More Traffic Data Pollution Hits Google Analytics Users

If you are seeing a slight uptick in traffic to your website, you aren’t alone. Unfortunately, it’s someone polluting Google Analytics again.

For a lot of website administrators, trying to figure out how well the site is performing is a huge thing to know. It helps them figure out what content is popular and what directions they might want to take the website. So, many rely on Google Analytics. A simple line of code dropped into the site and general user information comes rolling into their console after. In many cases, metrics are calculated in more ways than most administrators would know how to deal with.

For full disclosure, Freezenet also uses Google Analytics to track users in this manner. As suggested above, it’s to track website performance.

For years, the data it tracks is generally quite reliable. Yes, some users began blocking trackers, but this only affected a small percentage of users.

Unfortunately, the reliability of the data suddenly was ripped away from administrators in 2016. That is when a massive amount of hacking took place to try and help the now impeached president, Donald Trump, win the presidency. Freezenet saw this happen back then when a sudden surge in traffic hit our Analytics. Unprepared for the possibility that bots would be polluting the statistics, we, at first, thought that more people were viewing the site in general given that no one page experienced the surge. After a day or so, we dug deeper into the data and found the source sitting in the “language” section with “Vote Trump” messages parked there.

After weeks of complaints, Google finally figured out how to block the bots from polluting the data, but the damage done was left in. Of course, Google has plenty of reason to try and block out the data given that the reliability is a big draw to their products in the first place. So, it was a big surprise that it took so long to fix the issue.

Ever since the incident, many started saying how much less reliable the data is in the first place. If you are wondering what the origin of this is, chances are, it was the likely Russian based hacking inflating the numbers that convinced many that the numbers are more of a possible idea rather than a rock solid reliable source.

While there has been a few years of relative calm, it seems that others are taking advantage of this more obscure method of spamming users. Since January 5th, Freezenet has been monitoring a sudden uptick in traffic. Of course, knowing what happened with the pro-Trump hacking, we began investigating whether this rise in traffic is legitimate or not. Sure enough, it wasn’t. If one were to go under “Acquisitions”, Channels, then click on “Referrals”, you will see the source of the problem.

Now, it’s worth pointing out a number of things. The biggest being, do not visit the site. For all you know, something like this is simply a method for malicious third parties to install drive-by downloads onto your computer. Additionally, one can also filter this data out to get more reliable data.

Also, to avoid the spread of this spam, we won’t mention the domain in full. Let’s just say that it contains “bot4” in the URL and leave it at that.

Another takeaway is that if you see a small bump (the smaller of a site you are, the larger the bump is going to be), investigate the different sources to determine if it’s just spam. It might not be a Tweet or a posting on Reddit that did it.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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