied to.
Click + Add Filter.
Name the filter Include Hostnames.
Create a Custom filter.
Choose Hostname as Filter Field.
Use a Regular Expression of ^(.*)?example\.com|^(.*)?googleusercontent\.com$ If you are cross linking domains use a pipe (|) to separate each domain.
To apply this filter to another view simply follow steps one and two for the relevant view but instead choose to Apply existing Filter and click Add >>.