Traffic has spiked — hallelujah! This is what you’ve been working towards!
Pause: before you start celebrating, it’s good to do your due diligence and make sure that glorious, spiked blue line under “All Users” is in fact genuine users visiting the site, and not spam.
The checklist to determine whether or not increased traffic is spam is not too difficult to follow. You’ll probably know in 10 minutes whether it’s time to do a celebratory dance, or if you need to solve a problem. Either way, today you’re going to do something valuable.
Before taking action on that pesky spam traffic, be sure to read this article in full. It’s important that spam traffic is identified from multiple indicators.
Identify spam traffic by checking suspiciously high (or low) metrics in Google Analytics
There are four core metrics that can point toward spam traffic:
Average Session Duration
These Google Analytics metrics are incredibly useful for SEO and can be found in Google Analytics > Audience > Overview. Simple!
The more metrics throwing a suspiciously high or low result, the more likely it is that traffic is spam.
GA graph shows Audiences > Overview report. Metrics are looking healthy; no suspicious results. The four metrics used to determine if traffic is spam are highlighted with a blue rectangle.
#1 Average Session Duration
Average Session Duration in Google Analytics shares how long, on average, a user (visitor/person) has spent on a website during one session (a visit).
Generally, spam traffic doesn’t spend long on a website. Spam traffic isn’t browsing the site — it’s not reading blogs or researching the products or services provided. Instead, spam traffic usually lands on a page, then bounces.
#2 Bounce Rate
Bounce Rate on Google Analytics is an incredibly useful metric for indicating that there’s a problem on the site.
The Bounce Rate metric shares the percentage of users who visited one page on the site, didn’t engage, didn’t click to another page, and left. Every user who lands on a page and leaves on the same page without clicking to another counts as a bounce.
*A little note for those who are using GA4 (I salute you!), Bounce Rate is no longer a metric. It was replaced by Engagement Rate.
As always with SEO and data analysis, you need to contextualize the data. Not all pages with a high bounce rate indicate a problem. For example, organic traffic might search “brand name + telephone number”, visit the contact page from SERPs, grab the number, and leave to make a call. It’s a bounce, but it’s not a bad thing — the user was served.
One guarantee is that a percentage of users will bounce. Artificially low bounce rates definitely need attention. Pictured below is a screenshot from a client’s Google Analytics account. Their analytics was reporting a 1.47% bounce rate. Seem a little too good to be true? It is.
After some investigation, this site was found to have two analytics tags. The duplicated UA codes were skewing the results. It’s for reasons such as this that I reiterate the importance of checking numerous data points before assuming increased traffic is spam.
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