Many individuals and businesses use Google Analytics to keep track of visitors to their websites – in terms of where the visitors come from, how long they spend on the site, as well as a number of other metrics that aid in ascertaining the quality and type of traffic that their websites receive.
The links that are clicked to visit the websites are also stated in the Analytics report, allowing website owners to know exactly where the traffic is coming from. Some sources of traffic include search engines and links that other websites have on their sites to those sites. However, there are times when you may see what is referred to as Ghost Referral Traffic.
What is Ghost Referral Traffic?
In simple terms, Ghost Referral Traffic is traffic that really and truly never actually visits a website. The links that these “traffic sources” leave in your Analytics report are designed to try and get you to click on them, by making you believe that someone truly visited your page.
Why is it a Cause for Worry?
The consequences of clicking on ghost traffic links and visiting those websites include the unwanted downloading of malware and viruses to your computer, problems that many of us know all too well can be hard to clean up after an attack happens.
It has been observed over time that sites with low traffic are impacted more than sites with higher volumes of traffic, since the analytical data for the low traffic sites is much less than that of the high traffic ones. This tends to seriously skew your metrics, but ghost referral traffic crawlers also have other intentions on their agenda.
Many websites have gotten hacked this way – when the script downloads a file onto the page and creates a backdoor from which hackers can easily gain access to the affected sites. Using the backdoor, they can place links to shady websites on your pages, or even worse, totally shut down your site!
How to Identify Ghost Traffic Sites
As I stated earlier, there are times when ghost referral traffic seems to be coming from legitimate sources, but the good news is that there are a number of ways by which you can identify them.
The main thing that you will notice about ghost referral traffic is that the session time spent on your site is 0 seconds and the bounce rate is 100%. The ghost referral traffic web crawlers do not follow the conventional method of identifying themselves as web crawlers. Instead, they fill up your Analytics data with those fake sessions that are of no value to your metrics.
There are quite a number of websites that launch ghost referral traffic. Though the list is not exhaustive (as more and more players come on the scene every day), here are some of the more well-known ghost referral traffic sites that you should keep note of:
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