Light Up the Unknown: Hone Dark Social Traffic
It’s been a long while since the term “Dark Social” was first coined, but the significance of the term has only grown since then. In fact, many companies are still scratching their heads looking for a solution to the issue of dark social and accounting for what was traditionally thought of us unaccountable. Allow Bonsai Media Group to give you the details on how to hone and manage dark social in 2018
What is Dark Social? And how do you illuminate it?
Dark Social is simply, any unattributed traffic online, that is traffic that you can’t designate to a particular channel. Some simply think of it as direct traffic, but to think in these terms undercuts the value to be gained in monitoring and analyzing dark social. It’s better to think of dark social as a variety of peer-to-peer connections that drive traffic. It can be many things from a URL sent via a Facebook message to a WhatsApp chat about a dog wearing clout glasses. Dark Social even includes email threads and text messages. Really there is no shortage of use cases.
Conversely, traditional social is labeled just the opposite, as “Light Social.” The largest differentiator between Light and Dark Social is the means of customer tracking that is attributed to both methods. Think of Light Social as the traditional methods by which you track your online marketing channels. Any traffic you’re able to attribute to a channel in an analytics platform is Light Social.
How much traffic is Dark Social related?
Dark Social gets credited for a wide array of website visits, which is important to note when determining the number of visits it accounts for. A RadiumOne article from 2016 found the worldwide average of traffic driven by dark social media has risen from 69% to 84%. Many other tracking sites have this number above 70%.
Additionally, according to RadiumOne’s research, 46 percent of consumers age 55 and older share only via dark social. Differing from those in the 16 to 34 age group, where only 19 percent do so. The good news is that the older demographic seems to be the only generation largely attached to the peer-to-peer methods of sharing content that largely accounts for dark social. However, while they’re the only Dark Social reliant group, the rest of the demographics are increasingly spending more time with Dark Social as well (evident in the jump from 69% to 84%).
A Tip to Track Dark Social
The first tool is likely familiar to you; Google Analytics. You’ll just need to configure your settings properly to look into Dark Social happenings.
Let’s start by going to “Audience” Overview” in your Google Analytics website data view. After this click on the “Add Segment” option on the right. Next you’ll see a list of segment options, click on “Direct Traffic.” You’re also going to have to deselect any other segment options. After “Direct Traffic” is the only option highlighted click “Apply.”
From here, you can hone in which web pages are most frequently visited via Dark Social traffic. To do this go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. Google will display a list of all of your web pages that visited via direct traffic. Next, break out that good old common sense and record all the web pages, or pieces of content, that could be easily memorized and reproduced, or shared via text, messenger, email, or another popular private online forum.
Now we’re going to create a filter to use those URLs. Under All Pages in Google Analytics, click Advanced to create a new filter, change ‘Include’ to ‘Exclude’ in the drop-down list. For the dimension pick ‘Page’. Then in the field at the end of the row, type in the directory of one of your simpler web pages (EX: “/services/”, “/team/”, or “/about/”). Add as many of the simple URLs from before as you can to this page. If you apply the filter now your results will consist of your website’s harder-to-remember URLs, which carry no refferal data with them. What these results represent are the potential Dark Social links to your site.
Putting the Data Together
Why is this important? Harder to remember URL’s, like those that lead to a particular product page, a particular piece of useful content for example, are those that are most often shared privately, and consequently are those that are further down the conversion funnel for the user. In other words, the pages with broader information on your site are more likely to be directly visited without the aid of a private share, but these pages also tend to lie further up the conversion funnel, which means that direct traffic to these pages is of slightly less consequence than direct traffic to a more specific page.
IN SHORT, understanding which of the more specific pages on your site are being visited directly is incredibly useful information for all of your marketing channels, but particularly PPC and SEO.
Need more Help?
Honing Dark Social is a tall task. Admittedly, no agency has the tools to gather all of the specific data blurred by Dark Social’s veil of anonymity. Monitoring Dark Social traffic to your site is not a guaranteed path to success, but it is a great place to look if you’re hoping to branch into new opportunities with PPC and SEO.