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Is Your New Web Traffic Good, Bad, or Spam?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
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Is Your New Web Traffic Good, Bad, or Spam?

The traffic to your website is up by a LOT.

Congratulations! Your marketing efforts are paying off.

Or maybe not.

Before taking your victory lap, spend some time figuring out whether all the web traffic is the real thing or if it’s spam.

This article explains what you need to know to determine whether your new website visitors are something to celebrate or an issue you need to fix.

WHAT IS SPAM WEBSITE TRAFFIC?

Spam traffic results from bots or other undesirable sources sending “fake” traffic to your website. While this traffic doesn’t typically harm a website, it skews your Google Analytics data to artificially high levels and might send negative signals about your site to Google. It could inflate your marketing results, which may cause significant bottom-line issues for your company if it makes you think your marketing efforts are working really well when they’re not.

FIND SPAM BY CHECKING YOUR METRICS IN GOOGLE ANALYTICS (GA)

Four core GA metrics could indicate spam traffic. You can find them under Audience > Overview.

  1. Average Session Duration shows how long, on average, a visitor spent on your website during a single session, more commonly referred to as a visit. Typically, spam traffic doesn’t spend much time on a website. It doesn’t browse the site reading blogs or researching the products or services you offer. Instead, spam traffic usually lands on a web page and then bounces.
  2. Bounce or Engagement Rates are valuable metrics for determining whether you have issues with your website. They indicate the percentage of users who visited one page on your site that didn’t click to another page and left. Every user who lands on a page and leaves on the same one registers as a bounce or as having a low level of engagement. Not all pages with high bounce or low engagement rates have an issue. For example, someone searching for your business phone number visits your contact page, finds the number quickly, and abandons the page to call you. It registers as a bounce, but it’s not a bad thing because the user was able to take the action you want them to take in very little time. Pages with exceptionally high bounce rates or low engagement that don’t have a logical reason for them must be checked out.
  3. Pages per Session indicates the number of pages the average visitor to your site views. If there’s quality traffic coming to your site and not spam, you can expect to see users viewing several pages per session. Engaged traffic explores the site. Spam traffic is most likely going to view one page and leave. If your pages per session metric is falling while traffic increases, then it’s likely the traffic is spam.
  4. New Users is a measure of first-time visitors to your website. If Google Analytics reports close to 100 percent new users or a very significant increase, it could be spam traffic. To determine if your number of new users has gone up, compare your current percentage of new users with historical data and look for a significant spike.

REVIEW TRAFFIC SOURCES

If you’ve checked your Google Analytics metrics and the numbers indicate a spam issue, you want to review your referring website traffic.

Here are the steps to take to analyze your referral traffic:

  • Find your referral traffic by visiting Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Overview > Channels > Referral
  • Check the links pointing to your site and driving significant traffic. If you recognize the links and they are highly relevant, they’re fine.
  • If a link seems odd and the traffic coming from it can be connected to the suspicious metrics covered in the previous section, it’s an indicator of spam.

If you find spammy traffic sources, you can either disavow the links or set up a spam filter. (More on that later.)

Be aware: An increase in referral spam traffic often goes unnoticed on websites with significant quality traffic. It usually gets buried in visits from respected sites. However, spam is far more visible on new websites or ones with less traffic because it can skew data in a big way.

CHECK WHERE YOUR TRAFFIC IS COMING FROM

Another sign of spam traffic is an increased number of visitors from countries you aren’t targeting. Suppose you see an increase in traffic from a country you don’t do business in. Trace it back to its source to see if it’s an authoritative one or a junk site. Just because a site sending you traffic is in a country you’re not targeting, it may not be spam. If it’s from a quality site, it could be sending positive signals to Google. You owe it to yourself to do your due diligence to figure out if you want Google to track it or not.

Want to improve your website? Check out this article which explains how.

TAKE ACTION AGAINST SPAM TRAFFIC

If you’ve found significant spam coming to your site, you have two options for dealing with it.

1: Disavow Spam Backlinks

Disavowing links is something to be taken very seriously. Before you disavow, you need to make sure the link is spammy and that it’s the correct thing to do. You should only disavow backlinks if you have a large number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site and the links have caused a Google manual action or are likely to generate one.

Click here to find out how to disavow backlinks.

2: Filter Spam Traffic in Google Analytics

It’s not usually necessary to disavow spam traffic to your digital properties. Instead, set Google Analytics to filter out bots and other unwanted traffic from your results. Here’s how:

  • Go to the “Admin” cog in the bottom left-hand corner of the Google Analytics home screen.
  • Go to the “View” section within “Settings.”
  • Click “View Settings.”
  • Click the tick box next to: “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.”
  • Click “Save.”

Be aware: The spam filter will only filter your Google Analytics data from the date it was added. Historical data will not change. It’s important to know this because you will see a sudden traffic drop in GA when you cut out spam.

KEEP WATCHING OUT FOR SPAM TRAFFIC

All websites get some spam visits, and how you deal with them depends on the website, the impact the spam has had, and the potential harm skewed data could cause over time. It’s wise to be diligent and monitor your Google Analytics data so you can identify a problem if one arises.

  • Check your traffic data regularly to identify significant changes as they happen.
  • Run quarterly (or more frequent) backlink audits and check that links to your site aren’t spammy or causing artificial traffic spikes.
  • If you haven’t already, add the bot filter to Google Analytics.

If you stay on top of spam traffic regularly, you can prevent minor issues from turning into big data reporting problems.

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