In the past week, you probably have noticed that there is referral traffic from Lifehacker.com that is showing up in Google Analytics. You could also be seeing traffic from one particular Reddit.com URL. This is, in fact, fake, spam, or “ghost” traffic that you should ignore. The only purpose of it is to get you to visit one of those sites, typically trying to get you to copy/paste the URL and visit the website.
The Lifehacker.com domain name is, in fact, actually a “hack”. It’s not Lifehacker.com, it’s actually xn--lifehacer-1rb.com, which is an IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) which allows domains to use non-ASCII characters. Wikipedia’s definition: “The internationalization of domain names is a technical solution to translate names written in language-native scripts into an ASCII text representation that is compatible with the Domain Name System.”
So, you’re being tricked into thinking the K in Lifehacker.com is a K and it’s actually a non-ASCII character.
So what about Google Analytics?
Well, that’s where it gets interesting. The traffic and people are actually NEVER going to your website. In fact, all they’re doing is loading the Google Analytics code that makes Google think that they’re visiting your website. The Google Analytics code includes a UA- number that identifies your website. The hacker, or spammer in this case, actually just loads your number over and over again, and Google Analytics thinks that they are visiting your website. But they’re not.
I’ve actually gone to my web server and blocked all traffic from Russia. Google Analytics says that those visitors are coming from Russia–but they’re not. They’re faking the fact that visiting your website.
Referral Spam is a Big Problem for Google
What this spammer/hacker is doing is spamming Google Analytics. And, unfortunately, Google isn’t doing anything about it. Google Analytics Referral Spam is a huge issue, especially for companies who get less than 100 visitors a day to their websites. For example, you may be seeing a huge bump in traffic–but it’s actually just spam. It’s not real human visitors coming to your website. Here’s an example of what it looks like:
As you can see, it looks like there’s a huge bump in traffic–but in actuality, it’s all from this spam:
As you can see, the reddit and lifehacker.com URL is there, as well as site-auditor.online, which is also referral spam. It’s fake traffic or “ghost traffic” or what we call referral spam.
What can you do about it?
At this point, the only thing you really can do is filter out this spam in Google Analytics:
1. In Google Analytics, click the Admin tab.
2. Select All Filters.
3. Click ADD FILTER.
4. In the 1st box, put in a Filter Name. You could call it “Fake referral traffic”.
5. Select the Filter Type to Custom and select “Exclude”.
6. Click the Filter Field drop-down menu and select Page Title.
7. In Filter Pattern enter the referring website, or the first part of it, like:
8. The Case Sensitive checkbox can be selected, and the filter will still work fine.
9. You’ll then see “Apply Filter to Views”… select one of the Available Views: All Web Site Data and click Add.
10. Click SAVE
There are other alternatives to filtering out a lot of this Google Analytics Referral spam, and it’s by using natural language filtering. For example, Kraftblick’s recent post about the referral spam mentions Georgi’s post about language spam. Essentially, you can use a filter that has these characters in it:
Adding a filter should only filter out language spam. You’ll need to read his post in order to get all the details about setting it up properly.