How to block Washingtonpost.com referral spam in Google Analytics

3 Methods: Campaign Source Filter  |  Campaign Referral Path Filter | Language Settings Filter

A Russian spammer is spamming Washingtonpost.com referral traffic in your Google Analytics data to show support for Trump.

A famous Russian referrer spammer named Vitaly Poplov has been on quite a campaign lately. He recently started to spam webpages of legitimate websites across Google Analytics accounts and Washingtonpost.com is one of them. If your Google Analytics data is randomly targeted by the spammer you will notice an unusual amount of referral traffic coming from a webpage on washingtonpost.com. Other legitimate (and legitimate-looking) domain names that this spammer has spammed include motherboard.vice.comlifehacĸer.comreddit.comabc.xyz, thenextweb.com, and addons.mozilla.org.

washingtonpost.com referral

The reason why you are seeing this spam in your Google Analytics reports is because Washington Post published an article references Donald Trump’s victory with the electoral college vote (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-electoral-college-is-poised-to-pick-trump-despite-push-to-dump-him/2016/12/19/75265c16-c58f-11e6-85b5-76616a33048d_story.html?utm_term=.6f56a5bfcfd1). Vitaly is a Trump supporter and has spammed secret messages in Google Analytics reports in support of his presidency before.

washingtonpost.com spam

The spammer is doing this all for fun. It is not malicious at this time. Vitaly has been spamming other URLs and hidden keywords in promotion of his own search engine for a very long time and he doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The downside to this persistent spammer is that his work can ruin your Google Analytics data and make it hard to monitor your website’s appropriate information. The traffic acquired from referrer spam can affect most of the data in your GA reports. For example, the referrals will appear to land on a single webpage on your website and leave from the same website and this will create a 100% bounce rate. If your website is targeted by referrer spammers you may not be able to identify your website’s actual bounce rate unless you filter the traffic out.

washingtonpost.com google analytics

Although referrer spam can ruin your analytical data it will not harm your website or affect your website’s SEO, including your rank in Google search results pages. This is simply spam that wants to get your attention.

The spammer will utilize various tactics in order to make it look like your website received referral traffic from washingtonpost.com even though it really did not. This type of web traffic is a specific type of web traffic known as “ghost traffic.” The spammer essentially sends phantom visitors to your website’s Google Analytics account in order to make it appear as if someone visited your website from the referral URL.

Referrer spammers usually target your website’s data for several reasons:

  • Referrer spammers want to promote a website and want you to visit the webpage or search for it online through Google search engine results pages.
  • Referrer spammers want to boost their rank on Google search engine results pages by creating backlinks. They do this by logging requests into your website’s access log, which is then crawled by Google’s indexing bots and seen as a backlink to the spam site.

Campaign Source Filter

Only use this filter if you do not wish to receive referral traffic from Washingtonpost.com. Washingtonpost.com is a popular website and blocking referral traffic from the website might be the optimal choice. I do not recommend that you block all traffic from this website. To block the exact referral path use the Alternative Filter below.

1. Open your Google Analytics account and go to the Admin tab > Click Filters on the right side in the VIEW section.

2. Click the + ADD FILTER button to create a new exclude filter.

3. Add Washingtonpost.com or something you can easily remember as the Filter Name.

4. Select the Custom Filter Type.

5. In Filter Field, find and select Campaign Source in the list. In the Filter Pattern text box, add Washingtonpost.com and click the blue Save button on the bottom of the webpage. To add multiple URLs to the same filter you can make a Filter Pattern similar to this with a | between each URL: Example.com | Example\.com | Washingtonpost.com

Campaign Referral Path Filter

1. Open your Google Analytics account and go to the Admin tab > Click Filters on the right side in the VIEW section.

2. Click the + ADD FILTER button to create a new exclude filter.

3. Add Washingtonpost.com or something you can easily remember as the Filter Name.

4. Select the Custom Filter Type.

5. In Filter Field, find and select Campaign Referral Path in the list. In the Filter Pattern text box, add /politics/the-electoral-college-is-poised (or a larger portion of th permalink) and click the blue Save button on the bottom of the webpage

Language Settings Filter

A language settings filter can be used to block language spam in Google Analytics.

1. Log in to your Google Analytics account and go to the Admin tab

2. In the “View” column select Filters and then click + Add Filter

3. Add a Filter Name: Language Spam (or something you can easily remember)

4. Go to: Filter Type > Custom > Exclude

5. Select Filter FieldLanguage settings

6. Add a Filter Pattern\s[^s]*\s|.{15,}|\.|,

7. Click on the blue text that says Verify this filter to see a preview table of how this filter will work in your account. You should only see language spam on the left side of the table: filter-verification-language-spam

8. After you verify the filter click the Save button on the bottom of the page