Dark Traffic, The Badass, Impact Your Online Growth & You Must Identify and Smack

By Chetan Saxena
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Any traffic is the good guy and dark traffic is the bad guy. Didn’t you know? Yes, your direct traffic comes camouflaged and some of it is dark traffic. Why is it important to uncover it? Coz it’s misleading you.


Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end; the lake rose, the flower beds turned into muddy streams, and Hagrid’s pumpkins swelled to the size of garden sheds (from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). The forbidden forest looked darker and uninviting than ever (my twist to it).


Image Source: http://i3.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article9703406.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/ForbiddenForest.jpg

I don’t know but each time I hear the phrase ‘dark traffic’, it evokes memories of the Forbidden Forest and everything ghastly related to it from Harry Potter. Of course, dark traffic is not the nice guy, which is why I have these visualizations.


What is dark traffic?


Dark traffic (like direct traffic) comes directly to your website but it comes from a source that is difficult to track. When you are watching your Google Analytics, it shows up along with the direct traffic but does not have the proper referrer strong of its original source. Dark traffic can originate from dark search (that can refer to image searches, in-app searches, secure searches, etc.) and dark social (this can be traffic from Facebook, traffic from WhatsApp or any type of traffic from instant messenger).


If you’re closely watching Google Analytics, your direct traffic (people who type your company’s URL on the browser and visit) might be getting over-reported due to dark traffic. Some of these visits are not genuine and are not clubbed together correctly.


Why is it important to understand dark traffic?


Dark traffic can be misleading. You might be overvaluing your digital marketing efforts or undervaluing the efforts that you are undertaking. If numbers are underreported on a regular basis, you will not be clear how and when you need to overhaul your marketing efforts. The first and foremost way to tackle dark traffic is to identify and differentiate it from direct traffic.


Here are a few steps to identify dark traffic and prevent it from affecting your website’s direct traffic and digital marketing efforts.


Use Google UTM Parameters


The most effective way to identify dark traffic is to tag all links on campaigns or content that use Google UTM Parameters. With the help of these parameters, one can append a string to the end of a URL to get information about the specific link.


Some of the major categories of Google UTM Parameters include Campaign Source, Campaign Medium, Campaign Term, Campaign Content and Campaign Name. Each of the UTM parameters has a specific purpose and is meant to track different sources.


Developing direct traffic detailed report


You have to use a smart mechanism to filter direct traffic. For example, if you’re receiving high traffic on the homepage and other popular pages related to services or products, that traffic will most likely be genuine. If there is an exceptionally high traffic on other pages (that generally don’t receive a lot of direct traffic) then the traffic to such pages is most likely overstated.


There’s another filter that you may apply to filter out the dark traffic and, that is, that long and complex URLs are not remembered by users and will not be typed directly by them.


Correlate the traffic with your current campaigns


This method is related to the first two methods where you identify the existing marketing campaigns (there’s nothing that you can do about you old campaigns) and check if the links provided in such campaigns is getting high traffic.


You can tag all the paid search initiatives and emails, and begin to cross-reference the direct traffic to the ones covered in the campaign. Visits to pages, which are getting direct traffic, and are not usually visited are the ones to be singled out as dark traffic.


Are you still not sure about how to identify and tackle with the villainous dark traffic? Speak to one of our SEO experts to understand the bad guy.


Tags:- Campaign MediumCampaign Sourcedark searchdark social

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