Why Your Website Traffic isn’t What You Think It Is by @SixDegreesDM

by Angela Moore | Featured Contributor

I hate being the bearer of bad news. Really, I do. But this is important.

You know how exciting it is to get your website up and start promoting it right? And you probably know that you can track your website traffic and user behavior with Google Analytics (GA).

It’s a free tool and it’s pretty straightforward.

Here’s where it gets tricky. If you are just looking at the birdseye view of your traffic, such as number of visits, time on site, bounce rate, etc., you’re not really getting the full picture. There’s a section in GA that shows you Referral Traffic.

Here’s what you’ll generally see when you login to your GA account, the Overview in the Dashboard:
traffic iverview

Next, if you want to get information on where your visitors are coming from, you’ll check the Acquisition section. This gives info on Organic, Paid, Direct, Social, Referral and Other. Now most of that is pretty easy to understand.
all traffic

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Organic – This means someone found you by searching something online and your site shows up in the search engines and they click on it.
  • Paid- This is your traffic from Adwords if you have it set up and hooked to your analytics account (and that’s really a must have).
  • Direct – Someone typed your website address in manually. Maybe from a business card, a brochure, and ad they saw in a print format or heck even from a radio or tv ad.
  • Social – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, all the social platforms that you have a presence on. (This is a good way to see how effective each one is if you aren’t sure).
  • Referral – Aha, now things are getting interesting. Here’s what you might not know. Referral traffic covers a lot of stuff. Typically you’ll see things like other search engines in here, any directories or local business listings you might be in, traffic from sites you guest post on or press releases that sent you traffic, really anything at all that doesn’t fit in one of the above categories.

Here’s what a good set of referral links looks like:

good referral traffic


As you start scrolling through the pages of your referring traffic, you may come across something that just doesn’t look quite right such as this:
spam referral traffic

These are what’s known as spam referral links. Here’s what happens. Spammers of the universe will replace the link names (or not), in an attempt to get you to click on the site. Ridiculous I know.

It’s similar to email spam and you know there are still people that fall for that sadly. I actually have met two people who fell for that Nigerian money scam. But back to our story at hand.
The thing is, it’s a similar deal where they try to get as many people to come to their site as possible and they are typically trying to sell a product via an affiliate link and they’ll make money if someone purchases.

The touch part is not all spam links are easy to detect by the name so you may end up clicking on them. Now of course you are too smart to buy anything but here’s where this becomes a problem.
It messes with your analytics data. So let’s say you have a hundred visits a day but there were 20 visits reporting from spam links. Well that screws up your data because it inflated the total traffic, not to mention it increases the bounce rate as well (and that doesn’t make Google happy as it looks like your site isn’t popular).

Here’s what I do with my site and my client’s site. I use a handy WordPress plugin and add the spam sites there. There are some standard spam links that the plugin already blocks.

Here are a couple of choices for you.

analytics spam blocker

bot blocker

Now I will say that they don’t catch and stop all of the spam links immediately. You may still see them even after you try to block them. Sometimes I’ve seen the same link for months then it dies off. Other times I block the link once and it’s gone forever.

I recommend starting with this if you’re not highly technical. There’s another option that works with your htaccess file that you may want to talk to you website manger about.

Keep an eye on your real traffic so you know what’s working best with your marketing.


Angela MooreAh the Bio section. Let’s change this up and start with a quote. “Don’t adjust your dreams to accommodate your reality, adjust your reality to accommodate your dreams.” Yep I wrote that. I’m Angela Moore, Founder and President of Six Degrees Digital Media. We launched the company in May of 2010 and have the good fortune to still be helping others. We love creating awesome video over at Six Degrees as well as e-Courses and websites. If you need help telling your story, we’re here for you.

Also, I’m a mom of two awesome kids, which I believe is my real legacy. And if you’re still reading this, I’ll throw in that I’m a huge fan of Disney (movies and the park), as well as superheroes. I’d love to save the world but right now I’ll settle for saving the Internet one byte at a time.

Connect with me anywhere you like.


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2 Replies to “Why Your Website Traffic isn’t What You Think It Is by @SixDegreesDM”

  1. Angela Moore

    Indeed, Google is a great assistant. 🙂 And if you have Google Search Console set up and connected to GA that’s an extra benefit as well. Glad you have your niece to help you out.

  2. Lori

    Thank you Angela, I noticed some nefarious spam traffic after the US election 😮
    It’s gone away now. I will keep these options in mind in case I need them.

    GA is a mystery to me, overall! I am very good at collecting data (in this case, GA does the work) but deciphering it is another story! Thankfully, my niece is adept at it and she helps me out!

    Have a good one!

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