Dark traffic is essentially being overreported. Which means other channels, like paid, email, or social, are being underreported. That’s a problem. It means that those channels aren’t getting the credit they deserve for driving those new visitors and customers.
What is dark traffic?
Dark traffic is simply traffic to your site which is misattributed to direct. To better understand dark traffic, you need to know what counts as direct traffic. Direct traffic is usually considered as when people enter your site through entering a specific URL in their browser or clicking on a bookmark.
What is dark SEO traffic?
Dark traffic refers to the visits to your site that are classified as direct traffic when Google Analytics can’t tell the source of a website visitor.
Is direct traffic good or bad?
Direct Traffic That is Actually Direct Reviewing the landing pages of your Direct traffic is a good indication of what is legitimate. Traffic that lands directly on the homepage is likely real Direct traffic because that is what users are most likely to type into a browser.
Why is my direct traffic so high?
The reason why direct traffic is so high is that it’s Google’s catch-all. If a session can’t be attributed, then Google Analytics will add it to direct. So, anytime you’re tracking isn’t set up correctly, you’ll likely see significantly higher direct traffic.
What is dark traffic in Google Analytics?
“Dark traffic” is the term given to data collected about website visitors that is mis-categorised by analytics programs like Google Analytics, as coming to the website directly rather than through another channel such as a search engine or social media post.
How much direct traffic should a website get?
For example, Direct traffic should usually be responsible for around 10-20% of your site’s overall sessions according to Link-Assistant.com, Aleh Barysevich. That means only around 10-20% of the people hitting your site will remember your domain.
How much direct traffic is organic?
Understanding Direct Traffic Unfortunately, direct traffic really isn’t as clear cut as that. This experiment done by SearchEngineLand and Groupon revealed that as much as 60% of traffic considered to be direct traffic is actually organic traffic.
What does Google organic mean?
Organic: Traffic from search engine results that is earned, not paid. Paid search: Traffic from search engine results that is the result of paid advertising via Google AdWords or another paid search platform. Referral: Traffic that occurs when a user finds you through a site other than a major search engine.
Is organic traffic important?
Why is organic traffic important? Organic traffic is important because it is targeted. Users visiting your website from a search engine’s organic results have a very specific intent and if you can provide them with a solution or answer to their question, they are more likely to convert.
What is traffic digital marketing?
What is Traffic? Traffic is visitors to your website. They are grouped into different segments, depending on how they found you. Get your head around the types of traffic that you’ll commonly see used in online analytics: Direct traffic URL type-ins, bookmarks, or media links that are not tracked.
How can direct traffic be improved?
25 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Website
- Advertise. This one is so obvious, we’re going to look at it first.
- Get Social.
- Mix It Up.
- Write Irresistible Headlines.
- Pay Attention to On-Page SEO.
- Target Long-Tail Keywords.
- Start Guest Blogging.
- Invite Others to Guest Blog on Your Site.
How do you analyze direct traffic?
Google Analytics defines direct traffic as website visits that arrived on your site either by typing your website URL into a browser or through browser bookmarks. In addition, if Google Analytics can’t recognize the traffic source of a visit, it will also be categorized as Direct in your Analytics report.
How do I reduce direct traffic in Google Analytics?
How to reduce Direct Traffic in Google Analytics?
- #1 Tag the URLs of all marketing campaigns.
- #2 Tag each marketing campaign correctly.
- #3 Make sure all the pages of your website contain valid Google Analytics Tracking Code which fire on page load.
- #4 Embed shortened tagged URLs in non-HTM documents.
What is Dark Traffic? – The Dark Side of Google Analytics
When it comes to Google Analytics data, there is a dark side to it that you should never overlook. It goes beneath the radar and makes tracking marketing activity more difficult to do. This Google Analytics tracking problem is referred to as black traffic, and while it is not a new phenomenon, it is getting more common.
What is dark traffic?
A website visitor’s source cannot be determined when they visit your site, which is referred to as “dark traffic.” Dark traffic is defined as visits to your site that are categorised as direct traffic by Google Analytics.
Where does dark traffic come from?
It is possible to find dark traffic coming from a variety of sources.
- Email – URLs provided in email conversation do not contain referral data
- Thus, they are not useful. Social sharing that takes place through chat and instant messaging applications is referred to as “messaging apps.” If you come from a secure site (HTTPS), you may see that your referral data has been erased
- Mobile applications (which are rapidly expanding) – Visits that originate through Facebook’s mobile app, for example, may not always appear to be a Facebook referral.
A company owner or marketer cannot be positive that every direct visit to his or her website was made by a user who either put the URL into their browser or saved the site in their browser. It’s also impossible to know for certain whether your attempts to enhance social media traffic have been fruitless. Some visitors from social media sites may just be lost in the ether.
Estimate the power of the dark side
It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a reliable technique to prevent Google from counting this traffic as direct referrals. The amount of direct traffic that may actually be dark traffic from other sources may be estimated, though, if you know where to look. For direct traffic, have a look at the landing pages on the website. If you’re not sure how to go about it, check out this sample report. Those sites in the report that are extremely unlikely to receive direct traffic can most certainly be ascribed to unidentified traffic sources, such as search engine crawlers and bots.
