Are Ghosts playing havoc with your Google Analytics results?
All marketing campaigns need to be measured to find out if they’ve been successful or not.
At Tiga Creative Marketing we set-up Google Analytics on all the websites we develop for our clients to provide them with an overview of their website’s performance, and our marketing team with deeper insights.
We recently launched a site for a small start-up and, after a few days, I got an excited call from the client telling me what a fantastic job we had done as his site had over 600 visits already! Whilst enjoying the compliment, this didn’t sound right to me. Feeling terrible at the prospect of disappointing him, I asked him to log into his GA account while I did the same thing.
Sure enough, the overwhelming majority of those visits (about 490) were ghosts! Here’s what was happening…
When you set-up an account in GA, it is given a reference number which is contained in a piece of code for you to copy/paste into the pages of your website. Visitors who land on pages with this code have a cookie (a small file) downloaded to their device in order for GA to collect data about their visit. This data is logged to your account.
To exploit this to their advantage, spammers create programmes that send huge numbers of requests to random GA accounts, triggering GA to log them as a visit to the website registered against the account. Of course, in reality, these ‘visitors’ have not come close to visiting any of the websites – hence why they have become known as ghost visits!
At Tiga Creative Marketing we set-up Google Analytics on all the websites we develop for our clients to provide them with an overview of their website’s performance”
Why do Spammers do this? Well, their intention is to drive traffic back to their own website - from where the ghost visit will have originated - often affiliate sites where they earn a few pence from clicks or, worse, sites containing malware. While trying to figure out why they have so many visits to their site, people see in GA that visits have been referred from the spammer's website and, of course, visit the site to see what it is!
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to manually identify ghost visits. They will show as spending zero time on your site and often originate from overseas – in the case of our client, Brazil, China and South Korea were the top locations. As a localised start-up, they knew they wouldn’t expect any non-UK traffic.
In GA you can filter these type of visits out of your results and there’s a link below to respected search marketing software company Moz which will show you how. It’s important to do this or, as in the case of our client, you’ll get an inaccurate idea of how your site is performing.