If you’ve had your site for a while you’ll likely have experienced spam in your analytics. I know I have.
Thursday morning was cold. The weather was slightly foggy & overcast, and I foolishly only brought running shorts & a t-shirt. Despite the conditions I ran 3.2 miles and I had an 8:57 minute pace which is the best time I've had in over a year!
This past year I've been hot & cold with running. On average I ran twice a month. But there were months where I didn't run at all. And one month where I ran eight times. There was no consistency. And every time I started running after a break I had to start all over again. Running 12 minute miles which is pretty bad for me.
Over the last few weeks I've been talking to WooCommerce store owners. I've been asking them questions about what they're struggling with, what they want to learn about, and where they want to go.
I've been asking these sorts of questions for the last couple of years. But recently I've heard different responses:
“There’s a perception in the community that Automattic is taking over all the things”
“I’ve been using [WooCommerce] since 2011. It was pretty crap back then.”
“The Woo people were the least interesting, most boring, most useless talks.”
I'm getting lots of positive feedback but I've seen an increase in negative feedback.
It was July and I was in Berlin for the WooTrip, an annual gathering of all my coworkers working on WooCommerce. I was meeting new people, I was learning… and I was also planning on leaving.
That week, I had a choice to make. One option was a rock and the other a hard place.
I've been creating courses for Lynda.com since last summer and I finally released the course that I've been dying to work on. It's actually the very first course that I pitched to them. Hint: it involves WordPress + eCommerce. Today I'm pleased to announce that WordPress Ecommerce: WooCommerce is available on Lynda.com.
One of the most effective ways to block spam is also one of the most complex. You can setup a filter to only record data that uses a valid host name. Now a hostname is the name of the website you're visiting (aka your website domain) so you should be able to list them on your fingers.
Crawler spam is what happens when a bot crawls through your site and leave fake data. They might leave a fake referral just to get you to check out the referring website.
In fact I've had this exact thing happen. I was looking at my analytics and thought someone mentioned one of my articles on Reddit because over a few day period I got several hundred visits. I wasted my time digging through analytics to try to find the exact post.
If you've been digging through your analytics you may have noticed some unusual data. If I go to my reporting page and scroll down I'll see a list of languages used on my site. And some of them are definitely spam.
In fact over the last month I've had over 1,000 spam visits. Those visits are enough to skew my data tarnishing any decisions based off of that data. Ex.
Wow this post is doing great – we should write more like it!
With just a bit of filtering we can remove this language spam which will make it easier to navigate our reports and it will give us much better data.
Data is only good as the methods you use to collect it. With Google Analytics you track everything including search bots which isn’t helpful. Search bots crawl every page of your site and could mess up your data. This is especially true if you have low traffic. Luckily, within Google Analytics there's a setting you can check to filter out known search bots.
Most site owners have one view for their site in Google Analytics. This is fine as long as you don't mess anything up. But if you accidentally filter some data out it's lost forever. There is no undo button. That's why whenever I work on anyone's analytics I always start by creating a backup view.
Creating this backup view only takes a few minutes and should you ever have to use that data it's right there at your fingertips. If you wait until after you make a mistake you will have already missed the chance to collect that data.
Create a Backup View
From the home page click on your main view (mine is Master in the image above). And then click Admin.
You’ll see a page to administer your account property, and views.
Click on your view and you’ll see a drop down. Click Create new view.
Type in the name. I recommend Unfiltered, set your timezone, and click Create View at the bottom of the page.
And we're done. It took less than 10 clicks and we have a brand new view without any filters so it will collect everything.
Creating a Test View
If you plan on doing a lot of filtering with Google Analytics you might also want a test view. That way you can test things out for a few weeks to make sure those changes are working and then apply them to your master view.
We’re going to do the same thing as above except we’ll actually copy over a few settings from our master view.
If we go back to our Master view and then click Admin we’ll be taken to the Administration page.
Click on View Settings.
And then click Copy view in the top right.
Rename the view and click Copy view.
Pros & Cons of Copying Views
So why do we copy for the test view and not the unfiltered view? Because when we copy a view if there are any existing filters they will be copied over. And we don't want that. We want it to be completely unfiltered.
Think of filters as a convenience. They prevent certain types of data from being added to Google Analytics which is very useful. But you can achieve the same thing with other tools like segments. It just takes a lot longer to apply the same rules to each of your segments rather than filtering the data as it comes in.