- When creating custom reports, you may also filter the sites that are most likely to draw visitors directly, such as your homepage and the front pages of significant content sections, if you know how.
- Although it is hard to identify the sources of dark traffic, retrieving these data may, at the absolute least, offer hints as to where the dark traffic is headed.
- For example, if you notice that multiple blog pieces are generating dark traffic and you know that you’ve been actively promoting them on social media, you can assume that this is the major source of the traffic.
- Please contact me.
- Image courtesy of Empire Strikes Back (screenshot).
Shining the Light on Dark Traffic
Digital marketers are confronted with a major challenge.
It’s one that they might not even be aware of. It distorts the facts and causes confusion in the overall picture. Campaigns are considered a failure, incentives are withheld, and difficult talks are forced to take place as a result. What exactly is the problem? The traffic is sluggish.
What is “dark traffic”?
As defined by Google Analytics, “dark traffic” refers to data acquired about website users who are misclassified as arriving to the website directly rather than through another route such as a search engine or social network post. In order to completely comprehend the situation, we must first familiarize ourselves with the primary methods that bring visitors to websites:
- Organic traffic is traffic that has landed on your website as a result of a search engine query rather than as a result of clicking on a sponsored advertising. Any feature on the search results page, such as a “featured snippet” or a Google My Business listing, should be considered organic traffic, according to technical standards. In most cases, this is the traffic that arrives to your website as a consequence of effective SEO
- Paid visitors to your website are those who have arrived after clicking on an advertising in the search results (which is generally represented by the “ad” sign), or who have arrived after clicking on a banner advertisement or a display advertisement. For the sake of this article, your PPC or paid advertising campaigns are those that cost you money every time someone clicks on an advertisement and visits your website. The term “referral visit” refers to a visitor that comes on your website as a result of visiting another website and clicking on a link there. Through the use of a hyperlink, Website “A” has sent the visitor to your website
- Direct– this is the most difficult to master. To put it simply, direct traffic should be defined as any visitor who comes on your website by typing the address directly into their browser’s address bar or by clicking on a bookmark in their browser that directs them directly to your website.
The problem with dark traffic
However, the most perplexing aspect is that, in Google Analytics in particular, the traffic that is classified into the “direct” bucket does not necessarily include users who have typed in the address manually or clicked on a bookmark. In reality, if Google Analytics is unable to establish the source of a visitor’s traffic, it will assign that visitor to this group. As you can see, Google Analytics is not infallible. It is not always possible to determine how a human has got on your website, and when it is not possible, it implies that they are direct traffic.
Actually, direct traffic might be made up of people who come from a range of various sources.
- A referral is a link from a website that uses HTTP to direct visitors to your HTTPS website. When a visitor moves from an unsecure website to a secure website, no referral data is sent, and as a result, Google Analytics is unable to tell which website the visitor came from, and consequently lumps it in with direct traffic
- Encrypted social media. Instant messaging programs such as WhatsApp are extremely popular, and one of the reasons for this is the end-to-end encryption that they provide to their users. Although this security feature is beneficial to consumers, it poses a challenge for digital marketers because Google Analytics is unable to establish the source of traffic arriving on a website from a link shared through these encrypted forms
- Non-web formats. If you click on a link in a PDF or Word document, you will be directed to the website, but Google Analytics will not be able to determine how you arrived there. You could believe that this isn’t a big deal because who doesn’t utilize Word documents as part of their marketing efforts? Well, it’s likely that not many people do. PDFs, on the other hand, are a completely different situation altogether. Chances are that if your business development team is delivering case studies to new clients or invites to your next event, the documents will be in the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to determine how successful their efforts have been
This black traffic is a significant problem for digital marketers because it prevents credit for traffic from being attributed to the appropriate channel, leaving digital practitioners in the dark regarding the performance of their campaigns and efforts in general. As a result, the genuine return on investment. Consider the following scenario: you are a marketer for a firm that has allocated a significant amount of money to an agency to assist you with your organic search rankings. At the end of the year review, your supervisor expresses her dissatisfaction with the fact that SEO traffic has not risen, although direct traffic has, and that, therefore, it must be the off-site marketing initiatives that are having the most impact.
- There’s an issue here.
- Unfortunately, direct traffic isn’t the only problem with misattributed data that we’ve seen here at Avenue.
- As you can see, a simple look at the referrals area of Google Analytics offers a perplexing picture of the situation.
- For what reason are they selected as referral providers rather than as producers of organic search traffic?
Bringing clarity to dark data
Fortunately, a solution to the problem of dark data has been found. Even while it appears to be complicated, and it might be tough to comprehend at times, there are several simple changes that can assist shed light on the mysterious traffic statistics in your account.
Organic search sources
To their credit, a solution to the problem of dark data has been discovered.
It seems complicated, and it might be tough to grasp at first, but there are several simple solutions that can assist to shed light on the black traffic statistics in your account and improve your overall experience.
