What Google forgot to tell you about Analytics Setup

Perhaps they don’t consider it much of a problem, perhaps they want you to look at all sources of traffic and decide how to interpret it for yourself, or, perhaps, they want you to think you get more traffic than you really do for some other reason. Whatever the reason, your Google Analytics data is full of non-traffic and non-legitimate traffic sooner or later. There are steps you can take to clean up the data and the views but since you can’t edit the stored data after it is collected, it would be nice to know these steps in the beginning!

There are three major sources of bad traffic data (not all bad traffic data is actually even traffic!):

  • Ghost referrers
  • Bad crawlers and fake referrals
  • Perfectly good crawlers and spiders that, nonetheless, cloud your view

Some of these sources are harmless but their data in your analytics view still creates confusion and mis-stated metrics and measures. Others are hoping you’ll click on them to follow and see who is linking to you and sending you traffic. Sometimes that is because they’d like to sell you a service. Sometimes it is because they’d like to infect your computer with some malware.

Ghost referrers actually use your Google Analytics (GA) tracking code to generate hits in your analytics data without ever visiting your site.

Bad crawlers and fake referrers do hit your site but skew your data and are often phishing for your business or worse

Legitimate crawlers and spiders are real search engines and other web crawlers that are desireable — without them you may never get found — yet their presence in your measurements and metrics is probably telling a different story than you need to see.

What can you do about these? Use filters to keep them out of your data. If you already have a lot of data, create a new segment to get the alternate view for the past.

Mike Sullivan over at Analytics Edge wrote a great guide to cleaning up your data and views.