Like many business owners, I use Google Analytics data as a gauge of how well my website is performing. I track how well my posts do and how much referral traffic I get from social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). I compare the social media data with my website search data to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. Recently, I was faced with a Google Analytics Anomaly that was affecting my Google search results.

I noticed a doubling of my referral data (traffic coming from other websites). I was elated, thinking that I finally found a niche area to concentrate my efforts. Once I dug into the numbers, however, I found someone was using a new way to create ‘false’ traffic to my website and artificially inflating my Google Analytics data.

Google Analytics Anomaly found

The first indication that my data was affected by a Google Analytics Anomaly came from a notification from Google itself. Here is the first notification (I received several such notices over the next month):

auto-seo-service.com is performing worse than other Referral traffic

73.13% of your site traffic is from the Referral channel. Within Referral, auto-seo-service.com is 21.86% of sessions and performs worse on some key metrics.

Bounce Rate 100.00%

Avg. Session Duration 00:17

From the notification, I noticed several anomalies.

First, I don’t have auto-seo-service.com listed as one of the websites that refers traffic to my website (other unknown domains included auto-seo-service.org, autoseo-service.org, autoseoservice.org, and resell-seo-services.com). The popular referral websites that I see regularly in my Google Analytics data are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Search.

Next, I noticed that these referrals were getting a 100% bounce rate. This indicates to Google that searchers don’t find what they are looking for on my website and they quickly leave. This was confirmed by the Avg. Session Duration of 17 seconds.

Finally, I checked the pages being visited by these referrals. The different referrals were all trying to load the same page (/h/3468822.html). I know that this page does not exist on my website. This referral was reaching my 404 page.

Time for action!

Understanding how Google Analytics works and what it means to your website’s position in search engines, I had to act!

There are a couple of different ways to block these types of artificial referring traffic from being recorded by Google Analytics. The first way is to block the traffic from recording as a hit by adjusting the .htaccess file for your website. This requires some technical knowledge and access to the root directory of your website. Here are the lines I entered into my .htaccess file:

## STOP Semalt.com Crawler Spam

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt\.com [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} auto-seo-service\.com [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} auto-seo-service\.org [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} autoseo-service\.org [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} autoseoservice\.org [NC,OR]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} resell-seo-services\.com [NC]

RewriteRule .* – [F]

I included an entry for semalt.com because all of the referrer domains pointed semalt.com. Semalt is a company offering SEO services. I think that hijacking someone’s Google Analytics data is a poor way of trying to acquire new business.

Use a WordPress plugin

The second way to stop this referral traffic is to use a plugin (for WordPress users). The most popular plugin for blocking this type of traffic is Wordfence Security. I install Wordfence Security on all the WordPress websites I develop for clients. After installing Wordfence, add the referral URLs to the plugin to block them from accessing your website.

If you use Google Analytics for your website and you are experiencing a Google Analytics Anomaly, then you need to act to lessen the impact on your search engine search results. Don’t let a company using unethical practices impact the ranking results of your website.

Need help fixing your Google Analytics Anomaly?

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