Dark Traffic; The Not So Scary Reality

Dark Traffic. No, it’s not when all of the traffic light go out, or even getting stuck in a jam at night time. This bad boy is all about traffic which can’t be accredited to a source. Incognito. Rogue. A mystery.

This cryptic term was coined in 2012 by, then, Deputy Editor of The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal.

So, you know who made it up, and kind of what it is. But what does dark traffic really mean? Well, firstly, you might have seen this term elsewhere as ‘dark social’, the two are essentially one of the same — private traffic which we are unable to assign to a source or origin. There are no referral links or data, people are just coming to your site, from, what seems like, no where.

Well, in reality, of course, they are coming from somewhere, they are coming from new technologies which have yet to be assigned or accredited to a specific source.

For example, i’m going to go out on a limb and assume that on a daily basis you communicate via text, email or even snapchat? I’m also going to assume, that now and again, you send links, articles or general information via these channels? Well, if you are (hypothetically) nodding along, you my friend, are a dark social trafficker. (Don’t worry we don’t judge here!) Essentially, you are communicating via outside traffic sources that web analytics are, yet, to be able to track.

Of course, you are not alone, it’s been reported that up to 84% of outbound sharing is via dark traffic; that’s a lot of people taking to email or text to pass on a funny Buzzfeed article.

If you have seen dark traffic whilst putting together some reporting, don’t worry, it is still a great thing, alright, you might now know where your users are coming from — but they are still coming AND people are still sharing! Even better? If you are getting a nice bit of dark social, just think how many potential people you are reaching that you would NEVER of reached before (I like to think a plethora).

So taking it back a step, what are some of the dark social channels? Just so we can have a bit of an idea as to where our traffic is coming from:

SMS/ Chat Apps

Email — the copying and pasting of links

Native Mobile Apps

Private or Secure Browsing — such as Incognito or HTTPS

Next time you are copying and pasting a funny article to send to your mum or group chat, just have a little think about how you are cleverly tinkering with someone’s analytics.

One of the best attributes of dark social is that it helps to show the true user journey taken by your audience; nothing is linear and dark traffic is a real cheerleader for this. Most importantly, dark social can be a huge marketing opportunity, just imagine the great achievement of millions of people sharing your article in email to email or group chat to group chat — you are able to target a whole new demographic or user group you have never had access to before.

Pure brilliance.

So, it turns out that dark traffic isn’t’ something to be scared of, it is something to be revered and celebrated. We love you dark social, and if you love it too, get in touch with the team at Wool Digital to talk it through a little bit more! We are all places social @wooldigital or would love to hear from you at hello@wool.digital.

0161 635 0045