Using filters to reclassify traffic
Using filters to exclude your agency’s IP address from your data isn’t the only thing you can do with them. These parameters can also be used to direct Google Analytics to reclassify data as coming from a different source channel. This is particularly handy if you are experiencing difficulties with the aforementioned “Organic Search Sources” approach, but it may also be used to capture social media sources such as “m.facebook.com” and “l.instagram.com.” Add a filter to your Google Analytics account by going to “Admin,” but this time under the “View” that you want the data to be shown in instead of the default view of “All.” As soon as you click on “Add filter,” you will be presented with the toggle option for “Custom.” Select that, and then, if you want to reclassify a search engine’s traffic from referral to organic, copy the following settings from the screenshot below: Advanced Filtering Techniques Excerpt A: Referral Information in Field A (enter the domain of the website you want to reclassify traffic from) Field B -Extract B: Medium recommendation for the campaign The following is the output to the -Constructor: Campaign Medium is made of organic materials.
- Afterwards, make certain that the “Field A Required,” “Field B Required,” and “Override Output Field” choices are all chosen.
- Important to remember is that everything is case-sensitive in this section.
- Filters only have an effect on data moving forward, not on data going backward.
- I would strongly advise you to record the date when the filter was created in Google Analytics so that you can refer to it in future analyses.
To aid analytics programs in determining what the source, medium, and campaign of traffic traveling through a link should be labeled as, UTM codes (short for urchin tracking module codes) are applied to the end of URLs in hyperlinks. UTM codes are short for urchin tracking module codes. A quick and easy approach to generate a UTM code to include in your URLs is to go to and follow the instructions there. (As a reminder, always enter the labels in the same letter case as you see them in your Google Analytics account – lowercase “g” for “Google” and lowercase “o” for “organic” – since doing otherwise will cause you problems.) I would propose that you at the very least include UTM tracking tags in your Google My Business listings since clicks from these to your website should be classified as organic visitors rather than direct visitors, as Google now attributes them.
- If you have a menu, be sure to include a link to it in any other URLs on your listing that are not the primary website link, such as the link to your menu.
- At this point, I feel compelled to issue a public service statement on behalf of all analytics experts in general.
- You will be distorting the data in your Google Analytics account if you do so in this manner.
- If their visit results in a conversion, it is possible that you will not be able to trace the conversion back to the original source of traffic.
UTM codes will only have an impact on traffic that has already clicked on the link that contains the UTM code. Therefore, data from visitors who came to your site through that link before the UTM code was implemented would not be affected.
In order to run a successful marketing campaign, you must first understand how your target audience interacts with your business. Trustworthy data is a critical component of this understanding. However, while Google Analytics is a vital source of this information, it is critical that you attempt to remove as much “black traffic” as possible from your website in order to guarantee that your budgets and efforts are directed towards the most profitable campaigns.
How to identify & deal with Dark Traffic
When you think about darkness and light on a metaphorical level, like in Star Wars, the phrase “dark traffic” doesn’t seem so appealing. Moreover, it is quite troublesome when trying to obtain insight into the performance of your website using analytics data. Dark traffic is any traffic that originates from sources that have been stripped of their referrer information, resulting in the source not being accurately credited inside your Analytics platform. As a result, dark traffic gets packed in with your genuinedirecttraffic, causing confusion.
Among the sources of dark traffic are: Secure search; image search; links from non-web documents (e.g., Word and PDF documents); links exchanged via IM platforms; and traffic from applications (for example, Facebook and Twitter).
These changes included:
- Beginning in early 2012, the keyword data for ‘not supplied’ was made available. The data from the Search Console that is connected to Google Analytics accounts is now only valid for 90 days
- And A restriction on who may use the Keyword Planner feature, which is only available to individuals who have current AdWords campaigns
When you combine all of these considerations with the issue of dark traffic, you run the danger of falling into a figurative asteroid belt when it comes to tracking and reporting your data effectively. If you’re in charge of organic performance, you need to make sure you’re on top of things and that you understand how to detect and report on this’missing’ organic traffic effectively. And there are no signs of things getting any better. Indeed, the situation is likely to deteriorate. However, if you know what it is, where it comes from, and how to recognize it, you can retrieve your data from the Dark Side.
- Perhaps your hard-earned social traffic from that fantastic campaign on which you worked is being redirected as direct traffic to your website.
- In a nutshell, this is not the type of traffic you were hoping for.
- When a referrer string is not supplied during a visit, this is referred to as “dark search.” When this occurs, Analytics treats the visit as though it were directed traffic.
- The same is true for some browser add-ons that prevent the transmission of referral data.
- In addition, it became obvious in May of last year that there was another issue hurting organic mobile traffic.
- It turns out that the Google App for Android was responsible for the rise in traffic, which was caused by the app’s most recent upgrade.
- Alexis C Madrigal created the phrase “dark social” in 2012, and it has since become widely used.
- The referrer data is not provided when URLs are exchanged using encrypted chats such as email, Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Message, and WhatsApp, among other methods.
- According to SimilarWeb, mobile now accounts for more than 55 percent of all visits to top-tier websites.
- Messaging apps continue to grow in popularity and number, and with that growth comes an inevitable increase in the amount of individuals who share links with their social networks through these channels.
