Dark Social: behind this mysterious term hides a phenomenon encountered by any website practicing social media marketing .
Indeed, not all visits from social networks are taken into account in the same way by tools such as Google Analytics, thus distorting the statistics. Explanations.
Dark Social: what is it ?
Internet users have two ways to access your site from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks:
- By clicking on content that you have published or via a link on your page: these are “public” links;
- By clicking on “private” links, for example those sent by email (Facebook Messenger, DM Twitter, etc.)
This second category corresponds to Dark Social, the dark side of social networks . And traffic from these private links is much harder to track and measure.
To better understand, let’s take a concrete example: you have just published your latest blog post on social networks.
Some members of your community will interact with this publication: they can like, share, comment, but also click and access your site .
These clicks will be directly considered as coming from social networks by audience measurement tools such as Google Analytics; they can therefore be easily measured.
Now imagine a user copying and pasting your article link into a Messenger conversation to send it directly to one of their friends.
If the friend in question clicks on the link, a new visit will indeed be counted, but it will seem to “come out of nowhere” (in fact, it will be considered “Direct” traffic).
And this practice is more widespread than you might think: messaging apps are even taking over social networks .
Consequence: Google Analytics statistics on traffic from social media are incorrect , since they ignore Dark Social.
Fortunately, there are tricks to fix it.
Estimate Dark Social Traffic on Google Analytics
With a few manipulations, it is possible to configure Google Analytics to obtain a rough estimate of traffic related to Dark Social.
To get started, go to Audience > Overview and click the “Add segment” button . Check the “Direct access” box and uncheck all the others.
Now that your traffic is segmented, you can refine it even further by going to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages . Then click on “Advanced” .
From there, you will be able to configure filters .
The idea is to exclude simple and easily remembered URLs (like your homepage or www.yoursite.com/blog/ , for example) that can be entered directly into the search bar by your visitors.
Similarly, exclude the pages most likely to be marked as favorites: for example, a page to which your users are likely to return very regularly.
Finally, ignore pages that, based on your experience and knowledge of the site, are unlikely to be shared on social media.
Here, after filtering, there are mostly blog posts with complex URLs, which are more likely to be subject to Dark Social.
You can then get an idea of the amount of “dark” traffic on your website, although this estimate should be taken with a grain of salt.