Direct Traffic and Dark Social

Computer with graph on it with a monster coming out of the graph

Dark Social. It sounds ominous. You’re walking down a dimly lit hallway and get jumped by a talkative monster that attacks with sharp barbed words. EEEEEK! Dark social is actually an important aspect of your website traffic that you don’t realize is even there. Muahahahaha! Ok, I’m done.

If you’ve ever looked at Google Analytics and been frustrated by direct traffic, you’ll understand the mystery and allure of dark social. What is it? Why should you care?

What is Dark Social?

Gregarious monsters aside, dark social refers to social platforms used to transmit content but that aren’t covered by Google Analytics. When someone comes to your site from Facebook or Twitter, GA tracks it and shows it in the traffic. The same goes for Instagram and Pinterest.

These are major social outlets and Google recognizes them as such, but what about Facebook Messenger, What App, We Chat and countless others. Much like email marketing, they fall into the category of direct traffic.

This is the catch-all for traffic Google can’t or doesn’t track. Mixed in with spam traffic and email marketing is countless social media sources that you have no idea about…hence, dark social.

Why Should You Care About Dark Social?

In order to develop a proper marketing strategy, you need to know and understand where your traffic is coming from. Dark social apps such as Snapchat and Facebook Messenger send you traffic through cut and pasted URLs.

You’re talking with a friend and they send you a link to a cool product or blog post and you click on it. Boom! Traffic created, but you have no idea how it got there.

Imagine you’re working on your budget for social advertising such as boosted posts or tweets. You’ve got 500 hits from Facebook, so you decide to put money into it. What you don’t realize is Snapchat provided 700 hits, but you don’t know because it’s all in direct traffic.

What Can You Do About It?

Currently, there isn’t much to be done in Google Analytics unless you want to get into advanced segmentation or manual UTM tracking. It’s not capable of truly tracking these, but you can find programs online that help.

Dark social is a murky area or else they’d call it light social. If you want to learn more about it, feel free to contact us.

Brock Cooper

Brock has been doing SEO, Social Media Management and Marketing for seven years and has watched the industry shift and change, providing a unique perspective to clients. Brock is the recipient of two Associated Press awards and the Richard A. Laymon President's Award for Service by the renowned Horror Writer's Association. When he isn't scouring the Internet for the latest in SEO info, Brock enjoys writing short stories, teaching his wife and children the importance of Dr. Who and writing articles for various entertainment and video game sites.

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