Having a better grasp of what dark traffic is and where it may be found, you can use the methods listed below to assist in finding and reporting this data: Using Google Analytics, create a custom report to show your direct traffic, but with an advanced filter applied to exclude your site’s homepage and other main pages that people may potentially access via a “true direct” visit, which is someone physically typing the full URL into their browser’s address bar.
- Given the likelihood that no one will type in a full URL that is more than one category deep, your primary navigation pages would normally be a good starting point for this section of the site design.
- Check your social media campaigns to see if there are any current or recent ones, and link these sites to your filtered direct traffic – this is your dark social traffic.
- This will eliminate instances of real direct visits to deep page URLs, such as when autocomplete generates the URL to a previously visited page, from the list of results.
- Once you’ve discovered your ‘dark search’ traffic, you can sort it by device category, and then you can separate it into desktop and mobile traffic segments.
- This will not assist you in identifying visits for previous campaigns, but it is an absolutely necessary step for any future efforts.
- This will not assist you in identifying visits for previous campaigns, but it is an absolutely necessary step for any future efforts.
- Once your pages have been tagged, you can check the outcomes of these campaigns in Google Analytics by heading to BehaviourSite ContentAll Pages and selecting the dimension ‘campaign’ from the drop-down menu.
So, what can be done in this situation?
You should read this post if you are unclear about how to go about putting up filters in Google Analytics.
Essentially, if your site is not HTTPS-compliant, a visit from an HTTPS-compliant site will not provide referrer information to your site.
A visit from an HTTPS-enabled site to another HTTPS-enabled site, on the other hand, does pass referrer data.
When you make the conversion from http to https, you will be able to see more information about your referrals.
However, there are several more advantages to making the switch that it is definitely worth exploring.
There is currently no surefire method for accurately identifying dark traffic with 100 percent accuracy in the wild.
Most importantly, this information should enable you to report on that’missing’ traffic as precisely as possible and ensure that your organic marketing are receiving the credit they deserve.
The rise in mobile traffic, as well as the continued ease with which our mobile devices enable us to share material with our social circle on an ever-increasing number of platforms, are both positive trends for the future.
Fortunately, SEO is a constantly evolving profession with a large number of bright minds, which is part of what makes it so intriguing. Every difficulty that occurs has a solution that is never more than a short distance away.
What is Dark Traffic? Direct Traffic, and That’s Okay
“Direct Traffic” is something we’ve all seen in our Google Analytics reports. (direct) / (none) or just “Direct” traffic are all options. Despite this, the majority of people get the false impression about the traffic. Even now, many continue to believe that it is one of the following things:
- Choosing a previously stored bookmark
- Hand-typing a URL into a web browser
But it’s so much more than that.
Direct Traffic in Google Analytics is:
- The truth is that it is much more than that.
In reality, what (direct) / (not set) signifies is that there is no credit or referral information available at this time. That is, in fact, what the phrase signifies. It’s Google’s version of the shrug emoji, as you can see below. In this image, there were 5,541 new users who had come in directly from the search engine. Those individuals most likely did not utilize a bookmark. Maybe some of them did? I’m not sure. Any variety of approaches may have been used to bring them in. The idea is that we don’t know a lot of things in general.
I agree with Mayor Vaughn’s suggestion, but I’m going to reject it and yell “Shark!” at the same time.
What is Dark Traffic?
Direct traffic is synonymous with dark traffic. We need to stop acting as if we know who the people in the traffic are. It’s not (direct) / (none), it’s( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( ( ) / )/( It is past time, however, for us to take action against this monster that is haunting our lovely beach city before it strikes again. It is just 38 percent of the whole data, Sayf.” We’re in good shape! “You’re being overdramatic!” Perhaps, though, you’ve been reassured by the Mayor and wish to put your foot in the water?
Do you see the larger issue?
Examples of Dark Traffic
“Sayf, my data is completely clean and flawless!” Good for you, and congratulations, but you are an outlier. There are so many different problems that individuals are jumping on the Dark Traffic bandwagon to solve. Here’s an illustration:
- Direct traffic is 38.29 percent of total traffic
- A self referral from a subdomain is 13.41 percent of total traffic
- A mistagged link is 8.21 percent of total traffic
- Someone who is using Campaign Tags on the site (a special level of hell for these people) is 2.19 percent of total traffic
- Another self referral is 1.95 percent of total traffic.
In all, Dark Traffic accounts for 64.05 percent of the top ten referral sources, or around 64.05 percent of all traffic. 64 percent of the traffic referred by the referrer is either overwritten or messed up in some other way. This account’s attribution has been cleaned to the tune of 64 percent or more of the time. The only person who would use this traffic and look at the organic statistics is some unfortunate soul who is going to head out to Amity Beach and prepare to be food. “All well, Sayf, that’s OK, but I’ve got enough of good attribution.” I can look at my reports and see how many conversions there were!” What are the conversions in the typical Google Analytics reports?
- Allow me to explain.
- I go to the website and look at the jersey.
- It appears to be a nice match, but I’m not ready to commit, so I wander away.
- It’s true that their remarketing team is quite capable.
- I return to the store and purchase the jersey.
- The regular reports would provide no benefit to my original organic search as a result of this.
- It is this type of traffic that detracts from the worth of our work.
