Spam Surge: how to detect it and how to protect your data

Thu 15 Dec 2016 - posted by Louisa Breakell

If you’re familiar with your Google Analytics account, you may have noticed a rather random surge in sessions in recent weeks. Whilst we don’t want to deny your website the credit it deserves, you might want to check where this traffic is coming from – over the last month or so there has been a fresh wave of spam bots, hitting millions of domains and causing untrue spikes in sessions.

So how can you detect this spam? Firstly your month on month data should give you some clues. If you’re seeing huge spikes in traffic of any type, this could well be spam. As can be seen below, unless you’ve gained an insanely valuable backlink, it’s unlikely that your referral traffic has increased by 1,270% month on month. Referral traffic tends to be the most common area to see referral spam in Google Analytics, but check elsewhere too!

By delving a little deeper into the sources that created these traffic types, you’ll get a clearer idea. In the example above, we could see that a high number of ‘sessions’ were coming from domains like, and many others with rather suspicious looking addresses. If these are clearly spam, don’t visit the websites! This gives the spammers precisely what they want – referral clicks.

Google has been narrowing the net on many of these spam sites, so whilst many such as sharebutton might have been eradicated, others are cropping up to circumvent Google’s measures. It’s something you should check at least once a month to make sure you’re keeping your data accurate.

Once you’ve determined that you’ve been hit by spam, you need to take action – your website is one of your most important assets, and the data associated with it must be clean and reliable! The solution is a complex one, but one of our favourite articles on how to DIY is by Carlos Escalera from Ohow.

Adding filters won’t delete the spam that is already in your data, unfortunately. To wipe out the presence of this historical spam, you’ll need to apply additional filters and segments in Analytics. Carlos also walks you through this in the article we mentioned above.

If you’re feeling a bit unsure of the process, we’d be happy to help you out: setting up spam filters incorrectly does huge damage to your data and is hard to undo – many domains wiped out all their data for organic traffic!