recently i'm experiencing that GA is showing a ton of 'google.com / referral' traffic on 2 separate websites that i manage. Before this amount was near to zero. Both sites started to produce this anomaly just in a few days difference. That's why i think, maybe i modified some setting for both pages, but i can't figure out, yet what. Update 2019/03/25 now i'm sure it's connected to Google Ads config! But still no exact finding of what in there. Auto-tagging? Conversion linker tag in GTM? etc..?

see with your eyes: google.com / referral hits - but why? referral path: seems to be google search engine's uri city: (not set) Why? pages/session: seems diverse/normal (not bot?) session duration: nearly 0 (redirect?)

multiple hits spiking randomly throughout the day multiple hits spiking randomly throughout the day (started on 11 Mar) 5-10 hits at a (same) time!

The referral path shows (/search, /m/search) that these hits are coming from the Google search engine URI, is that right? And why the city is (not set)? They seem to be human hits because of the varying pages/session. BUT the session duration is mostly 0. That can feel like redirects. But then where/how?

more info:

  • No active 301 redirects set in .htaccess (as another Question dealt with it). I double checked it at both sites.

  • i checked in my Google Ads report, the 'google / cpc' data is right and in par between GA and G ads reporting

  • Both are Wordpress websites, with Yoast SEO + Really Simple SSL plugins active (and many more).

  • Both websites having active Google Ads campaigns + linked to Google Analytics.

  • Both are non ecommerce sites, just simple wp sites.

GA property or view settings or Google Ads settings maybe cause it? Advertising Reporting Features is turned on at both sites now. Can it be the reason? Any ideas? Thanks!

Update 2019/03/25 now i'm sure it's connected to Google Ads config! But still no exact finding of what in there. Auto-tagging? Conversion linker tag in GTM? etc..?

  • @BhargavJoshi yeah, can be botted..however i checked the Bot Filter at both sites view: 'Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders' is always checked. Maybe 3rd party seo tools / crawlers. Thats possible, i'm monitoring these sites with multiple 3rd party tools. But those hits in the report above are too many and with too diverse page/sessions..so i can't get the puzzle together yet. Mar 20, 2019 at 14:22
  • Were the landing pages for this traffic recently published? I found some old forum posts that indicate visits from Google News (which is also at www.google.com/search/) can be marked as referrals. I don't have a way to test that, and the "old forum posts" are ~8 years old, but it's another thing you could check.
    – Reve
    Mar 20, 2019 at 16:32
  • Is Google Analytics reporting correct levels of Google organic traffic? I'm thinking it could be organic traffic that is suddenly seen as referral traffic by GA. Mar 20, 2019 at 20:05
  • @Reve no, it's a long time established site (with very small, niche traffic). Thanks for your hint, though! In this case i more and more think this extra traffic is from some 3rd party popular crawler/tool i use. I'm asking those dev teams 1 by 1 maybe they can confirm it from their side. I uploaded 1 more image, there can see these spikes are happening random thru the day. But always like 5-10 at once., and with nearly 0 sec session duration. No idea :).. Mar 21, 2019 at 0:31
  • @StephenOstermiller no, unfortunately the organic traffic seems to be in constant level before and after this referral traffic spike, it seems to be properly displayed in the report as organic. This referral traffic in the other hand is weird: City: (not set), Session duration: 00:00:00 or 00:00:01.. it's a mistery for now. ; ) Mar 21, 2019 at 0:42


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