Well… In order to avoid detracting value from something it understands (in this case, an organic visit) in order to detract value from something it doesn’t understand (in this case, a direct/dark visit), Google does not actually perform Last Click Attribution in the standard reports, but instead performs Non-Direct Last Click Attribution in the reports.
- Ignore all of the visits that we have no idea about and only click “we know what it was.” And what happens if you have numerous dark trips in a short period?
- It’s Dark, followed by Dark, and then Dark.
- However, if all it has are direct visitors, it may not be enough.
- Direct X 2, Direct X 3, Direct X 4, and Direct X 5 are the versions of Direct X that are supported.
And so forth. Of course, there are a number of attribution models available, but what’s the use of using a Time Decay Attribution model when you have 63 percent dark traffic when all it would show is a large amount of black dark traffic?
Analytics Direct Traffic is Dark Traffic
Taken together, the top ten referral sources account for 64.05 percent of total Dark Traffic. In the case of the referral, 64 percent of the traffic is either rewritten or misconfigured. This account’s attribution has been cleaned to the tune of 64 percent or more. The only person who would use this traffic and look at the organic statistics is some unfortunate soul who is preparing to head out to Amity Beach and prepare to be food. “All well, Sayf, that’s OK, but I’ve got enough of good credit.
- Ooh, that’s also rather dark.
- Visit the website and have a look at the jerseys available.
- Several hours later, while idling on Facebook, I come upon an advertisement for the product.
- Apparently, I was taken in by surprise.
- A conversion linked (hopefully correctly) to my paid social advertisements on Facebook would be visible if I were simply looking at the regular analytics I receive.
- Last Click Attribution is a complete joke in today’s environment.
- How about throwing in a Direct/Dark session to mix things up a bit?
- “Last Attribution” is an abbreviation for this.
- Suppose someone navigated to an insecure website from an encrypted one, and then clicked on a link to a blog page that was included in an email message.
- Due to the fact that Google has no knowledge of your visits, even if it does Last Non-Direct searches on occasion, it.
- Have you ever come across something like this in your Channel Paths before?
This continues indefinitely. Of course, there are a number of attribution models available, but what’s the sense of using a Time Decay Attribution model when you have 63 percent dark traffic when all it will show is a ton of dark traffic in the first place?
- Currently, we have a Non-Branded Search that converts on a click through to the social media platforms. In the following section, we have a social visit from Facebook, which results in a newsletter subscription conversion. Finally, we have an email marketing visit, as well as a full-on lead form conversion
So, where exactly does the light go out? It truly becomes pitch black everywhere.
- The initial visit comes as a result of a voice search, and it appears as a direct result
- The second visit is also straightforward. When the user navigated from the safe app page to a non-secure website, the click was erased. Is this the third time? Your email links were not correctly campaign-tagged since you failed to do so. It’s straightforward
As a result, you now have three direct visits, which are neatly grouped together under the heading Direct in the MCF Reports. Oh, there’s something more I should have said. All three of those trips are also deemed to be separate users! The fact that each one was using a different browser and there was no adequate cross-device tracking or tagging (I didn’t mention that, did I?) As a result, they appear as three distinct users in Google Analytics. You needn’t be concerned because just ONE of those visits will be recorded in your Multi Channel Funnel report.
- Because generally there is a 30-day restriction, which you can extend to 90 days if necessary (though you might hit sampling).
- It had to have been some sort of bookmark, didn’t it?
- Tell me what you want me to do, Sayf.
- I’ve got you covered.
- Make extensive use of campaign tags
- Develop some new filters
- And develop certain user cohorts.
How to Fix Direct Traffic
If you are not already aware with Campaign Tags, you should become acquainted by reading this article. Do you have no idea where to put your marketing tags? Here’s a link to a tool that makes it simple to create them: Extend the functionality of Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics URL Builder Chrome extension. In the following example, campaign tags are a technique of adding additional information at the end of a link. yourdomain.com/?utm source=jingle utm medium=radio utm campaign=radiojingles Instead of simply sending out a link to yourdomain.com, you send out something that has these additional characteristics as well.
- UTM tags are also divided into five categories: Then when someone clicks on it, even if they happen to go through some type of “darkifying” redirect, the parameters remain and your system knows they originated from Facebook, rather than another source.
- Have you ever seen a billboard with a campaign tag on it?
- Who would put all of that nonsense into a text box?
- I once observed something along the lines of the following: Seriously, a QR code on a billboard along the highway.
- I’m confident that it has never resulted in a car accident, primarily because QR codes are rarely utilized.
- Because it’s not the primary domain, that’s just a regular old custom URL.
- Then you know that the folks who reached that domain most certainly saw one of the billboards, or at the very least were exposed to the campaign in some way.
- The same can be said for radio commercials.
Learn more about Campaign tags and use them anywhere you can, but especially on social media, in emails, and in person whenever possible to spread the word.
Create New Filters
All right, this is where I’m going to become a bit controversial. If “direct / (none)” indicates that there is a lack of information, why not include or change those information-gathering sources? Being “straight (none)” means that you receive nothing out of anything. It translates to sluggish traffic. So let’s put some light on the situation. I advise that you divide your direct traffic into three categories: Please bear with me as I use a few of metaphors that aren’t entirely appropriate. As a result, we wish to start by switching their media to Dark.
