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Spambot / Ghost Filter Expanded – Deployment Recommended

Google Analytics ghost filter

A dramatic increase in spambot / ghost referral traffic was noticed over the past two months in Google Analytics reports. To block the spambot / ghost data from corrupting your sites’ analytics, a substantially expanded spambot / ghost filter was developed and tested.

The previous filter was designed to stop about 25 of the biggest spambot / ghost offenders. The new filter is designed to stop about 225 of the leading culprits.

Web Communication will continue to monitor GA data/reports for new spambot/ghost offenders, and eventually will create a second filter. (We hit Google’s character limitation with this expansion.)

Website/Google Analytics account managers are strongly encouraged to deploy the updated filter as soon as possible. (Please note: Departments that are partnering with Web Communications to help maintain Google Analytics accounts/properties have already had their spambot/ghost filters updated.)

If you are maintaining your own GA accounts/properties, here are the steps involved. (Estimated time: 1-2 minutes)

  • Log into your Google Analytics account.
  • Select a Google Analytics account.
  • Click on “All Filters.”
  • Select the ‘referral spam bots ghosts’ filter.
  • Highlight and DELETE the old “Filter Pattern.”
  • Copy and paste in the following filter pattern in the same field:

(.*(rich|uptim|websi|money|rank|site-|seo|keyword|sexy|share|search|traffic|porn|-?social-?|-button|o-o-|semalt|Get-Free|buttons-|darodar|cookie-law|compliance-|law-|ilove).*)\.(com|net|org|biz|co|es|online|info)|.*\.(xyz|it|рф|top|xn|me|ga|рф|cf|ro|ru)

  • Check the first and last characters to make sure the entire filter pattern was accepted, and nothing was cut off.
  • Click ‘Save’.
  • Exit the account.

Thank you for your help in keeping WSU analytics accurate.

**Special thanks to Jeremy Bass for his expert coding in creating this filter.

“Skip to” links for screen readers added to the Spine Parent Theme

The 109th release of the WSUWP Spine Parent Theme, version 0.27.1, was deployed earlier today. It finally adds helper links for screen readers that make skipping straight to the main content or the primary navigation much more pleasant.

Hit “Tab” on your keyboard once when a page first loads to see a Skip to main content link. Hit “Tab” a second time to see Skip to navigation. Hitting “Enter” on either of these will focus your keyboard on that area of the page, making it easier to navigate through other portions from there. Note that if you’re logged in, you’ll get a Skip to toolbar link first to help with WordPress navigation.

The concept of bypassing blocks of content is described as part of WCAG 2.0 2.4.1.

If you notice any issues related to this implementation, please let us know via a new issue on the Spine Parent Theme repository. And drop in on open labs every Friday morning to discuss!

Edit CSS updated with new features on WSUWP

Version 2.2.0 of WSUWP Custom CSS has been released and deployed to the WordPress platform at WSU.

This release contains a handful of things that may be interesting to anyone spending time editing CSS on their site.

Edit CSS now supports easy saving via AJAX. Rather than click “Save Stylesheet” every time you have a change to save, you can use CMD-s or CTRL-s on your keyboard. A message will briefly show at the top of the screen showing the progress of the save and then you’ll be able to continue working.

Support for full screen editing is also available. Hit ESC on the keyboard whenever the cursor is focused on the Edit CSS window and the code editor will fill the browser window. AJAX saving with CMD-s and CTRL-s works in this view as well.

Thanks to Nate Owen for both of those changes!

Also of note:

  • The CSS preprocessor settings have been removed. These never actually worked in our implementation, so now the clutter is gone. 🙂
  • The font-feature-settings property is now supported.
  • Multiple display properties are supported in a single CSS rule.

Enjoy the changes. If you have any requests for missing properties or new features, please open an issue on GitHub, stop by a weekly open lab, or leave a note in the WSU Web Slack.

Managing editorial access for pages on WordPress at WSU

In a default WordPress installation, users with a role of Author, Contributor, or Subscriber have varying levels of access to posts, but do not have access to create or edit pages. Users with a role of Editor or Administrator have full access to both.

At WSU, pages are frequently more useful than posts for managing large amounts of content on a site. We have made a few adjustments to the Author and Contributor roles so that more users have access to pages without having the full set of capabilities associated with the Editor or Administrator roles.

