What is Language Spam?

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As if we weren’t suffering high enough levels of ‘Trump fatigue’ in the wake of the 2016 US Elections, Trump-related messages have wormed their way into websites’ Google Analytics (GA) in the form of language spam referencing the President-Elect. This spam – regrettably now a worldwide phenomenon – plays havoc with web data. But what is language spam, exactly, and how do you purge it from your GA?

Language Spam Versus Referral Spam

Those of us who work with Google Analytics have been aware of referral spam for some years. Much like spam emails clogging up your inbox, referral spam is an unwelcome, malicious, intrusion. You see this spam in the dashboard of your GA where it shows up as a fake traffic referral. As a curious web owner or manager, you’d naturally wonder about the site that’s referring so much traffic your way and follow the link to check it out – inadvertently fulfilling the referral spammer’s aim to generate traffic to their sites, and/or earn money from the referral. Language spam first appeared in November 2016, around the time of the US Presidential Elections, and takes referral spamming to a new level – inserting messages into your GA along the lines of these:

  • secret.google.com you are invited! enter only with this ticket url. copy it. vote for trump!
  • Vitaly rules google
  • Congratulations to trump and all americans.

Why Trump you may ask? Well, it could be that the originator of all this language spam – a Russian by the name of Vitaly Popov – is the world’s biggest Trump fan. Or he’s figured out the very best way to draw attention to himself, as Google searches for information on this spam type, as well as traffic to his own site via the links lovingly left in others’ GAs, skyrocket. By hijacking Google Analytics, not only has he set himself up as Google’s nemesis – as they scramble to combat the spam, and engage in a cat-and-mouse game with the hacker – but he’s become an internet celeb, albeit a notorious and elusive one.
Remember: Just as with links in dodgy emails, don’t click on suspicious links in your GA, either!

What to do About Language Spam?

Language spam has the following effects on a website’s analytics:

  • Inflates pageviews
  • Pushes up the average session duration
  • Lowers the bounce rate, all of which over-inflate a website’s performance.

Such corruption of Google Analytics has profound implications, such as:

  • Making a true analysis of a website’s performance difficult, which has a knock-on effect on marketing strategy and tactics
  • Inflated web traffic isn’t good news for websites that use metrics such as pageviews to attract advertising investment.

Unfortunately, referral and language spam – like spammy emails – can never be entirely eliminated. This is because hackers keep coming up with new and innovative ways to hit their targets. This is why it’s vital that you constantly monitor your Google Analytics for any unusual activity, and take steps to rectify it. This involves applying an ‘exclude filter’ which blocks the spam from your data – read more about this in The Definitive Guide to Removing Google Analytics Spam. Note that while these filters will filter spam from your GA data going forwards, they unfortunately can’t remedy historical data.

Need Help Removing Language Spam from Google Analytics?

Easy2Access’s team has been hard at work removing language spam from the Google Analytics of its digital marketing clients – ensuring that their data is functioning as it should. If you need assistance in cleaning out the spam from your GA, give us a shout