- Second, we’ll divide the direct traffic into three categories based on the landing sites they’re visiting.
- This might be traffic from direct bookmarked links, users entering in the URL, or branded organic search results.
- Shallow Dark traffic would be defined as traffic that arrives on category pages, section fronts, and other such pages.
- The use of bookmarks and typing URLs directly into the browser has been limited.
- These might be bookmarks for returning visitors, but for new visitors in particular, these are likely to be social shares, recommendations, or emails from a friend or colleague.
- Through this modification of your direct traffic, you can begin to separate out the “Direct x3″s into some more intriguing channel grouping pathways in your Multi Channel Funnels.
- It is possible to shed some light on this type of activity by providing a bit additional information to that black traffic.
Create User Cohorts
Please bear with me while I use a variety of analogies. First and foremost, we want their media switched to Dark. Even though (not set) is a little googly, it doesn’t exactly scream “dark.” “This is black traffic,” we can state unequivocally. Second, we’ll divide the direct traffic into three categories based on the landing pages that they arrive at on their computers. Visitors to websites such as seerinteractive.com who are exposed to the surface dark arrive at the home page. This could be traffic from direct bookmarked links, people typing in the URL, or branded organic traffic from a search engine result.
- Dark traffic that arrives to category pages, section fronts, and other such landing sites is referred to as shallow dark traffic.
- The use of bookmarks and typing URLs directly into the browser has been minimized.
- If you are a returning visitor, they may be bookmarks; although for new visitors, these are more likely to be social shares, recommendations, or emails from a friend.
- Through this modification of your direct traffic, you can begin to separate the “Direct x3″s into some more intriguing channel grouping pathways in your Multi Channel Funnels.
Despite the fact that you have no idea what that dark traffic is, someone who lands first on surface dark is different from someone who lands first on deep dark. Incorporating a small amount of additional information into that dark traffic allows us to shed some light on this pattern of behavior
- Direct traffic is represented by the Shrug Emoji
- The last non-direct attribution is shown by the Poop Emoji. Multi Channel Funnels are polluted by an excessive amount of Shrug Emojis and Poop Emojis by default. T.A.T.S. is an abbreviation for Tag All That Sh*t. Campaign tags should be used everywhere. Create Dark Traffic Channels in order to shed light on any residual dark traffic In order to view attribution beyond 30/90 days, create user cohorts with specific dimensions. Live the life of your dreams
Identifying Dark Traffic in Google Analytics
A fantastic and easily available tool for business owners to develop insights based on actual user data and utilize this knowledge to better their SEO efforts, Google Analytics is a must-have addition to any toolkit. This may go a long way toward raising your page visits and conversion rates, which will ultimately aid in the growth of your organization. It’s vital to have correct information in order to get the most out of Google Analytics, but this can be difficult. Sadly, there is one potential issue that you may experience that might have an influence on the integrity of your data.
- Although this is sometimes recorded improperly and misreported under Google Analytics, it does happen occasionally.
- If the issue is not recognized and corrected immediately, it might have serious consequences in the future.
- In order to understand what this phrase refers to, it may be helpful to first explain what it means when Google Analytics incorrectly categorizes site traffic as Direct Traffic.
- Given that only a small percentage of your site visitors are likely to have memorized or stored your domain name, this should account for just a small amount of your total site visits.
- In practice, this figure frequently looks to be far greater than any other source of information.
- Although Google Analytics categorizes certain types of traffic as direct traffic, not all of it truly falls into that category.
- As a result, the phrase “dark traffic” was coined.
What Causes Dark Traffic to Occur?
Links viewed through desktop or mobile applications frequently do not have the required referral information that informs Google Analytics of where the user came from, according to the company.
Google Analytics has a tough time distinguishing secure sites from nonsecure sites.
What Can You Do to Make a Difference?
When you create links, there are tools that allow you to add some additional text, known as UTM codes, to them, which then provides the essential information to Google Analytics.
Another thing you can do is estimate the amount of dark traffic you’re receiving by categorizing your reports and splitting them into different types of traffic.
Separating the statistics for these two regions of your site will provide you with a much clearer view of the traffic situation on your website.
In the event that you notice a sudden surge in dark traffic following the launch of a social media campaign, you’ll be able to determine where those views are coming from rather quickly.
In our team at Vizion Interactive, we have years of expertise in establishing search engine optimization strategies and assisting our customers in making the most of their data. Contact us on our website or give us a call at (888) 484-9466 to receive a free price quote.
How Dark Traffic Can Lead to Inaccurate Google Analytics Data
Every firm is looking for reliable information. Accurate data may be translated into actionable insights that can be used to steer your overall strategy and operations. In certain cases, you may be able to rely on Google Analytics to provide accurate and trustworthy website statistics; but, if this is the case, you should be aware of a phenomenon known as “black traffic.” Despite the fact that black traffic may operate mainly beneath the radar, it could be having a significant impact on the quality and accuracy of the data you collect.
But What is Dark Traffic?
