Brawn Media Blog

Is Missing Google Keyword Data Ruining Your Analytics Reports?

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We primarily use Google Analytics to track and report on website behavior. Now, we know, as seasoned veterans, that even King Google doesn’t get it exactly right, all the time. Mainly because there are rare visitor and browser environments that mess with the way data is collected. But in the case of this post, it’s Google’s own choices that have created an environment where spammy website traffic can happen, mostly under the radar.

That is, of course, if you don’t know what to look for.

Let’s first look at what a lot of spam traffic does and why:

Definition: Spam website traffic is ‘fake traffic’. In other words, some of the traffic you see in your analytics isn’t from a person — it’s from a bot (just a piece of software that behaves like a person and causes the Google traffic bean counters to move). It’s junk, and does nothing for your conversions (typically).

Why do companies send out spam-bot-fake-visitor-headaches? Simple: for people like us. You know the kind, we scour data for insight and opportunities. Geek stuff. Nerdy dreams are made of good, actionable data. But even your average website owner can fall for the guise of fake traffic because they too, like us, care about traffic behavior.

The spammers WANT you to find them (in a lot of cases). See, it’s almost like ‘free advertising’ for them. If they visit your site enough and you see (from a referral visit standpoint) the source of all those awesome visits (yay! we’re getting lots of traffic), you just might reverse engineer the source of traffic and visit their site in return:

a.They now get lots of traffic from the tons of analytics ‘detectives’ and if they have ads on their site, they can charge more for having lots of page views.

b.Many of them hope you’ll visit the site and see they have some incredible sales pitch and you’ll buy their really shady SEO tool or product.

c.It’s all about sales. And, they don’t have to worry about ranking well or dealing with the intricacies of ACTUALLY ADVERTISING with PPC.

So what? Well, this then makes traffic reports skewed and actual living, breathing website visitors are expertly mixed up with spam traffic, making it very difficult to tell them apart.

We Fight Spam. Really Well.

We’ve been hot on the trail of many of these spammers for a long time. In fact, as the months accumulate in a given year, we’re constantly battling spam traffic (something that many of the run-of-the-mill SEO ‘companies’ just don’t do). We use various techniques to block referral spam visits from mudding up our clients’ traffic reports. But, it’s an ongoing battle and can be more than just a challenge to do so — just like all technology, the spammers are constantly changing.

Keeping Up With the Spammers

Now, many of these spammers are hoping that pro-SEOs aren’t on the case and that everyday website owners are ‘buying into this traffic’, following it back, and then purchasing products and services related to traffic generation.

So while we’re confident we can discover it and get it out of your analytics, it’s not as easy as devouring all of the SEO blogs and research we can find. In fact, the majority of it we’ve found and destroyed on our own through our own research and scientific processes. But it does take a lot of keeping up with the latest trends. Just like you wouldn’t go to a doctor who got his/her medical degree 20 years ago and did zero research — you’ll want SEOs who not only stay abreast of the latest and greatest, but those who forge their own paths.

So as we keep beating the ‘referral’ spam, the spammers are constantly devising new ways to get to your website.

A New Kind of Spam: Thanks to Google

Here’s the latest kind of spam that is hoping to get in front of the eyes of the average website owner:

Spammers have devised a way to create ‘ghost’ organic traffic. In other words, traffic is flowing in from what seems to be searches, but in all reality it isn’t. These are easy to ALMOST spot because they visit one page and then bounce — sending a landing page’s bounce rate through the roof. But, an investigate website owner would surely think to look at the small amount of keyword data still available in Google Analytics. And that’s where they are these days.

Why? Because the majority of website owners already know that Google blocked keyword data from passing into analytics after a search in a search engine. So only those seriously looking for actionable data (and they’re probably website owners who might buy SEO services) would think to look under the ‘keyword rock’.

This type of traffic is now super hard to spot as spam — but, a quick inspection (utilizing some of the advanced reports in Analytics) shows us the source — and the keyword showing as an organic visit is actually now the domain name of the spammy website. The hope? That a little digging will pique your interest enough to follow the trail back to, yes, you guessed it, some spammy SEO tool or service in the hopes that you’ll bite.

Around here? We don’t do the biting, we do the hunting. And now that we’ve discovered this latest ‘traffic trick’, know that we’re actively seeking to block it from analytics reports so our clients can be rest assured that the data we discuss and report is trustworthy. And that’s what matters.

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