What is Dark Traffic?
Referral traffic, or the traffic that your website receives outside of search engines and direct visits to your website, is an important metric for understanding how other websites, blogs, e-mails, or social media platforms drive visitors to your website. As you would imagine, evaluating how customers are referred to your website is critical in order to optimize your monetization efforts, your partnerships, and overall marketing strategies. If your website is hit with a sudden incursion of dark traffic, however, it becomes difficult to determine the true value of your referral traffic.
Dark traffic refers to traffic that cannot be accurately attributed back to its original source. Often, and erroneously, categorized with “direct traffic”, dark traffic can result due to several causes, including:
- Traffic that arrives through a link provided within SMS or chat applications.
- Traffic that arrives through personal e-mail providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook.
- Traffic that arrives through an app, such as viewing an article within Facebook’s app.
- Traffic that arrives from a document, PDF, or other non-web based file.
- Traffic that arrives through an image search.
- Traffic that arrives through voice search and virtual assistants.
- Traffic that journeys through secure, HTTPs connections to non-secure connections.
While dark traffic is not exclusively the result of these reasons, it’s likely that you’ve already had hundreds, if not thousands, of users arrive at your website through some combination of these methods. With the evolution of mobile devices and the on-going shifts in user behavior, more ways of generating dark traffic are certain to emerge long into the foreseeable future.
If saving one of your most vital metrics from dark traffic seems like a lost cause – don’t worry. It’s not as scary as it seems.
How to Shine a Light on Dark Traffic
You can use shortlinks provided by Bitly or Google URL Shortener for a more accurate understanding of your dark traffic. Each link is designed with a UTM code, a simple code that allows you track the number of times that particular link is clicked. This makes them an effective method for understanding how visitors are arriving at your site, especially if you use unique links that are specific to a platform — or even to a user. For example, you may create a unique link for your e-mail signature that tracks the number of times the link is clicked. If you are feeling very ambitious, you could even create a specific link for a client or partner to verify if they clicked the link you provided to them.
While not always the most practical solution, depending on the degree of insight you desire, it does alleviate some of the blind spots that dark traffic may arrive through. If you’re truly committed to creating a powerful presence on the web that achieves results for your company, then it’s worth the effort to know how effective your referrals are.
If your website has experienced a sudden increase of dark traffic, or if you need integrating shortlinks into your referral sources, webFEAT Complete can help you save your valuable insights. Contact us today to learn more about webFEAT Complete Hosting.
Also published on Medium.