Traffic to your website that is misattributed to direct traffic is referred to as “dark traffic.” To have a better understanding of dark traffic, it is necessary to first grasp what constitutes direct traffic. For the sake of this definition, direct traffic is defined as visitors who arrive at your site by typing a specific URL into their browser or clicking on a bookmark. Direct traffic, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated than this. Google will classify traffic as direct if it originates from email, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, secure websites, mobile applications, certain image links, shortened untagged links, untagged documents, or nearly any type of installed software.
When someone navigates to your site from another site using a link or URL that does not contain UTM parameters or referral information from a prior site, the attribution and referral information is lost.
This means that a considerable fraction of these visitors will have interacted with the site or have arrived from a source that has been entirely forgotten.
Dark Traffic Scenario
Traffic to your website that is misattributed to direct traffic is referred to as “dark traffic”. The definition of direct traffic must be understood in order to comprehend dark traffic more effectively. For the sake of this definition, direct traffic is defined as visitors who arrive at your website by typing a specific URL into their browser or clicking on a bookmark. Direct traffic, on the other hand, is significantly more complicated. Google will consider traffic to be direct if it originates from email, messaging programs such as WhatsApp, encrypted websites, mobile applications, certain image links, shortened untagged links, untagged documents, or nearly any type of previously installed software.
When there is no attribution or referral information, Google will assign your traffic source to “direct.” A visitor to your site who arrives there through a link or URL without UTM parameters or referral information from a prior site will have their attribution and referral information erased.
Even yet, a considerable fraction of these visitors will have interacted with the site or have arrived from a source that has been utterly forgotten.
Your prior marketing efforts, which resulted in this visit, are therefore disregarded, depreciating your work and the success of a campaign, media, or source, as well as making the measurement of your campaign success erroneous and misleading.
- When a Twitter user clicks on a link, they are sent to an article that they find fascinating and wish to share with their colleagues. They take a screenshot of the URL in the browser
- They then send out an email with the post URL to a number of their colleagues. The email is opened and the link is clicked by the user’s coworkers. The coworkers come to the site (although they all display as direct traffic on the map)
Because the user copied the URL and shared it through an application (such as email), the referral data was no longer available to them. As a result, even if the traffic that follows may be traced back to the social media campaign, Google Analytics will be unable to distinguish between the two. It might potentially lead to a choice to lower marketing emphasis and spending on social media, despite the fact that social media was responsible for a significant amount of visitors. As a result of the loss of critical information, and the inability to see the full worth of social traffic for this piece of content, a potentially disastrous choice might be taken based on erroneous information.
We’ll speak a bit more about how you can prevent this from occurring to the data in your analytics a little later on.
The Impact of Dark Traffic on Data Insights
We use Google Analytics to track and analyze the success of all of our marketing channels and campaigns at the same time, as a single unit. This allows us to compare results and determine where budget and effort should be allocated to achieve the greatest possible results. The problem is that, if direct traffic accounts for the vast majority of your traffic, it might be difficult to effectively analyze that data and uncover trends or insights. This has the unfortunate consequence of causing time and money to be wasted on a channel that is not functioning as well as another.
Misattribution could be damaging your Google Ads campaigns
Not only might black traffic have a detrimental impact on your reporting and strategy creation, but it also has the potential to be dangerous. It’s also possible that it’s deliberately hurting your Google Ads efforts. It’s possible that dark traffic is preventing you from delivering correct data for Google’s machine learning algorithms to utilize to optimize your campaigns if you employ any type of automated bidding approach (that depends on conversion/action data). This might result in Google Ads missing a wide range of conversions, as well as all of the data/signals associated with those conversions, such as user interests, demographics, time of day, placement, and more – all of which Google could have then optimized for in the future if they had done so.
What about Multi-Channel Funnels and Conversion Paths?
There are a lot of reports provided by Google Analytics that reportedly look at the complete picture of a user’s trip to your site and through to a conversion. They are, however, still unable to distinguish between direct and indirect traffic. If you look at your report and you see direct x2, x3, x4,5, it’s probable that a significant portion of these direct visits should be credited to sponsored, organic, or referral traffic instead.
It is necessary to clean your data and follow best practices in order to ensure that these reports are accurate. It is only after then that the whole significance of these findings becomes evident.
How to Avoid Dark Traffic in Google Analytics
Because of the nature of black traffic, it is sometimes difficult to detect and identify in most circumstances. In order to unearth this information and throw some light on the genuine performance of your campaigns, you may employ a variety of strategies and approaches.
Step 1 – Prevention
In order to eliminate black traffic altogether, the usage of UTM parameters is the most efficient method of preventing it from occurring. These are properties that must be defined and added to the end of a link by the link creator. These characteristics provide Google with information about the specific source of a visit (the source you originally defined). Following best practice, you should put the following on your links to ensure that they are effective:
- Sources include Google, Facebook, Twitter, and local businesses
- Mediums include pay-per-click, paidsocial, email, and organic
- And Spring sale, product launch are examples of campaigns.
