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Web Communication analytics

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

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.

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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.