New Pages

Authors and Contributors can create new pages by default, but must submit them for review before they are published. An Editor or Administrator can review the content and then publish when ready. As long as the page has not been published, the creating Author or Contributor can continue to edit the page and resubmit for review.

Editors and Administrators can always create and publish new pages.

Existing Pages

Authors and Contributors are not able to edit existing pages by default, even if they are assigned as the page author.

If the administrator for the site enables the Editorial Access Manager plugin, which is available for all sites on the WSU platform, Authors and Contributors can be assigned as editors for the page by either role or user. Once assigned as an editor for a page, Authors and Contributors are able to edit all parts of the page and publish their changes at will.

If you have any questions about access to pages and posts by any of the user roles, please feel free to stop by open lab on Friday mornings or in the WSU Web Slack team at any time.

March 11 – Open Lab Recap

Howdy! Here’s a recap of the topics we discussed during open labs this week. We’ll turn comments on at some point in the near future. For now, if you have any questions or suggestions, check out the WSU Web Slack team.

Background images on columns

Background images can now be assigned to columns in the page builder interface. Use the gear icon on a column to bring up the interface to enter the image URL. This is similar to how background images can be added to sections.

The background image itself will only take up the size of the content in that column. The equalize class can be assigned to a section to make all column heights equal in that section.

TablePress DataTables Row Grouping

We’re not entirely sure how to use this feature yet, but we’re looking into it. 🙂

Gradient backgrounds

While Marsha was showing off the work she’s been doing on https://hws.wsu.edu, we explored CSS gradients vs image gradients. ColorZilla provides a gradient editor, which is a good resource for generating CSS gradients.

Are testimonials worth it?

Sheilah brought up an interesting resource that seems to claim that social testimonials are better than talking about yourself. The UI of goodui.org is a little strange though, so it’s hard to tell if it really is bad. We seemed to have some group agreement that fake testimonials are bad, authenticity goes a long way. (And talking about the work you’re doing isn’t bad at all.)

More flexible roles

There are several roles and capabilities that need work throughout the platform. Joyce brought up an issue where some folks may only need access to add calendar events, but should not be able to publish posts and pages without review. We’re tracking our wishlist of future roles and capabilities on GitHub in WSUWP Platform issue #274.

People Directory discussion

We talked through some of the current status of the people directory, including the possibility of mass importing users by WSU NID. If you have examples for how you would like people records to appear when syndicated on your site, please chime in on Slack. We’ll be looking to add a couple other HTML templates soon to cover some basic cases.

Thanks everyone!

Analytics properties linked to Search Console

google_search_console_image

Over the next few weeks, Web Communications will be “associating” Google Analytics properties (within the *.wsu.edu family) with their corresponding Webmaster Tools / Search Console accounts. About 40 associations have been completed so far.

The natural response: ‘So what? What is that going to do for me?’

The Search Console allows website/GA owners to better see:

  • What pages have been indexed on your site
  • What domains link to your site
  • Errors encountered by web crawlers
  • The crawl rate of your site
  • Your website’s performance in Google organic searches
  • More data regarding keywords, landing pages, devices, etc.

Please note: This step, to associate GA properties with their Webmaster Tools/Search Console, is being performed only on Google Analytics accounts over which the site owners have granted Web Communication access and permission to help. Site owners who maintain their own GA accounts, without Web Communications assistance, might want to take this step on their own, in order to benefit from the additional analytics data.

For additional information, see https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/4559176

Protect your Web analytics from spambots/ghosts

google analytics logoWebsite traffic from referral spambots/ghosts has been invading many WSU websites and corrupting the reliability of Google Analytics data – at both the site and universitywide level. As a result, spambot/ghost filters need to be deployed on all *.wsu.edu websites.

To combat spambot/ghost data corruption, WSU Web Communication has developed, tested and monitored several spam filters over the past several months.

Like email spam, the sources of this traffic mutate regularly and eventually get around the newest filters, at which point filters need to be reconfigured.

Spam in Google Analytics can be categorized by two types: ghosts and crawlers. Ghosts comprise the vast majority of referral spam. They are called ghosts because they never access your site, but they do corrupt site data and university’s global data.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the newest referral spam filter was deployed/updated to about 50 Google Analytics accounts and their properties. These are Google Analytics accounts which the site owner has granted Web Communication access and permission to help oversee.

