2016 is almost over, and for anyone who regularly uses Google Analytics, referral and keyword spam infiltrating your Analytics reports is old news (if a persistent annoyance). We’ve written about it a couple of times before: Black hat marketers send out false hits to random GA tracking codes, resulting in their spam messages and URLs getting displayed as legitimate referrers and organic keywords in Google Analytics. The problem is fairly easy to resolve by setting up filters, but even then data is skewed just enough to be problematic.
Now, we’re sorry to report, Google Analytics spammers have branched out from referral and organic keyword spam. Now they’re hitting user language reports. Check out this screenshot from one of our clients’ Audience Overview:
One of these things is not like the other…
Give up? It’s:
Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!
Apparently we’re not the first ones to notice this spam: SEO Roundtable had a post on it last week. Whether the spam gave Trump the edge he needed for his upset victory over Hillary Clinton is anybody’s guess, but what’s certain is that SEOs and Webmasters (especially those who work with sites internationally) are going to want to nip this new trend in spamming in the bud.
We took a closer look at this client’s acquisition reports, and found the URLs the “ticket URLs” to which the spam language is referring:
Typically, they’re nonsense URLs with .xyz TLDs. Here are the countries they’re coming from:
Russia (no surprise), Brazil, China, and India. Normally we’d expect to see all these spam sessions coming from the same country, but things get really weird when we check out the hostnames:
Most referral spam reports (not set) under hostname, but in this case we’re seeing mail.google.com and apple.com. Curious!
Getting Rid of Language Spam in Google Analytics by Setting Up a Hostname Filter
Have you got this or similar spam in your user language report in Google Analytics? Want to get rid of it? Luckily there’s a single simple filter that can get rid of the vast majority of this and other referral spam in one go: a hostname filter. Here’s how to set one up.
1) Go to the Admin Section of Your Google Analytics Account
Click the top Admin button on your Google Analytics account. In the rightmost column, select “Filters:”
2) Click the Red “Add Filter” Button
As per Google Analytics best practices, you’ll probably want to set up a new view for this filter, to keep one unfiltered window into your site’s traffic (and in case you mess something up). Read more about that at Google’s Analytics Help site here.
3) Create Your Hostname Filter
Select “Create new Filter” at the top, then enter your Filter’s name in the filed provided.
Under Filter Type, choose Predefined, then in the three dropdown menus choose Include only > traffic to the hostname > that are equal to, and enter your site’s URL.
The best thing to do here is to go back and check out the hostnames reported for your site’s legitimate traffic. Be sure to include any hostnames that have been associated with legitimate traffic to your site.
4) Save Your Filter
Voila! This simple filter should take care of the great bulk of the referral spam that gets lobbed your site’s way. (That is, until the spammers figure out a way around it. Then it’ll be on us to figure out a new way to keep them out of our reporting.)