How to Identify & Remove Bot Traffic in Google Analytics

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | August 2022

A drawing of a large group of robots.

Google Analytics (GA) is among the most popular tools for understanding website traffic. Making sure that your GA reports are accurate is crucial for making data-driven decisions.

If  you're using Google Analytics, it's essential that you know how to filter out bot traffic. Bot traffic is one of the main culprits for inaccurate data. For high-traffic sites, bots can inflate website traffic by a significant amount. Bot traffic can either be benign or harmful, depending on the intention. But, the most pronounced are malicious bots. They are the reason that many organizations are looking for better alternatives.

What are Bot Traffic Referrals?

Bot traffic referrals are domains used by spammers to target GA and other tracking tools. Referral traffic can access your website through different sources, such as a link on another domain. Some website owners use bot traffic to spike their website traffic. This is an unethical practice. Also, it won't benefit SEO because it isn't high quality traffic and won't result in any conversions.
Create a filter in GA that excludes traffic from bot traffic referrals. Google Analytics can block suspicious traffic from chosen domains.

How to Spot Referrer Spam

Referrer spam involves the creation of repeated site requests via fake referral URLs. The referrer spam then drives unsuspecting users to the spammer's monetized site.
How to spot referrer spam:
  • Go to the Acquisition dashboard and select Source or Medium under Traffic
  • In this column, you'll find all entries with a referral. These are the 3rd party websites attracting traffic to your site.
  • Locate referrer sources representing at least 1% of the general website traffic.
  • Click the referrer source to see a segmented view of the traffic base. If the traffic upsurges and drops in a short time, then it's not factual. Real referrer traffic comes in spurts and later decays over an extended period. 

Should You Be Worried?

If you notice bot traffic referrals on your website, it shouldn't be too much cause for alarm. Spammy sites are always trying to interfere with statistics provided by Google Analytics. The good news: bot traffic cannot infect your website or hack into your server. Nor can they steal your information.
Enhanced bot traffic doesn't harm websites or affect your actual visitors' user experience. They hit thousands of websites daily, trying to lead unsuspecting users to their sites.
The good news is there's no real need to worry about bot traffic referrals. But, identifying them will ensure you don't base business decisions on inaccurate data. 

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How Spam Can Affect Your DataStudio and Other Reports

The main issue with spam traffic is that it manipulates your data. Unsuspecting website owners may get duped into thinking their site has a ton of traffic. But, bot traffic is unpaid traffic. Its primary goal is to lure unsuspecting web users into clicking their links.
Spam traffic affects metrics such as bounce rate and average time on the site. It also hinders your business from the traffic it would have received if bot referrals weren't on your site.

How to Filter Out Referrals in Google Analytics

The best way to filter out bot traffic referrals is to use a campaign source exclusion filter. Review Google's Filter Guide and ensure you preserve an unfiltered profile.
We recommend that you examine the filters you intend to use in secluded Sandbox Profiles. Filters don't apply to historical data. Instead, they create a segment to freshen all historical data.
How to set up a campaign source exclusion filter:
  • Navigate to the 'Admin' tab in your GA account
  • Select 'Test View' under view and select 'Filters'
  • Click 'New Filter'
  • Key in the 'Filter name' such as 'exclude referral spam'
  • Choose 'Custom' under 'Filter Type'
  • Select 'Campaign Source' under 'Filter Field'
  • Key in your RegEx code
  • Test the filter through the 'Filter Verification'
  • Click 'Save'

GA4 Automatically Filters Out Bot Traffic

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is a new service that enables users to measure engagement across both websites and apps. The service blocks traffic from known bots, excluding them from your data.
GA4 filters are practical at the view level and impact all data in that view. Website owners can then apply filters to a solitary property with many views. It is the latest, most effective filter for including or eliminating internal traffic.
Google Analytics 4 differs from Universal Analytics Filters in that:
  • You can create a rule that outlines internal traffic and a filter that excludes developer traffic
  • In bolt filtering, bot traffic is already excluded
  • In GA4, you can organize cross-domain measurements in the Analytics interface
  • In GA4, you can transform data by altering existing events
Don't let bot traffic and other spam influence your marketing decisions. If you'd like help with your website analytics, contact us today. 

Topics: Digital Marketing