It might be time to replace Google Analytics with WordPress Jetpack Stats. There are over 30 features that Jetpack offers other than traffic stats, but this post will only deal with Jetpack stats and compare it to Google Analytics.
The internet is awash with referral spam: Semalt, Seo-Best-Offer, GuardLink, ILoveItaly, and many more. The list grows everyday. Referral spam makes all of the website traffic to a site worthless, especially low traffic sites.
There are hundreds of posts and articles covering this epidemic and how to treat the issue. None seem to get the job done completely as everyday there are new urls, proxy ip addresses, and different tactics.
Google analytics is a great tool but it is very archaic with managing what should be extremely simple tasks. If a site admin wants to block data from the bogus referrers they have an option to set a customized filter through the main dashboard. The problem is it is temporary and as soon as the admin leaves the page all the bogus referrals show up again. There is not a way to save the custom filters created on the dashboard.
To save a filter an admin has to go to create custom filters in the account settings. To fix referral spam on the sites we manage we had to start using multiple with multiple expressions based on “referrer paths” and “source campaigns.” We also had to duplicate these and use filter expressions with urls separated by “pipes” as well as urls with backslashes before the top-level domains (like before .com and .org) also separated by “pipes.” Even more annoying than this is Google Analytics filters only allow 250 characters and the input section is only a single spaced, small area. This makes it extremely difficult to monitor and make entries. Why Google Analytics does not have a normal sized text area is beyond me. Why it has an arbitrary 250 character limit for filters is also puzzling. The most puzzling thing is why some of the filtered urls still manage to creep in. It is extremely annoying.
Filters have drawbacks:
- Filters are destructive. Filtering your incoming hits permanently changes those hits in that view, according to the type of filter. Therefore, you should ALWAYS maintain an unfiltered view of your data.
- Filters require up to 24 hours before they are applied to your data.
- Fields specified in a filter must exist in the hit and not be null in order for the filter to be applied to that hit. For example, if you are filtering on Hostname, but the hit does not contain that field (perhaps the hit was sent via the Measurement Protocol and that request did not contain the
&dhparameter), then any filters acting on Hostname will be ignored and the hit will be processed as if there was no filter.
Compare this to WordPress Jetpack coupled with a WordPress account. Using Jetpack with a WordPress account has the easiest solution for blocking referral spam. Just create an account at WordPress.com if you do not have one yet. Make sure you authorize Jetpack to connect to your WordPress.com account. Then log into the dashboard for WordPress account. Go to your site stats and the referrers section. Click the three dots next to any referrer that is an expected spammer and a little box will pop with word SPAM in it. Then just click the word SPAM. This referrer will never show up in your statistics again, not on your WordPress.com account stats or any websites connected to your WordPress account. It is as simple as that.
Jetpack has very limited data. It shows basically referrers, country, views (posts, pages, projects, etc), and visitor count. It is not nearly as detailed as Google Analytics but can serve to give quick updates of the big picture of your traffic which is adequate for most websites.
Google analytics is still a good tool and you need to install it for all of your sites. If anything it has to help with page ranking (no one knows for sure but we suspect it does). It also offers a lot of different features: advertising and campaign performance tracking, real-time reporting, and testing with content experiments. It has more detailed data: demographics, language, location, page, visitor flow, landing page, time spent, bounce rate, and much more. Jetpack will not be able to adequately replace Google Analytics…
BUT until Google Analytics gets a handle on spam referral (they no doubt will but when is another matter) the data is not accurate, practically useless. It is a hassle to keep configuring, and even when it is correctly configured it does not always work. We suggest consider using Jetpack with a WordPress.com account to streamline your tracking until this problem is remedied.