Trying to fix ghost referrer spam? You’re not alone.

How to deal with ghost referrer spam

As a digital marketing specialist, we’ve seen an increasing number of suspicious referring sites in our clients’ Google Analytics traffic reports.

What is ghost referrer spam?

Ghost referrer spam is where a site sends false/fake traffic to another website, tricking Google Analytics and other analytical programs into thinking these are real visits.

Why does this affect your site visit reports?

Unfortunately, Google Analytics and many other analytical systems are unable to differentiate the difference between ghost traffic and real traffic. Hence, the numbers you see in your reports may be made of ghost or fake traffic affecting your actual number of real visits from humans/potential customers.

Why do spammers carry out ghost referral spam?

A spammer doesn’t care about traffic or the sites they target – their ultimate goal is to get visits back to their site just like an email spammer’s goal is to get you to complete a call to action in the email. They’re likely hoping that you will see them in your analytics report, and click through to their site.

Does ghost referral spam have a negative impact on your site?

Well, folks, the good news is no! Ghost referral spam does not affect your SEO efforts or rankings, and it doesn’t mean your site has been compromised either.

If you did want to check your site hasn’t been compromised with malware etc. There is a test you can perform in Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) that will let you know if Google has detected malware on your site.

If you don’t have Google Search Console, you should consider setting it up it’s free and gives you more insight than just relying on Google Analytics.

What does ghost referrer spam look like?

If you see referring sites/links looking similar but not limited to those below, unfortunately you’ve got ghost referrer spam too!


How can I get rid of ghost referrer spam?

There are two ways to do this: –

  1. Create a filter in Google Analytics to exclude each of the URLs that’s sending you the ghost traffic. Note that this isn’t the best way as you need to be sure you capture any future URLs and exclude them one by one. Choosing this filter method will only work from the point you add the filters meaning your previous data is still riddled with ghost traffic.
  2. You could use REGEX (Regular Expression) to only show valid hostnames in your reports. This method will clean up your reports and remove the invalid hostnames.

You can identify hostnames by visiting your Google Analytics report > Audience > Technology > Network and selecting Hostname above the table under Primary Dimension.

Trying to fix ghost referrer spam

CAUTION: The above will not resolve the issue of ghost referrer spam – it only excludes them from your reports.

Need help with ghost referrer spam?

To find out more about ghost referrer spam and how it might be affecting your analytics, contact us for a no obligation review.


Ryan Sedgwick
Managing Director & Marketing Consultant at Impact Digital Markeitng
A Chartered Marketer, Ryan has gained extensive B2B and B2C marketing experience working across a broad spectrum of industries. Having graduated with a Masters in Marketing Communications from the University of Huddersfield, Ryan successfully utilises his skills and knowledge to effectively support businesses in getting the most from their marketing investments.