Are your web analytics being distorted by spam?

Most businesses routinely use Google Analytics to monitor and report on the usage of their website, however few take the time to look behind the headline numbers.

A steady growth in overall traffic is noted positively and rarely questioned, particularly in smaller organisations without in-house expertise.

Unfortunately over the past year or so, there has been a steady increase in ‘referrer spam’. This spam is reported in Google Analytics as referral traffic, however it has never even been to your site. The spammers have communicated directly with Google’s servers to generate false entries in your ‘referral traffic’ statistics and therefore your overall site statistics.

For local business sites which typically experience low traffic levels, referrer spam can be a significant proportion of their overall traffic.

Are your site’s GA stats affected by referrer spam? Look at the referral traffic to the site within Google Analytics – do the listed domain names look relevant to your business, or they have names related to buttons & SEO (e.g. ‘’) or mis-spelled trusted domains such as ‘’

Why do the spammers do it?

There are a few theories but the most common are:

  1. The spammers want you to back-link to them, and figure less-aware webmasters will ping back to their sites.
  2. Some of the referring sites have malware on them, so they’re hoping you’ll see them in the web statisticss, visit the sites to investigate… and get infected.

Solving the problem is more difficult. Currently the most effective mechanism is to create Google Analytics filters can be created to hide/remove the spam data from Google Analytics reports. Whilst effective, these filters can require regular maintenance as the spammers regularly switch to new domain names.

As referrer spam undermines users’ confidence in Google Analytics reporting, it is hoped that Google itself will eventually tackle the problem to block this spam traffic from its servers.

Need assistance in the meantime? Give WSI Chester a call on 01928 787026

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Improve your Landing Pages to raise ROI – Infographic


Improving Customer Acquisition – Video

Customer acquisition is the key objective for the digital marketing strategy for almost every company.

This video highlights five essential components to incorporate into that plan to help ensure success.

1. Research the market.

2. Create and curate targeted content

3. Monitor and analyse activity

4. Make marketing decisions based upon data

5. Be mobile friendly first.

Words to avoid in Email Marketing subject lines

The subject line of a marketing email is arguably the most important part of the whole email. It acts as the gatekeeper to your content, determining who will open it and who will ignore it.

The most effective email subject lines tend to be short and descriptive, giving the reader good reasons to explore your message further. Whereas ‘cheesy’ subject lines are a turn-off for most readers.

Subject lines that explains the benefits the reader will get from the email are more successful than those which instruct the reader what to do. Readers like “what’s in it for me” information.

A recent article from eConsultancy looked at the positive and negative impact of certain words in subject lines, and had some great tips. It also looked at whether you should use emojis or graphic symbols.

Here’s some other advice on improving email marketing open rates:

- Avoid words like “free”, “help”, “reminder”, per cent off”. They may avoid the spam filter but all have been shown to negatively affect open rates.

- Use email personalisation with care. Research shows that overall it has minimal impact on open rates if done well, but negative impact if the data is inaccurate or incomplete.

- Email newsletters – the same rules apply. Change the title with every newsletter – give people a reason to open it this time. They need to understand there is something new for them inside. Otherwise open rates of newsletters tend to decline over time.

- Subject line length – keep it concise and to a single message. Around 50 characters appears to be the sweet spot.

- Think about the ‘pre-header’ content – many email clients will display the first few words of the email content together with the subject line in the InBox. So similar rules should apply to that as well.

- The ‘From:’ line information. This can have a major influence on open rates. Consistency can build trust over time with readers. It therefore adds credibility to the subject line itself.


Probably the simplest and best guidance is to think about what you would like if you were the recipient!