Tutorial: How To Filter Out Bot Traffic in Google Analytics

It’s easy to filter bot traffic in Google Analytics using a default filter, but removing all traces takes a little more work. Whether you want to make sure your marketing agency isn’t increasing your visitor numbers with the wrong type of traffic or you want to track your human marketing strategies, let’s show you how to remove bot traffic from your data results.

If you’re not using Google Analytics, you’re missing out on a great free service. The free version allows you to track real-time data with flow visualization, get social, conversion, multi-channel and custom reports, and employ advanced segmentation, app and mobile device tracking, video performance measurement, and ad software integration. To be eligible for the free version you’ll need less than 10 million hits on a monthly basis (most businesses are eligible) and you are ‘only’ permitted to track a maximum of 50,000 data rows. Data is refreshed every 24-hours and you can select up to 20 dimension and metric options.

Why Should I Filter Bot Traffic Data?

Why Should I Filter Bot Traffic Data?

The more you filter your data, the more accurate it is. Analytics software shows how users interact with your website; this information helps you to make the tweaks that encourage optimal interactions.

As advanced traffic bots are not human, they do what you tell them to. Your page design makes no difference to how they behave. When you don’t filter out bot traffic, your results will be less accurate in terms of human interactions. You won’t be able to make the necessary adjustments to attract and convert human traffic anywhere near as efficiently.

Furthermore, unwanted bots – spam – may be being sent to your website without your permission. You can remove these sources and traffic bot data together.

How Do I Remove Bot Traffic From Google Analytics Reports?

Your first step is to ensure you have permission to change your Google Universal Analytics account, so you’ll need to sign in as the Administrator. You should always create a new view first, rather than change defaults – any mistakes can be corrected.

Give this view a name, like Bot-Free Test View, and give it the same regions and time zone as the main view.

Google Analytics makes standard bot traffic removal easy by giving you an option under View Settings to exclude all hits from known bots and spiders. This single action will remove around ¾ of bot traffic from your data. However, advanced traffic bots are hard for Google to identify as Google bases its choices on quite simple criteria.

To remove bot traffic not recognised by Google Analytics, you’ll have to identify it yourself.

Check to see whether unwanted spam bot traffic is listed under Referrals

Under the Acquisition tab click on Referrals. Many bot sources are easy to identify via a footprint. For example, if a bot visits one URL for one second a thousand times a day, this footprint tells us it is a bot. The result will probably be removed if you exclude artificial traffic by default. More complex spam bots must be filtered out using a spam website list.

Other characteristics are bounce rates of 0% or 100%, hostname referrals that have not been set, and 0 second session times.

Sort your results using descending and ascending bounce rates to identify bots. To further specify your results, use advanced filters to add a threshold number of sessions. However, when using advanced traffic bot generators, you make bots hard to recognise. You will have to pick out spam bots one-by-one under the Referrals tab.

Create a referral exclusion list if you want to filter out traffic bots and spam bots for good. Make sure you really don’t want these results in your data as once you have amended your account, you won’t be able to go back. This is why you should set up a view, first.

Make a list of the top-level domain URLs that you want to filter out on Notepad or Text Editor. Use a pipe bar to separate the different websites and don’t forget the backslash in front of the domain extension (/.com). Something like:

spambota\.com|spambotb\.com|spambotc\.eu

Go to your Bot-Free view and Add Filter. You can call it Spam Bots or Identified Bots. Change the filter type to Custom and change Exclude Filter Field to Campaign Source.

Copy and paste your referral exclusion list to the Spam Bots filter. All of the domains in this list will be filtered out of the analytics data from now on.

Google Analytics 4 and Traffic Bot Filters

Google Analytics 4 uses data streams rather than views and Google says it has not yet developed a way to change views. All you can implement are the default filters.

If you want to filter traffic bots and spam bots from your results, using the Universal version is recommended. Universal mode is, so far, the best way to remove bot traffic from your analytics results and get human-only data to guide your conversion tactics.