As an illustration, utm medium=social and utm campaign=dark traffic The UTM parameter that was used was everything that came after the “?” This character informs Google that everything following it is an attribute and not a component of the link itself (i.e., it will have no effect on where users are sent). Following are the UTMs that have been included in this example:?utm source=Twitter utm medium=Social utm campaign=dark traffic By ensuring that UTMs are applied to your links, regardless of where they are shared or posted, you can maintain control over your data.
Additionally, you may employ link shortening services to make your links more user-friendly for your visitors.
This is accomplished through the use of tools such as Bit.ly and HubSpot.
Step 1 – Location
Once you’ve verified that the links you’re sharing are completely optimised and that they adhere to recommended practices in terms of UTMs, you may begin to identify traffic in Google Analytics that may be aberrant or erroneous as a result of dark traffic. Please keep in mind that any modifications you make will not be retroactive in GA, and that any data you’ve gathered up to this point will not be able to be modified. Possible options include creating a new view or making use of notes/comments to guarantee that you are aware of any modifications made to the account’s information.
- Following the application of this section (which should already be present), you may begin to attempt to discover potentially useful sites in direct that have been boosted by dark traffic.
- After that, you should visit to the BehaviourSiteContentAll Pages page.
- However, we now want to filter out any top-level pages that visitors would really remember and go to directly instead of through the search engine.
- If feasible, you should aim to eliminate as many of them as possible until you are left with just lengthier, more difficult to remember URLs that are unlikely to have been visited directly – implying that the majority of the traffic will be as a consequence of dark traffic.
Additional methods for identifying black traffic in Google Analytics include:
- Forms, chatbots, and surveys – ask people on some of the sites you identified earlier how they reached the page and discovered the site using one of the tools you identified previously. You could come upon some fascinating patterns. Tools such as Hotjar can be quite useful for this type of data collecting. However, it is evident that only the user knows for certain how they arrived to the website. We’re only making informed estimates at this point. Include content sharing options that are simple and straightforward to reach. This includes sharing for messaging programs such as Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, among others. This guarantees that all of your bases are covered and that you retain complete control over your credit
- Data may be compared between different systems. If your social media postings are getting a lot of attention, and you have first-hand evidence that people are talking about, sharing, and promoting your material – yet you aren’t seeing any data in social channels in Google Analytics, it’s possible that the data is being attributed incorrectly. In this circumstance, you might attempt to resolve the problem from its root. It is conceivable that UTMs have not been applied to a critical connection. Excluding return visitors from your filter may help you to exclude users who have bookmarked a page or written down the URL of a website someplace. Excluding them from consideration lowers the number of data required for analysis in the search for dark web visitors.
Step 2 – Improving Google Analytics Reports
You may make improvements to the Google Analytics reports that you rely on in order to deliver more accurate information on direct and dark traffic flowing to your site. One method of accomplishing this is to fully eliminate the concept of direct traffic from the equation. Finally, direct traffic is simply traffic that does not have a clear source or referral data source associated with it. Making it, shall we say, gloomy. Keeping this in mind, we may divide nighttime traffic into three categories.
- Channel SettingsChannel Grouping is a section of Google Analytics that is underutilized and underappreciated by users.
- By doing so, you may categorize your direct traffic into three categories.
- This is simple to remember and is less likely to be as black as the previous option.
- Shady Dark – Channel 2: This refers to traffic that comes to category and section pages, as well as a mix of pages with slightly longer tails.
- Deep Dark – Channel 3: These are visitors to pages on the site that are hidden deep within the site.
- Almost all of the direct traffic to these pages will be return visitors (which you can filter out), but the vast majority of the traffic that remains after you have filtered out the return visitors will be new users who discovered the information via ‘dark’ sources.
In the end, what’s the best outcome for Dark Traffic in Google Analytics
Using Google Analytics, you may make your site’s traffic more visible by improving the clarity of the information you rely on. This can be accomplished in part by eliminating the concept of direct traffic from the equation entirely. Finally, direct traffic is simply traffic that does not have a clear source or referral data source attached to it. Darkening the atmosphere, to put it mildly. This allows us to categorize dark traffic into three categories. The concept comes from of Sayf Sharif at Seer.
Specific channel parameters and definitions can be defined in this section.
Traffic to the homepage, i.e.
This is simple to remember and is less likely to be as gloomy as the last example was.
Shallow Dark – Channel 2: This is traffic that comes to category pages, sections, and is a combination of somewhat longer tail pages, as well as landing pages.
Those that explore the site’s deepest pages are represented by Channel 3.
Almost all of the direct traffic to these sites will be return visitors (which you can filter out), but the vast majority of the traffic that remains after you have filtered out the return visitors will be new users who accessed the material through ‘dark’ ways (such as search engines).
Despite the fact that this technique does not reveal where the black traffic originated, it does point out places that may be more affected and sheds insight on a number of fascinating visitor behaviors that have been observed.
Is it time to review your Google Analytics setup?
Although dark traffic is a significant threat to quality data in Google Analytics, it is not the only one. Everything from bad event tracking to spam traffic and internal traffic may all distort your results. And as we all know, data is one of the most precious assets for any organization. Please contact one of our analytics and tracking specialists at Innovation Visual if you have any concerns regarding the quality of your data, especially the impact of dark traffic on your website statistics.