Your Referral Traffic Is (Probably) Lying To You

Earlier in the year I noticed that the conversion rate from a client’s referral traffic was dropping YOY.

We pride ourselves on creating targeted and loveable content and getting it out in the right places so this came as a surprise.

Is our content getting less relevant? Are we reaching out to the wrong places? Surely not…!

So I had a dig around in the referral sources and sorted it by sessions. Here’s what I saw:

The top three traffic sources are registering over 4k sessions alone, making up close to 1/4 of all referral traffic, despite not registering any goal conversions.

That’s a big skew in our data.

So what are semalt and adnxs?

Put simply, they’re referral spam.

Google Analytics works by transferring information via HTTP requests directly to Google Analytics servers.

What these sites do is send fake HTTP requests making it appear as if you’ve had traffic when really they haven’t accessed your site at all.

What happens then is people like you and I dig around in analytics data and wonder what semalt is, check out their site and hey presto they’ve just got a hit!

The problem is these sites – and there are loads of them, look for social buttons in your referral traffic – skew data significantly.

Your overall traffic is inflated, conversion deflated and bounce rates and time on site taking a hit either way.

The Solution

To help stop this traffic being reported in Analytics and skewing your data there’s a button in the admin panel called ‘bot filtering’ that should ignore most of these sites, and to block semalt specifically you can request directly that the crawler stops accessing your site here.

Some sites will slip through the net but, provided Google is doing its job, you should stop most of them.

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