However, there are a number of websites and corresponding Google Analytics accounts in the *.wsu.edu family with which Web Communication does not assist. Because the Google Analytics data from those websites negatively affects/corrupts universitywide global analytics, it is requested that those sites install an effective, current referral spam/ghost filter as soon as possible.

If you would like Web Communication to assist you with setting up and maintaining your Google Analytics, please contact Robert Frank, rfrank@wsu.edu, 335-7727. (Note: Ownership of GA accounts/properties always remain that of the site manager/owner. Web Communication is only there to help to the degree desired.)

Thanks in advance for your time and prompt help.

(Special thanks to Jeremy Bass, who has written the code for the spam/ghost filters.)

** FYI, don’t forget to check out universitywide analytics at https://analytics.wsu.edu

Releases: WSUWP Platform 1.4.0, WordPress 4.4.2

WordPress 4.4.2 was released yesterday and the WSUWP Platform was immediately updated to match. There are no large changes, though several bug fixes and two security fixes were included. WordPress 4.5 is scheduled for April.

What follows here is the full release information for WSUWP Platform 1.4.0, from our open source project on GitHub.

This is the thirty-third production release of our open source WSUWP Platform project. The official tag of this release is 1.4.0.

A full comparison of changes is available is available. Here are the notes from the release:

Enhancements

  • Upgrade WordPress 4.4.2
  • Allow network admins to promote users of their network to network admins.
  • Search site URL as well as site name in each network’s quick search under My Networks.
  • Enable zip file uploads for all sites. “Extended” networks are no longer used.

Bugs

  • Clear the wsuwp:site cache key for a domain/path when a site is deleted.
  • Ensure the “View” link is consistently places in the admin header when editing a post/page.
  • Fix logic to determine if My Networks menu should be shown. Users of multiple networks will now see My Networks.
  • Fix mistyped branch used for provisioning in Vagrantfile.

A global analytics dashboard for WSU

We’ve been pounding the University pavement over the last several months in an attempt to consolidate the ways that groups track web analytics. As more and more groups apply a unified analytics configuration to their Google Analytics accounts, we’re able to see a better picture of how the web is used at WSU.

Today we launched analytics.wsu.edu, our global analytics dashboard, so that everyone can see some of the basic usage data being captured.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 2.37.48 PM

Counts for “people on WSU websites now“, “Visits Today“, and Top Pages” are updated every minute. Counts for “Top Domains” and the data under “Visits in the Past 90 Days” are updated every morning.

Having this data available is good for a few reasons:

  • Designers and developers working on University websites now have a way to quickly view recent browser and operating system statistics. This helps to make more informed decisions around what technology to use and support.
  • We’re able to see the depth of the web within the University at a glance and compare the popularity of different domains over time. We also see what’s popular in the moment. Even today after we first fired the site up, we were intrigued by some of the current hot spots.
  • Because it’s cool. 🙂

Leaving your browser window open for several minutes can be a lot of fun as you see the various pages that become popular and then drop off.

A lot of work went into the data. Herding analytics settings across a University is not an easy task.

What made the dashboard itself easy is the work of 18F, a digital services delivery team within the United States General Services Administration. In March of 2015, they announced the launch of analytics.usa.gov and open sourced both the code powering the website and the code pulling data from the Google Analytics API.

It took a total of around 4 hours to take this public domain work from 18F and launch it as a WSU web property at analytics.wsu.edu. And it looks great!

Of course, in the spirit of the original project—and in our general spirit, we’ve also open sourced the code behind analytics.wsu.edu. It joins another 168 repositories the WSU Web Communication team has made public. Check it out and please don’t hesitate to open an issue with any desired changes, comments, or questions.

And if you have a website at Washington State University that does not already have global analytics applied, please reach out so that your site can be a part of this dashboard as well.

Open Lab Schedule – December 2016

With the pending slowdown of the holiday season, we’re going to pause open labs for a few weeks. Here’s the plan:

  • December 11, 2016 – Open Labs in ITB 2025 as scheduled from 9:30am-11:30am
  • December 18, 2016 – A more informal Open Labs in ITB 2006 from 9:30am-11:30am
  • December 25, 2016 – No Open Labs
  • January 1, 2016 – No Open Labs
  • January 8, 2016 – Back to normal with Open Labs in ITB 2025 from 9:30am-11:30am

If we don’t see you before the end of the year, have a happy holiday!